It's not often that a popular game can make the leap in to a fully 3D world - usually a vital aspect such as gameplay gets missed out, with the likes of Lemmings 3D being one candidate that we'd really rather forget. Thankfully Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 is one title which can claim to have made the leap with great success.
Where as you previously viewed parks and rides from a 2D isometric viewpoint it's now all in full 3D, meaning not only is coaster creation easier (once you get used to the camera movement system) but theming your park with scenery is a much more enjoyable experience - helped by the fact that there's a huge number of objects which can be used to create almost whatever you desire.
Key addition to the third game in the series is the CoasterCam, which lets you experience the rides from the viewpoint of your park visitors, and because real ride physics have been used it really does feel as though you are looping the loop and plummeting towards the ground at a worryingly fast rate.
Unfortunately however there are no tunnels in RCT3 due to the freeform terrain, and this is one area where the feel of the game does fall down slightly - there's nothing quite like having a coaster enter a mountain and come out of the other side, or an underground loop at the bottom of a steep descent - to get around this you can use the wall and roof objects to create fake tunnel style sections to your rides, which in most cases are perfectly adequate.
A slight disappointment comes in the form of the water rides, which still don't seem to quite match the standard of the traditional coasters. The logflume water effects aren't as impressive as those seen elsewhere in the park, whilst the river rapids fail to re-create the experience that you'd have at Alton Towers or Thorpe Park where the loading of rapids takes place around a circular station and has much wider "rivers" instead of the narrow channels as seen in the game.
Other rides however seem highly realistic and manage to pull off the experience of their real-life counterparts in the vast majority of cases, making the deficiencies of the log flume and rapids only a minor criticism which doesn't really spoil the overall feel for the game, but really should have been tackled by this third version of RCT.
Firework shows are also a new addition to Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 and provide an extra form of entertainment for your park guests - however the peeps don't appear to take much notice of the displays and just carry on walking around the park somewhat oblivious to your show which was carefully crafted in the Fireworks Mix Master. It would have been nice if the displays played a more important role in the park events rather than just being visually impressive.
Where peeps do take notice of park events however is when you get a VIP visiting, such as the cornily named presidential candidate Clint Bushton or Hollywood star Cami O - crowds will huddle around the celebrity as they make their way around the park, and huge queues can often be found snaking their way around the paths as your guests try and get a glimpse of the all important VIP.
It's also possible to create your own friends and family using the peep designer tool (similar to that found in The Sims) which adds an extra dimension to the long-term enjoyment, as your peeps can take photos of each other as they enjoy your park, and then viewed back later. This doesn't however really add anything to the gameplay, but does help with the "being there" feeling, and adds the dimension of being the park visitor instead of just creator and maintainer - handy for gamers who aren't overly keen on management games.
A fair few bugs made their way in to the initial release of RCT3, which although not show-stoppers, certainly had a negative effect on the gameplay and caused frustration. Thankfully developer Frontier have since released a patch which appears to have fixed most of the gripes that we'd spotted and also added a number of new additions - including the vitally important park guest thought window, which had been lacking originally.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 is a real must-have title for fans of the series, and because of the new features it should also appeal to gamers who wouldn't usually consider this sort of game. You'll find many long sleepless nights follow either trying to better your achievements in the career mode or simply letting your mind run free with unlimited funds in the sandbox mode.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 for the PC from AmazonRelated articles:Interview: Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 producer Jonny Watts