Many people my age played the RollerCoaster Tycoon games back in the day. The original came out in 1999 and was the top selling PC game of that year. Then expansions and sequels came thick and fast for the next 5 years until developer Frontier decided to break away from then-publisher Atari. There were rumours of a sour breakup between the two with millions of dollars owed in royalties, but regardless, Atari retained ownership of the intellectual property of the franchise and wound up killing the series with the abysmal RolleCoaster Tycoon World. They used several inexperienced game development studios and released the game to a barrage of hate from fans and critics alike.
However, Frontier were busy, quietly developing their own love letter to the series with Planet Coaster. Even though Atari managed to get RollerCoaster Tycoon World out one day before Frontier’s baby (crazy vindictive!), Planet Coaster came out the clear winner in November 2016.
18 months later and I’m only just getting around to playing it, and it’s magical. It’s one of those experiences that manages to capture old feelings without seeming dated. Every part of gameplay has been ever so slightly expanded, and it looks fantastic. The last Frontier game I played was Zoo Tycoon for the Xbox One, and Planet Coaster has definitely adopted some of its visual flare.
But I just can’t get over how well it plays, sounds and feels. My first game session was four hours long, and I would have happily kept plugging away if it weren’t for the silly need to eat once in a while.
Building roller coasters from scratch has been improved, removing the rigid rules of old, allowing for more natural looking designs. You can now measure a guest’s excitement, fear and nausea at every point of the ride, allowing you to pinpoint where you might be going wrong. This is all very useful, until you’ve spent an hour on a single coaster design…and the guests are busy ranting about an unmanned burger stall!
The grid-based structure is also gone, allowing your park to flow without so many pesky right-angles. However, you do need to consider guest congestion and keeping your staff happy – two things I could have done without – but I’d be lying if I said that didn’t add to the stress I’ve come to enjoy from simulation games!
Anyone half-familiar with the RollerCoaster series will feel right at home here. It may only be early days on my first park, but I would recommend Planet Coaster without reservation. Especially when you can snag it for £7.50 during a Steam sale…
Best wishes y’all.