Advertisement

‘Tycoon’ Can Offer Sophisticated Thrills

TIMES STAFF WRITER

‘Roller Coaster Tycoon” may look like a kid’s game with its cheery box and endearing premise: Players design and run an amusement park. But as any theme park tycoon can confirm, the job of running one of these happy places is far from child’s play.

There are employees to manage, rides to fix, guests to attend to, new attractions to design--and always, always, always, an unforgiving bottom line.

So it goes in “Roller Coaster Tycoon,” a simulation that is simple enough to enjoy right out of the box but sophisticated enough to keep even the most obsessive park planner happy for weeks.

Yet despite its “Everyone” rating by the Entertainment Standards Rating Board, “Roller Coaster Tycoon” is not for everyone--particularly not young children who probably would become frustrated worrying about the economics of soda pop pricing (What’s the right price to preserve overall margins without making the drink too expensive?)

Advertisement

Although problems like that usually make simulations fun for adults and teens, “Roller Coaster Tycoon” would have benefited from a feature that permits the construction of thrill rides without the hassle of fretting over queue management, research costs and staffing levels.

That’s because building the roller coasters is what makes “Roller Coaster Tycoon” stand apart from games such as “Theme Park,” in which players also build and run an amusement park. Although Bullfrog’s “Theme Park” allowed players to piece together their own coasters, they were not nearly as diverse and complicated as those in “Roller Coaster Tycoon.”

For instance, “Tycoon” players can choose from wood or steel and can change the angle of hills and turns as well as add loops and corkscrews. And would-be designers must at least consider the physics of a ride. Just as in real life, these digital coasters need extensive testing before they can be opened to their riders.

Intuitively organized menus make coaster construction a snap, but the menus tend to hang around too long and can quickly clutter up the screen if players try to do more than two or three things at once.

Advertisement

Unfortunately, though, coaster building consumes only a small portion of the game’s play time. Most of the rest is devoted to planning the parks that host the coasters. Players have to hire workers such as handymen and maintenance crews, security guards and the goofballs who walk around in costumes.

It’s fun, but too familiar to get worked up about.

“Roller Coaster Tycoon” requires a Pentium 90 with at least 16 megabytes of RAM. Good luck getting it to run very well on that configuration, though. A Pentium 200 with 32mb of RAM works pretty well, even with big parks full of visitors.

“Rampage 2: Universal Tour”

Oh, no. “Rampage 2: Universal Tour” is yet another example of the irresponsibility of the video game industry. I was shocked--shocked--to find no appropriate warning label on this game, in which the sole goal is the ultimate and final destruction of cities from Los Angeles to London.

So I have taken the liberty of penning one myself to prevent impressionable youth from someday going on a rampage of their own. Here goes:

“Warning: This game contains scenes of destruction wrought by oversized mutated animals, including a 100-foot-tall rat, a three-story-tall rhinoceros and a lobster the size of a Winnebago.

“Although the mutated creatures smash buildings and gobble up civilians as if they’re at an all-you-can eat buffet, such behavior is inappropriate, and players should under no circumstances attempt to become a lobster the size of a Winnebago.

Advertisement

“Nor should players attempt to climb unaided to the top of the Seattle Space Needle and kick the structure in with their bare feet, as some characters in this game do.

“Remember that it is only a game. Pretending to be a giant lobster bent on world domination, although good for your imagination, can be dangerous to your safety and the safety of those around you.

“Oh, and this game is not that much fun. It’s too much like the original, which itself had definite limits. The real danger of this game lies not in what it will do to your mind, but in what it will do to your wallet.”

“The Rugrats Movie”

Dressing up a mediocre title with popular characters from other media is nothing new in the video game business. It helps explain games like “Judge Dredd” or “Die Hard Trilogy.” Or, more recently, “The Rugrats Movie,” a Game Boy Color title more from the mind of a marketer than the heart of a game developer.

This side-scroller follows the Rugrats babies through an adventure to find the missing Dil Pickles. Fair enough. Good games have been based on less. Yet despite some impressive color graphics, “The Rugrats Movie” slogs through level after level with little pleasure.

Characters move too slowly and are awkward to control. Too much of the play is repetitive--even with a couple of top-down racing-style levels. It’s tough to imagine even the biggest Rugrats fan finding much joy in this simple cog of a cynical merchandising machine.

Times staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every Monday in The Cutting Edge. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send e-mail to aaron.curtiss@latimes.com.

Advertisement

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Essentials

Roller Coaster Tycoon

* Platform: PC

* Publisher: Microprose

* ESRB* rating: Everyone

* Price: $39.95

* Bottom line: Complex fun

Rampage 2: Universal Tour

* Platform: Sony PlayStation/Nintendo 64

* Publisher: Midway

* ESRB rating: Teen

* Price: $39.95/$59.95

* Bottom line: Been there, done that

The Rugrats Movie

* Platform: Game Boy Color

* Publisher: THQ

* ESRB rating: Everyone

* Price: $29.95

* Bottom line: A marketer’s dream, a player’s nightmare

*Entertainment Software Ratings Board

Next Week: “3 Xtreme,” “Beetle Adventure Racing,” “Lode Runner 3D,” “R4: Ridge Racer Type 4"


Advertisement