Retro-review: RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 Gold Edition

I remember picking up the RCT3 Gold Edition in one of those late night rambles down the Wal-Mart PC game aisle several years ago. I got home, installed it, played for about two hours and then promptly forgot all about it. This time around however things were different.

RCT3 is one of those rare games that doesn’t really feel like a game at all. It’s easy to learn and easy to master. After two or three scenarios the question wasn’t if I COULD beat a level but how long it would take. In fact, if you play it for the sole purpose of beating a game, you’ll be bored in little time.

Each scenario’s objectives are different, but the goal is always the same in the end. Make a profitable park. The other objectives for each level are all beaten once you can do that. Making roller coasters and pleasing VIPs gets easier and easier as you gain money.

The only real challenges are usually related to finding a way to build a park around the geography you begin with and digging yourself out of the financial holes you start in.

Again, if you just want to “win,” the solutions are easy. Set up a small park that makes some sort of profit. Hit super fast forward. Go watch TV for a while. Come back and spend the wad of cash waiting for you.

However, there’s much more to RCT3 than beating a scenario. As you begin to play you notice a level of detail and interactivity that’s still impressive by today’s standards.

For example, RCT3 could have easily had one or two types of food stands. Instead you can have burgers, sandwiches, fries, donuts, pretzels, cotton candy, hot dogs, Hershey candy, kabobs, steak, bison and several others. Not only can you set the price for each stand, but you can choose toppings and the types of food at each stall. You can have those changes occur at every type of stand or set each individually on a whim.

You soon learn that scenarios aren’t so much challenges to beat as ideas to kick start your imagination as you begin to ponder creating your own rides and parks.

The ability to ride your own rides gives RCT3 a dimension that takes it far beyond a simple game. You can easily spend hours making roller coasters, haunted attraction rides or even something simple like a monorail. You can build them in the existing scenario parks or you can fire up sandbox mode and do whatever you want without worrying about money.

RCT3 is very forgiving when it comes to physics and construction. It took me no time to make a coaster that wound through my park, both above and under ground. I spent little time worrying about support columns or the like.

There are a few spots where the game shows its age. The UI could use a few tweaks here and there, especially with the construction side of things. Some of the themes were a bit neglected as well in the options department.

But it’s hard not to be amazed by the amount of detail work that exists. This is the kind of game you can keep coming back to again and again. I can only hope a RCT4 is in the works.

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