Maximum Roller Coaster
When I think of Roller Coaster simulators on the PC market, 2 outstanding titles come to mind. Firstly the peerless No Limits simulator. This allowed the user to re-create existing, or design and build their own coasters and then to ride them in a virtual environment. It places a lot of emphasis on realistic physics and extreme customisation of a vast variety of coaster types. There is not much scope to build anything other than coasters though, and although the simulator is technically brilliant, the finished coasters tend to have a somewhat sterile and abstract feel. Obviously, the other one that I can recall playing for hours is the more mainstream Roller Coaster Tycoon 3. The first in the series to bring amusement parks to life in a full 3-D environment. Coasters were built from prefabricated tiles, and although the physics were not as exacting as those in a true simulator, the game was still supremely playable, not to mention that the player could also build dozens of other rides and entertain customers in a fully fledged amusement park. Economic management and strategic planning were needed with equal amounts of creativity to win through the scenarios.
This week's Maximum Roller Coaster, the newest release from independent Japanese developer Bimboosoft, is a hybrid of these two classic PC titles. Without being better than either of them at their strengths it does take elements from both of those games and may have some appeal to fans because of the middle ground that it occupies.
Basically, the game is a roller coaster simulator. A track is built through the editor and can then be observed and even rode in first person mode in full 3-D. Not only that, but various dynamic flavour elements like other carnival rides, ticket booths, vegetation and landscaping objects can all be placed around the coaster to add to the immersion and realism of the ride. The player can specify the colours used in the trackwork, the music played in the background, and the type of coaster cars and track layout from a variety of combinations. The editor is a little difficult to get one's head around even after following the tutorials. It's vaguely intuitive after extended time experimenting, yet often I find myself grappling with it to achieve results that I want. The flow and feel of the track is extremely hard to judge from the editor alone and frequent trips to the test track option are required throughout the design process. The track is laid in sections of a predetermined length, yet a lot of scope is available to be able to rotate, twist and bend those sections through all 3 dimensions. Each pane of the 4 window design tool shows a different 2-D representation of the track, and users without much spacial awareness might have to wrestle with it for a good amount of time before desirable results are achieved.
The interface is primarily mouse driven, but also relies on keystrokes. For example, holding the left Ctrl key down while moving the mouse left and right will twist the track to make banked sections, while keeping the vertical angle held at a constant amount. The mouse alone is enough to build simple unsymmetrical designs, but for more complicated and professional looking constructions, knowledge of how all the keyboard modifiers work in conjunction with the mouse is vital. Learning how to align sections of track with the grid simultaneously in 3 cross sections can be tricky, and the key modifiers assist the player to make delicate adjustments of one parameter only, which can be quite helpful.
Even the example coasters provided in the download package have sections where a realistic flow and speed seem extremely difficult to achieve and these frequently occur near the end of the track, especially in my own coasters. With no option to build brake sections or stipulate where the lift chains are positioned, speed of the coaster through the track needs to be managed by careful positioning of banks and hills. It's a lot harder than it sounds to build an organic, flowing coaster. The ability to display people riding your coaster as well as all the other scenery options make the finished product quite rewarding. Having your coaster duck in and around the big wheel and pirate ship, before corkscrewing over the top of a food plaza give the coasters created in this set a lot more life than the No Limits creations. It's not quite as immersive as the RCT3 tracks where riders can look down to see tiny people looking up in awe, but by the same token, the track design has a lot more potential and rewards free-form creativity. Designs that are simply not possible in RCT3 can be made in this game.
There are no rewards or gameplay goals specifically designated by the software other than to exercise the players own creativity. Goal driven players will not get much out of this game, but fans of sandbox style games and utilities should have quite a bit to work with. Associated park design tools are simply there to increase the aesthetic appeal of the coaster itself. There is no need to build anything too far from the coaster track since none of the other rides and attractions are interactive nor have any function outside of visual appeal. There are a lot of objects to place around your coasters.
The simulator looks fantastic with all the graphics options turned up. The music and ambient noise is very realistic to the point where motion sickness might become an issue for queasy players. I have one friend who used to become sick playing F-ZERO on the SNES with me in my youth, I'd hate to think how he'd fare in front of an extreme creation in this game. Despite the lush visuals and dynamic scenery, the game is surprisingly well optimised, and frame rates are extremely high on my mid-range desktop rig. For some reason though, the advanced shadows settings seem to darken the whole park. It might be a driver or hardware conflict, but even using the simple shadows option, the coasters look amazingly good. Whether they are inverted, suspended or traditional coasters, the realism and fun of testing a finished project is really a reward in itself.
Taking the middle ground is not without its penalties though, and Maximum Roller Coaster has limitations that will leave some players wanting more. The sheer number and type of coasters available in No Limits is nowhere close to matched in this game. Maximum Roller Coaster features only modern steel coasters with two track and three coaster variations with two launch options. With all the effort put into designing the all excellent 3-D models for all of the other rides and flavour elements in the game, it's a bit of a shame that they serve no real other purpose other than to look nice. Not seeing people in the park nor having any “gamey” elements to the simulator might turn a few RCT3 fans away.
Regardless, Maximum Roller Coaster is a robust, stable and well optimised simulator that provides a great deal of playability and real creative possibilities to design some amazing coasters. It promises and delivers nothing more than that. Having a defined and specific design goal has allowed Bimboosoft to create a very good roller coaster simulator despite the fact that its niche appeal will surely limit interest in the title.
Keywords: maximum roller coaster review, bimboosoft reviews, bimboosoft games, maximum roller coaster scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.