Everything's better with a cool little hat.
When I was a kid, I never saw my family’s computer as being a platform for gaming. For the younger me, games were played on my Nintendo 64, or one of the various Game Boys, or on my PlayStation 2. I will admit, I did own quite a few Lego games for our computer (including the essential Lego Racers, which I also had for Game Boy!) but even then, I never imagined the PC as being a primary source of Games Enjoyment™. That started to change with the Roller Coaster Tycoon games.
As far as I was concerned, the RCT series was a godsend – I could create and run my own theme park! Wow! I also played the first two Zoo Tycoon games, but they could never really compare to Roller Coaster, at least for me. I remember a time when everyone in my family got sick aside from me, and I holed myself up in our study making roller coasters and managing theme parks all weekend. I loved a lot about RCT2, but I sort of cast it aside when RCT3 was released. Why wouldn’t I? RCT3 was perfect for a kid like me who loved the building more than anything else. It streamlined everything, removed the occasional frustration provided by RCT2‘s isometric perspective, and provided previously untold levels of park customization. Only now do I realize my mistake.
Except I wouldn’t call it a mistake, exactly. I wouldn’t trade much for the endless hours I sunk into RCT3, aside from a guarantee that the upcoming Roller Coaster Tycoon World will actually be a decent game. It’s just that I picked up RCT2 again on Steam, and I’ve come to realize there’s a lot more to the game than I would have given it credit for when I was younger.
As I see it now, Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 is first and foremost a strategy game. I mean, it always was, but for the younger me all those goals and mechanics were buried under the premise of having a fun time managing a theme park. Back then, I didn’t care how much money I spent on building rides and filling my park with nothing but giant pumpkins. Playing RCT2 now, I realize how much depth and decision-making goes into working towards successfully completing each scenario. I have to weigh the choices of what I buy for my park against how it affects my finances, my park-goers, and my progress towards achieving my goal.
From my now more experienced standpoint, there’s a lot of merit in that. I find myself playing through parks I enjoyed as a kid with a totally different perspective. I wouldn’t say it’s a totally different game, but the way I play it is. The younger me may have immediately wanted to build the biggest coaster possible and then put skeletons everywhere, but the older me knows I have to pace myself with building and only put skeletons almost everywhere. The fact that I can sink even more hours into this game and enjoy it for an entirely new reason is astounding to me, and I feel like it really shows RCT2 has stood the test of time, but of course, not everyone has my same experience.
It’s true that RCT3 is much easier to build with. There’s also some truth to the criticism of RCT2 being a glorified advertisement for Six Flags, and not being much different from the first game. But now I feel like RCT3 cast aside some of the better strategy elements of RCT2 in favor of said emphasis on customization. Some people may not agree with this, but I also like the retro isometric pixel graphics of RCT2 much better than the sadly dated 3D graphics of RCT3. I would also say that, in hindsight, RCT2 is a more perfect version of the first game – more content, better gameplay, and just generally tweaked enough to be a more enjoyable experience.
Rediscovering RCT2 was one of the best game-related things to happen to me this year, and it means a lot to me that this game which really opened the door for me in terms of PC gaming can still offer a new experience all these years later. Do you hear that, Nvizzio Creations and Atari? Roller Coaster Tycoon means a lot to me. So make sure the new one is good. Please.