A mixed-bag sequel that’s a rollercoaster of emotions from elation to dejection
Was there any better feeling way back when in 1999, building rollercoasters to get people to flock to your very own theme park in Rollercoaster Tycoon? Not for the average rollercoaster-and-gaming enthusiast, that’s for sure. Except when in 2002 developer Chris Sawyer went and finished development on a sequel to the much-loved original. Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 then came blazing out of the gates, but just how quickly and how well did it do so? Well, there are mixed reviews on some of the finer points of the game among critics, and I’ll be honest: I’m also one of those that has found reason to both love this game dearly and shake my fist at it severely.
I’ll spare you the trouble of sitting through a lengthy description of the game. Suffice it to say that Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 is in many ways the same game as the first, requiring you to enter into a number of separate theme-park scenarios where you’ll build rollercoasters, supplement them with other rides, plonk a load of other money-making structures around your park, and attempt to generally manage your outgoings and income as well as the satisfaction of your customers, all with view to becoming a successful rollercoaster tycoon. Only this sequel feels much like the first, and this is both a good and a bad thing.
Release Date: 15/10/2002
Available on: PC
Play the Game
To start with a positive, new to Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 is the rollercoaster designer that lets you customise your own rollercoaster that can be used outside the confines of the pre-determined scenarios. There’s also an editor that lets you build your own scenarios, so you’d think it’s a match made in heaven, right? Well, not quite. You will find that both these tools aren’t the easiest to navigate, much like the menus in the main game.
The coaster creator in particular doesn’t allow for much autonomy or freedom in your designs either because you’re still jumping through various hoops and must still play by a fairly rigid framework, often finding that it is easier to simply demolish vast sections of the surrounding park instead of bothering to struggle with the fairly strict parameters that are imposed on you when trying to place parts of your coaster onto the terrain.
Take the Good With the Bad
Aside from the editors, much more favourable freshness comes in the form of a decent number of different parks you are able to build. Building theme parks can be a fun experience, particularly when navigating hilly, snow-laden terrain in an Alpine-themed theme park. True connoisseurs of the rollercoaster/theme park world will also appreciate the official Six Flags license that this sequel possesses. What this translates to in practise is the ability to experience scenarios involving the running of five of the real-life Six Flags locations. You can either hop in to a like-for-like recreation of a Six Flags park or take the opportunity to create your own Six Flags experience, building it from the ground up.
But with good comes bad, and the bad I’m referring to here is the questionable decision of the game’s developer, Chris Sawyer, to roll over much of the content from the original whilst not freshening things up with anything that even comes close to resembling a decent quantity of new content. Aside from the officially-licensed Six Flags rides, the ride types you get to play with are the same as in the original Rollercoaster Tycoon game. Same goes for the flat rides, amenities stands, and so on – there’s not enough new blood here, so you end up feeling that this is a sequel comprised of largely recycled material.
Still Great, but Could Be Greater
I’m not saying that sharing much of the same gameplay and content as the original game isn’t going to work in Rollercoaster Tycoon 2’s favour in any way. After all, the original was a break-through hit with graphics that were basic yet charming and filled with character. But even though this sequel carries over much of this gameplay and content, it’s borderline insulting to think that the average Rollercoaster Tycoon veteran would feel that not adding any proper new content would be an acceptable move.
Even the graphics look identical to the original, in spite of the fact that it is claimed that this sequel is based on new code that underpins many apparent visual and gameplay improvements. It’s as if Chris Sawyer has only taken half a step forward with this game instead of leaping meters past the first like a true sequel should. The sprinkling of new content and functionality is welcome, but should have been more of a downpour than a light April shower. So disappointment is certainly what veteran players will feel.
New players are likely to thoroughly enjoy the experience however, since this sequel borrows so heavily from an original that oozed quality from almost every metaphorical orifice. Newcomers won’t know to expect more from the game as they haven’t experienced the original as a comparison, so new players are where Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 will find most of its favourable audience.
Play the Game
Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 is developed by Chris Sawyer Productions.