In the meantime though, ever looked at a roller coaster and thought "Goddamit, I could design a better one than that!"?
No, me neither come to think of it...
Well, those of you who own Coaster Works can, anyway. Costing the princely sum of about £2.50 off eBay, I picked this little beauty up out of sheer curiosity. Like Floigan Brothers last week, I've never seen Coaster Works on sale in a shop and only saw the one review of it - and that was an import review, so naturally thought the PAL release had been shelved. Obviously this wasn't the case, as last night I spent a few hours ripping my hair out at the expense of building (and I quote) 'The ride of my life.' Actually, the ride of my life would probably involve Shakira and a tub of Nutella, but that's a different post, on a different site. Cough.
No, as the name so cleverly suggests, Coaster Works is a game in which you, as a young and fresh faced churner-outer of the world's best roller coasters, must take on assignments from various theme parks and create big dippers that meet their specific requirements.
You start, as ever, small - developing a rather basic roller coaster for a kiddies park. After a well implemented tutorial introduction where the (information overload) 4-way split-screen display is explained to you, you are left to get on with creating your metal snake of fun (what?!). As you are just starting out, you only have a limited number of track pieces at your disposal, and only a rudimentary footprint for your track but with these you are expected to design and build a suitable track with enough dips, corners and banks to give the passengers specific levels of G-force, and a minimum top speed to reach. You are also accessed on the number of passengers who black out, throw up or feel queasy. Once these criteria have been met, you move up to the next fair ground in the sequence and are given more space in which to build your ride, more track pieces, the ability to add corkscrews and loops and of course, higher goals to beat in the catergories of top speed; safety; maximum Gs; and passenger black outs.
The 'construction' screens are at first a little daunting: the default view shows a screen split into four equal squares, each with a different perspective on your creation that help you to judge the pitch, angle and degree of banking with considerable ease. To further simplify things, all of the button commands are displayed at the bottom of the screen, so you can never really forget what each button does. Nice.
A second view does away with the slightly confusing split-screen set up to give you one fully rotate-able camera angle on your roller coaster that can be panned and zoomed around to your hearts content.
Once you think your ride is up to scratch, it's possible to take a ride on it. The ride itself switches the game from the rather dull, grey dominated wireframe model screens and plonks you in the front seat of the ride. A press of the 'A' button sets things moving and you're then treated to fully rendered, first person trip around your newly created steel leviathon and depending on how good/inventive you are, it can actually be rather a thrilling experience as the the carriage picks up speed and throws you around corners with an alarming amount of screen-juddering realism.
On the whole there's not really much to say about Coaster Works that I've not already detailed above. You get your grid, you get your track pieces, you build your roller coaster by altering the pitch and angle of the sections, and then you ride it. If it meets the described requirments - it's on to the next stage. If it fails, it's back to the drawing board - literally.
Like Ronseal, it does exactly what it says on the tin, and for that there can be no complaints. However, once you get past the first few stages it becomes apparent that there really is very little else to Coaster Works. Games like V-Rally and Re-Volt feature track creation sections that are just as intuitive as Coaster Works, but are only included as extras - not the whole game. To be fair, there's not a lot else Xicat (the people also behind the lamentable survival horror title Carrier) could possibly have added to the Coaster Works equation, but if I was expected to pay £30-£40 for it and not the actual £2.50 I did, I'd probably be a bit pissed off. As it is though, and for the asking price, Coaster Works is a relaxing diversion for those Dreamcast gamers who need a break from kicking the arses of unfeasably fit manga babes (DOA2); running away from cartoon fascists with stubble-covered lantern jaws (Jet Set Radio); or saving the world from aliens who like nothing better than getting down to the cheesiest and most cringeworthy muzak in the known galaxy (Space Channel 5).