RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 preview

What started as a one-man project has become one of the most popular PC games in years. Get the latest details on the upcoming sequel to RollerCoaster Tycoon.

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Along with The Sims, RollerCoaster Tycoon has appeared regularly on the North American sales charts for the past few years. The SimCity-style gameplay combined with the inherent fun of designing an amusement park has drawn in millions of players, and Infogrames hopes that the upcoming sequel, appropriately named RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, becomes just as successful. As such, the game won't be significantly different from the original in terms of core gameplay, but it will feature a host of new scenarios, a refined graphics engine, and some slight tweaks to the gameplay that should make the game a little easier to get into.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 may look the same as the original...
RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 may look the same as the original...

Upon starting RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, you'll see different tabs that define the difficulty of each scenario. For example, under beginner parks, you'll see a scenario that explains that you've just inherited a castle, and the plan is to build an amusement park around it. Since it's a beginner park, the objectives for this particular scenario are relatively easy--they only require you to reach a certain attendance level and maintain a constant flow of money. You'll also see a tab for real parks. In this option, you'll find RollerCoaster Tycoon 2's representations of real-world amusement parks like Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern California. Naturally, the objectives for the real parks can be a little more difficult to fulfill than some of the others since they require you not only to maintain the park, but also to build missing attractions, repair broken rides, and get enough money so that you can pay off a loan to the bank in time.

Along with the real parks and other features, a few general enhancements will be made to the game, the most drastic of which will be the increased map size. The parks in RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 can now cover a 256x256 area, which is almost twice the size of the original game. But in most cases, you initially won't have access to the extra space because you won't actually own the land to begin with. One of your main tasks in RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 is to purchase additional real estate so that you can expand your park, build more attractions, and pull in even more people. Likewise, the altitude barrier has also been raised, allowing for even grander roller coasters and major attractions, like huge observation towers.

...but some improvements have been made to the graphics engine.
...but some improvements have been made to the graphics engine.

With so much more area and greater detail afforded by the revamped graphics engine, RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 may seem a little overwhelming at first, especially for players who haven't played the original game, but the development team has also made a series of improvements to general park management that should make the process of constructing and managing a park a little easier. This includes changes to landscape deformation and item placement within the scenery and different views so that you can get a better look at specific aspects of the park.

The Happiest Place on Earth

You'll be able to work with actual amusement parks, like Six Flags Magic Mountain.
You'll be able to work with actual amusement parks, like Six Flags Magic Mountain.

One of the problems with 2D sandbox-style games is perspective. When you're building your lots, objects within the environment can sometimes block your view. However, RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 can make some objects transparent and will also let you rotate your view and get a better look at a particular parcel of land. In addition, it also features different views that let you toggle specific objects off and on, so if you want to get a better look at only the roller coasters, you can select an option that will make only the roller coasters appear on the map. Similarly, you can select an option that shows only trees and other secondary scenery. This becomes incredibly helpful later on when your park grows to enormous proportions with several roller coasters and dozens of smaller rides--they're fun to look at, but they can make it difficult to get a clear look at other parts of your park.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 also has an easier method for manipulating terrain. In different scenarios, you may be required to level some terrain that borders the main area of the park, and in order to do so, you need to select the bulldozing option and go to work. Instead of just clicking an area multiple times, you can simply drag the mouse and raise or lower the terrain to the level that you want. Similar shortcuts can be taken with the secondary objects, like trees, which can be placed a handful at a time, as opposed to placing single objects manually.

You'll use these features quite often in the scenario mode as well as in the scenario editor. This mode essentially enables you to create just about any scenario imaginable for a theme park. You can define the parameters for the scenario as well as the types of objects that other players will have access to, including vehicles and the types of footpaths their guests will walk on. It's also possible to manipulate the terrain and build lakes with small islands or other such landmarks others could use to their advantage when constructing a park. Of course, you can also use such landmarks as a means for making your particular scenario a little more difficult. It's the same scenario editor that Chris Sawyer, the creator of the original RollerCoaster Tycoon, used to construct the scenarios in RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, so you can expect quite a bit of versatility.

The editor packaged with the game is the same tool that designer Chris Sawyer uses.
The editor packaged with the game is the same tool that designer Chris Sawyer uses.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 also features a roller coaster editor. This mode is particularly interesting because it not only lets you build your very own ride, but it also gives you some valuable information on how the ride performs. For example, you can monitor the number of G's that are being produced or the velocity of the vehicle (which are displayed on a graph) at various points in the ride and then adjust them accordingly.

The basic premise behind the original Roller Coaster Tycoon is still intact in the sequel. As people start to flood into the park, you'll have to track individuals and find out what they need or if they're happy with the park. If it looks like your customers are constantly hungry, then you have to build more snack areas. If they complain about the lack of restrooms, then you need to build more. It's shaping up to be just as fun as the first game, and fans of the original RollerCoaster Tycoon will be pleased to know that the sequel doesn't deviate far from the basic recipe that made the first game such a success. RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 is scheduled for release on October 15.

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