Theme parks are one of man's greatest inventions. Where else can you go to be scared shitless, made to feel sick, eat crap food, queue for hours and watch fat people trying to squeeze safety harnesses around their guts? OK, perhaps that doesn't quite capture the best points of the world's finest amusement parks, but there's something about those vast, self-contained fantasy lands that keeps us shelling out year after year.
However, the major attraction of most rollercoaster rides is that feeling you get in the base of your balls as you go into freefall - something which no game we've ever played has yet been able to recreate. So it's surprising that theme park management sims are as successful as they are.
Bullfrog's Theme Park was the first truly successful departure from the SimCity school of management. The RollerCoaster Tycoon series has long since picked up the ball, offering a far more comprehensive approach to the finer points of designing and running your own world of fun, and the latest instalment (reviewed in issue 149) managed to bring the franchise up to date fairly competently. Soaked! is the first in what will presumably be a series of expansion packs for last year's RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and offers plenty for fans of the original to enjoy. Integrating seamlessly into RollerCoaster Tycoon 3's interface, Soaked!'s main selling point is the ability to build water complexes and rides.
The pools have to be built in their own area and accessed through changing rooms, where you can sting your park visitors, or 'peeps' as they're known, for an entry fee. Laying the pools down is a simple drag-and-drop affair, although this becomes more complicated if you choose to build multi-layered pools complete with adjoining stairways. You can even interact with your swimming peeps by swirling the mouse pointer around the pool to make a whirlpool. The option to design your own water slide is also present, the interface for which is similar to that used for rollercoaster design - in other words, highly customisable but bloody fiddly. Thankfully, there are a few pre-designed flumes on hand if you really can't be bothered to make your own.
The water theme doesn't end there though, as a new range of rides and attractions that can be built away from the pool complexes are also included. If there's a suitably sized body of water lying around unused, you can plonk a whale or dolphin show in it and pay them in fish. You can also set up jet-ski attractions, or slower boat trips for the lightweights.
The best new coaster on offer is the soaker coaster, which comes with water jets for the peeps to fire at the unwitting crowds below them. You can also install water jets at the sides of the paths. If you take over one of these with the coaster-cam, you can actually spray your visiting peeps with the high powered jets, sending them physically flying off the footpaths, and probably cleaning the stench of BO from the less hygienic visitors who perhaps have also eaten one too many portions of curly cheesy fries. Curly cheesy fries... Hmmm...
MIX IT UP
The fireworks control panel has also been given an overhaul, known as the MixMaster tool, and as well as setting up firework displays using the video editing-style timeline, you can now also include water fountain and laser displays as part of your event. The sheer amount of tweaking you can do to these shows is boggling - the lasers alone can have everything from their power to their angle adjusted, and you can even get them to display your pathetic efforts at drawing on the sides of nearby buildings.