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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: 10.3    CPU: G4 @ 1200 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 1024 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 800x600 @ 32-bit, 32 MB VRAM

RollerCoaster Tycoon 3
January 18, 2006 | Richard Hallas

Click to enlarge

Overview of a park
One of the most keenly anticipated Mac games of 2005 has been RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and that's really saying something when you consider the number of simulation, strategy and tycoon games that have arrived for the platform over the last year or so. Aren't people getting tired of all these micromanagement games by now?

Whether they are or not, there's lots of good reasons why players have been so enthused about this particular game. For a start, it's all about rollercoasters, and everyone loves riding on rollercoasters, don't they? Not only that, but this new game actually lets you ride on realistic attractions from the comfort of your chair. And even if the idea of being able to ride on dozens of predefined rollercoasters, and then design your own and ride on those as well, isn't enough to get you excited, there's a whole lot more you can do in this game. It's one of the most impressively detailed simulations to have appeared in recent times, and yet, for all its complexity and multifaceted nature, it's also very accessible and easy to use, so it has appeal on many different levels.

Park overview
For the tycoon-game fans, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 comes with a set of eighteen scenarios in which you must build up your amusement park and make it popular and lucrative. You can set the price of everything you can think of in your park, from individual drinks at particular stands to the cost of spending a metaphorical penny. You can keep track of all your income and expenditure, graph your figures, take out loans, determine how much is spent on all types of research, and generally be as much of a bank clerk as your avaricious heart desires. On the other hand, if all that financial micromanagement bores you rigid, you can ignore much of it and just leave it to the game to handle most of those concerns, while you enjoy looking after other less tedious aspects.

For the simulation-game fans who are more interested in the attractions than in the finances, you can ride your rides to your heart's content. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 models its attractions with considerable realism; the rollercoasters you build can be big, complex and exciting, but they must actually work, and if you're creating your own coaster from scratch, you must test and refine it until it functions correctly. But if that seems like a lot of effort, the game comes with over a hundred predefined rides, and you can download more coaster designs from the 'Net. There's more than just rollercoasters, too; there are many types of rides, including helter-skelters, roundabouts and dodgems, and although you can't ride absolute everything (you can't walk through haunted houses, for example, or look inside 3D cinemas), you can use almost all of the moving ones.

For the modeling fanatics, you can build your own worlds and make them as rich and detailed as you like. There are comprehensive terrain-editing facilities which allow you to sculpt the land in whatever way you desire, and fill areas with water. You can also add buildings, creating them wall-by-wall if not actually brick-by-brick. Then you can add paths (with ramps and stairs if you need them), build fences, paint in appropriate textures, plant trees and flowers, and generally make things look pretty. The scope is quite amazing, and when you come to placing the rides, you're not limited to designing rollercoasters. You can also lay out miniature railways, link distant areas of your park with monorails and chairlifts, and customize other kinds of ride, all of which will behave in realistic ways when you set them running.

So, there's ample material here to appeal to fans of several different types of game, and even though you can waste hour upon hour crafting your perfect park, you can also hop into the game for a quick circuit or two on some favorite rides to take your mind off work for a few minutes. But the game has another aspect that sets it apart from other simulations of its type: peeps.

Crowd scenes
"Peeps" is short, of course, for "people," and doesn't imply that they let off steam a lot. On the contrary, they're a pretty tolerant bunch, and will pay outrageous prices to go to the toilet, if you're the sadistic type of designer who likes to create huge parks with only one lavatory in them, and then charge $10 a shot for entry. (Who would dream of being so cruel...?) The clever thing about the peeps is that there's so many of them. Simulation games normally treat the population of the simulated world either as an unseen quantity that drives the economy but makes no visible contribution to the game, or as a very limited number of individual characters whose activities are disproportionately influential. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is different, though, because it takes population realism to an entirely new level. Vast numbers of peeps (high hundreds or low thousands in a typical game) will populate your park, and every one of them will have its own unique name, appearance, behavior and thoughts.

Okay, their thoughts aren't going to cause Aristotle or Kant to turn in their urns and despair about their contributions to Western philosophy, but the point is that each peep in the game can provide feedback about many aspects of your park, and every peep is unique. You can examine any peep and monitor exactly what he or she is doing, and see which rides the peep has been on and what they think of them. You can even define your own new peeps, either individually or in groups, and they'll turn up in your games. Add in your own family and friends!

Aside from regular visitor peeps, there are other employee peeps, such as janitors, mechanics and entertainers in fancy dress, who you can hire, train, reprimand or fire as necessary, and you'll need to try to keep them happy in order for your park to run smoothly. And finally, in some scenarios, VIPeeps (peeps of the very important variety) will turn up, and you'll need to satisfy their whims in order to achieve your goals.


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