Pre-ECTS: Theme Park Roller Coaster for PS2

GameSpot came back with a first-hand account of the PlayStation 2 translation of the popular amusement park simulation. Screenshots inside.

Theme Park Roller Coaster, which is based on the PC game SimTheme Park, puts you in the role of an aspiring theme park owner who gets to design his own theme park, but also has to accommodate his park's visitors' needs, wants, and moods. Announced recently for the PlayStation 2, Theme Park Roller Coaster will take the original PC interface and simplify it so that it works using a PlayStation controller.

Theme Park Roller Coaster is an amusement park simulator. You start the game as the owner of a small theme park and must manage every aspect of your growing business. You'll get to choose what rides go where, where lines form and end, and where bathrooms, shops, restaurants, and even trees go. You'll also have to hire and manage a staff, and most importantly, keep all your visitors happy.

Each of the different theme park levels in Theme Park Roller Coaster has its own distinct flavor. I started my game in Halloween World, where everything is spooky. All the rides I was able to build had a frightening nature. There was the haunted ship, the phantom motion-ride, and even scary rollercoasters. Trashcans looked like monsters, restrooms looked like coffins.

At any moment during play, you can start building different attractions. You'll pull up a list and can select from the different types of rides, from tracked attractions where you control how the track is laid out, to standard attractions that are more self-contained, to roller coasters that let you control not only the elevation but the curve of the track. You can also build shops, facilities, and landscaping to help make your park complete.

The game uses an effective control scheme where each of the four controller buttons are displayed at the top of the screen, and their functionality will change depending on the situation. So if you want to build something in particular, you'll have to look in the upper right and press the appropriate button. This system lets the game have any number of different commands all binding to only four buttons on the controller, which makes the translation of the PC game to the PS2 interface possible. Also, instead of using a pointer, the game has an invisible area that highlights options and moves the screen around your park. I found that this pointer-less control scheme really works even better, and was not only easy to use but also quickly moved about the screen. Designing the track rides was pretty easy, but designing the roller coasters takes more time, and seemed somewhat more clunky.

Theme Park Roller Coaster has some pretty great graphics. Everything in the game has a distinctly cartoonish look to it. At any time you can switch to a first-person perspective and ride your rides, or simply stroll around your park. This feature is very cool and really adds a sense of depth to your creation. The sound is also coming along well - there are appropriate sound effects for the rides, as well as an upbeat soundtrack.

Theme Park Roller Coaster should appeal to fans of real-life simulators, fans of resource-management games, and casual gamers alike. EA has announced no official US release date yet, but it's likely that the game will hit the states later this year. The game is currently set for a European release later this fall.

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