Ride of your Life?!

What's the best roller coaster you've ever been on eh? By 'best,' I mean fastest, longest and with the most "fuck, I've just shit myself" moments chucked into the price of the ticket. Mine is probably a toss up between the Pepsi Max Big One at Blackpool or the Corkscrew at Alton Towers, both of which are probably pretty lame when compared to the 'Coasters the Americans have got littering their theme parks. Shit, they've got rollercoasters that temporarily fall out of this dimension and send you on an wierd adventure through a mystical land full of magical dwarves and evil wizards. Apparently, it's called 'Dungeons & Dragons,' or something , and when I've saved up enough for a plane ticket, I'm booking a flight over there just so I can check it out.

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...
...but now you can!

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).


fatherkrishna said...

Interesting read! "Metal snake of fun"... Ooh matron!
I've seen the title in Gamestation but never would have thought to purchase... Might now. The price of Dreamcast games has got to be amongst the biggest factors in the logic of pursuing this particula console (as well as it pumping out some great titles, cool peripherals and superior design features...)
My most recent purchase for a stunning £2.50 is Evil Dead - Hail To The King which is looking good from the initial ten minutes I dipped in - more about this later...
You'e just on fire at the moment Tom. Setting up a good stockpile of posts before a lull?

Ross said...

Ever play 'Sim Theme Park' for the PSX? It's an intriguing and enjoyable game, even if it's long-term value is a bit limited. Still, it's worth the cheap price, and for collectors of PSX games and those who want a unique collection should definitely get it as its one of the more difficult to find PSX games (or, at least, an uncommon one you dont see every day).

Caleb said...

Nice Review.

After Sim City 2000 I kind of fell away from the whole simulation game thing. But if I find this for cheap I will have to buy it. (that goes for most games)

As for Evil Dead-HTTK I actually had a copy of that new from a sell out from FYE (American media chain store). I sold it some game store owner who gave me $20 who in turn sold it for $35 to some rabid Dreamcast collector who needed it to complete his collection

As a side not I gotta say that Dreamcast collectors in America a truly scary collection of people. (myself excluded of course) If they need dreamcast stuff they will do anything up to and including killing innocent people to get 1st party stuff. Collectors in Europe and Japan seem calmer (maybe since they got Shemue 2 and REZ).

On ANOTHER side note here is what I got from the consignment shop.

I got MINT

Spider Man (Which was produced by neversoft, same as Tony Hawk a fact that I did not know).

Soul Calibur (this is my new MINT backup copy that I will NEVER play...unless my other copy breaks.)

Ecco the Dolphin (Pretty fishes...EAT THEM!!!!!)

Outtrigger - (Again another game that I bought new for like $1.50 and sold when I was in college.)

Wild Metal - I know nothing about this game.

Ready to Rumble 2 - A mint copy to replace the one that didn't work and I need to take back for refund.

And a dreamcast system with two first party controllers. One of the controllers has a black faceplate on it and looks pretty damn cool. All in good condition except the AV cord which was cut slightly. (I have an extra one)

Also a ton of games that I didn't buy yet including a crapload of racing games like sega GT. Import something.

Tom Charnock said...

Wow Caleb - you've been on a bit of a spree recently! That Spiderman is actually a bit of a collector's item - well, the PAL version is. Don't know why though, apparently it's virtually identical to the PSX version. It's funny you mention Rez though...watch this space...

As for Coaster Works, yeah, as I said - it's pleasant enough. Not groundbreaking, mind. It could have been better if they'd added a few more diversions, like creating names and themes for the roller coasters, but nowt's perfect.

Tom Charnock said...

Fatherkrishna - I agree with your philosophy on the price of software: I now have about 95 boxed games, the most expesive of which was Shenmue 2, and that was only £24.99 - less than the price of a new 'current' game. Most of the others were purchased for less than a fiver though. I paid quite a lot for most of them the first time round though: I remember getting NHL 2K for about £30 a few years back.

Anonymous said...

May I add that we usually get to pay 10-15 euros here? it's a fecking rip-off!

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Mmmmm... Nutella....

Anonymous said...

Father K, I have a quick concept for your character... Just an idea for now..!
Talk to you more later! -busy at work and whipped the picture up quickly over break...