Sim fans should get a major kick out of Theme Park Roller Coaster.
Theme Park Roller Coaster is an update of last year's popular PC simulation, Sim Theme Park. In the game, you manage several different theme parks, from staff, to ride research and development, all the way down to the bottom line - keeping your financials in order. The result is a slow-paced but rewarding simulation that borders on relaxing.
The world of Theme Park Roller Coaster revolves around gold tickets. Each park has different goals, and each park is harder than the last. Unlike Sim Theme Park for the PC, which only hinted at your goals, Theme Park Roller Coaster spells out exactly what you need to do right off the bat. One of the first park's goals is to get 100 people into your park, later levels require 200, and so on. Each goal met nets you a gold ticket. Each park requires you to spend a certain number of gold tickets to open them. It sounds simple, but there's an awful lot of gameplay crammed in between gold tickets.
At the start, your park is an empty lot. It's up to you to lay the park out as you please. From food stands to gift shops to rides to bathrooms, every facet of the park is under your control. You can even lay out your roller coasters as you please - really well-designed coasters can even win special awards. Beyond simply placing items in the park, you also can micromanage each individual item, from the speed of your rides to the quality of your ice cream. Your park must also be staffed. You'll have to hire entertainers to keep the crowd pleased, mechanics to fix broken rides, janitors to keep your park clean, guards to ensure the park's safety, and engineers to research and develop new rides, shops, upgrades, and add-ons.
Your park is helped along by an advisor, who pops up to teach you about new facets of gameplay and alert you to ongoing problems in your park, such as litterbugs, impending strikes, lack of food stands, and the need to adjust your ticket price. The advisor is a big help - almost too big, at times. Luckily, as the game goes on, he butts in less and less. Instead his messages are relayed through a mailbox-like message system.
Theme Park Roller Coaster has a nice look to it. Everything looks nice and crisp, and you can view the action from lots of different angles. You can even go down into your park in a first-person view to ride the rides and occasionally play some of the sideshow games. The simulations aren't dependent on flawless frame rates, but it's worth noting that if you're looking at a screen filled with buildings and a great deal of roller coaster tracks, the scrolling becomes a bit choppy. The soundtrack is full of music that fits your theme park quite well, and the sound effects are typical, consisting mostly of crowd noise appropriate to the current park activities, such as sighs of sadness when a ride breaks down, ringing cash registers, and the like.
Theme Park Roller Coaster isn't a particularly difficult game, but it has the added benefit of multiple parks. So as soon as you've got your current park up to speed and raking in the dough, you can move on to the next park and start all over again. Things may occasionally get a bit hectic, but it's nothing that can't be handled quite easily with the game's excellent control scheme. The functions of the four controller buttons are shown onscreen at all times, so you know at any given moment what each button does in that situation. And even though the game lacks an actual cursor, navigating the park is easy enough that you'll only occasionally have trouble selecting smaller items, like bathrooms.
Sim fans should get a major kick out of Theme Park Roller Coaster. It might not be the hardest game in the world, but it's varied enough to keep players entertained, and its multiple parks make it a natural choice for people who like to play a game for short periods of time.