Ever wanted to tell an amusement park you may frequent that their main attraction roller coaster is no good? That perhaps you can design a better ride than they can? Coaster Works may be one of the closest tools to put you in the seat of an architect to create the coaster of your imagination!
I love the Sega Dreamcast. Every time I hit the power switch and hear that *BEEEEEEEEP*, I’m overcome with joy and ambition. This was the last true gamer’s video game console and as this was Sega’s last piece of hardware, they went out with a bang. Coaster Works is certainly in my top favorite Dreamcast games because it offered something not particularly seen on home consoles. Sure, there were ports of Theme Park on almost every home system at the time, but Coaster Works was the first game I remember at the time that implemented the meticulous task of building roller coasters from scratch.
GRAPHICS: Coaster Works’ visuals may not push the power of the Dreamcast as much as some of the console’s more notable titles like Resident Evil: Code Veronica or Shenmue, and there may not be too much to look at prior to getting your ride up and running, but the smooth frame rate, speed, and rattling at which the coasters move from a POV perspective looks very authentic. BTW, I recommend playing this with a Dreamcast Rumble Pak to further augment the feel of riding a roller coaster.
SOUND: I like the soundtrack quite a bit. While it may sound like the same elevator music on a constant loop, it’s serene enough to not completely distract you, it would actually sound like music heard on a local broadcasting hardware fix-it program. And HEY!!! You are playing a game about building things. Upon viewing your completed coaster, the presentation includes stock carnival music right out of a 1939 County Fair. When test running, the impact of the coaster can be gauged by the sound of what seems to be at least three or four squealing kids.
A bit of a drawback, in my humble opinion. For Test Runs, fine, but they couldn’t get twelve people of different ages to vocalize a couple of screams for your final product? I mean it’s a new roller coaster, are the same little cretins cutting in line all the time!? It certainly would’ve helped make your design feel like a big deal.
GAMEPLAY: Truly the meat and potatoes behind Coaster Works and one of the reasons why I think this game is so great. Each stage offers you some guidelines on what you need to do to make a successful roller coaster, but the design is entirely up to your discretion. No template to follow, the game doesn’t hold your hand for the first couple of levels or tells you to do anything specific. Your imagination is allowed to run wild!! Now of course, your ride has to maintain a certain level of Gs to stay on track and there are safety precautions to follow in order to successfully build a ride, but nothing handcuffs your creativity. That’s all I ask for in gaming is the ability to flex your ingenuity!
The four screens in the construction menu offer four views. A POV from the track perspective, an overhead shot, and left and right angles. It could seems daunting at first, having as much free range immediately at the palm of your hands, and proceeding levels offer challenges like the ability to add loops and corkscrews, but this game is very user-friendly.
Patience is key and constant Test Runs are a must to gauge your progress, because if you get too far and complete the track and it comes up a dud (whether you failed safety regulations or the customers weren’t thrilled enough), backtracking can involve taking your entire coaster apart if pinpointing one or several trouble spots prove to be difficult. I think this is complete genius. Failure means it was all your fault, not a result of the game’s faulty programming or a glitch. You, with the controller in your hand, are the one that has to improve. No relying on a trick weapon! No EXP boosts! Your mind is your most powerful tool and it is what guides you to success, and it feels so rewarding to nail that victory! Like this:
IN CLOSING: Coaster Works offers a completely different flavor of most video games available, even by today’s standards, it stands out for it attention to detail with the mechanics. I wonder if actual roller coaster designers were brought in as testers to double check the legitimacy of the speed and gravity. I really feel that the true enjoyment of Coaster Works depends on what you want to put into it. If it feels too much like homework, the learning curve can turn away, but I approach it like a cool high school science project and I really want to get a good grade. With only 5 actual stages and a bonus Dream Coaster extra stage (that abolishes the restrictions, so go to town!!), it may be pretty short and can be completed in one sitting. I think this game is wicked fun to tink around with and is still one of the most creative video games, not only for the Dreamcast, but ever. FINAL SCORE 9/10
PROS: Great functionality. Amazing attention to detail. A very smart video game.
CONS: High concept may prove difficult for gamers with a more casual approach. Lack of screaming patrons.
And here is my Dream Coaster: THE KRAKEN!!!
All coaster designs and names were done by me and can be viewed at my YouTube channel, which is still being constructed and more content will be added.