Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 03/31/02 | Genre: Strategy
I have to admit that this game was more fun than I expected. It's an upgraded version of the original Ultimate Ride. It includes everything that the original had, plus new track types, props, and puzzles. For those of you who don't know, this game is not like Roller Coaster Tycoon. That game focuses on the economic side of building and maintaining an amusement park, as well as designing roller coasters. Ultimate Ride Coaster Deluxe focuses on designing your own roller coasters for just for fun, or to complete certain objectives.
You can create several types of roller coasters from steel, to wooden, to standing and hanging. The game offers a great amount of "tweakability" in designing your tracks. The pieces you can use consist of straight, vertical, curved, S turn, loop, corkscrew, half loop, and half corkscrew pieces. Now, if that was it, the best you could do with these is create tracks that had these pieces in different orders. Thankfully, there is a lot you can change to each piece that really allows for infinite possibilities. Each piece can be twisted, slanted upward or downward, stretched, or squished to varying degrees. You can even change the radius of curvature of the loops, corkscrews, and curves. Using these abilities, you can create all kinds of designs.
There are two modes: Imagineering and Build. Build is basically a sandbox creating mode. Don't want to worry if your riders black out from forces in excess of 20 G's? Don't want to work with a limited amount of parts? Who cares if building a roller coaster that goes 650 ft in onto the sky would probably collapse in the wind? That's what the Build mode is about. Just create any crazy design you can imagine. Of course, you do have to follow some rules of physics. The cars won't fly off the track, but the G-force is measured, and in the Imagineer mode, you usually cannot exceed a certain limit. The cars must have enough momentum to complete the track. They don't magically traverse the whole thing just because you connected track together. You have to make sure that the momentum it has coming down a hill will be enough to carry it to the next big hill. Fortunately there are track enhancers to help you out with this. There is the standard chain that can be used to pull the cars up an incline. There are brakes, but you will mainly want to use these in Imagineer mode to stay under certain G-force limits on turns and satisfy other objectives. Accelerators do just what they sound like. They give a boost to the cars as they pass over that piece of track. In Build mode, you have access to an unlimited amount of track pieces and enhancers. The track can also have one of a few default color schemes, or you can create your own color scheme.
Tracks can be built in one of seven environments. Each environment is a different pre-constructed map. The environments don't really provide any differences other than scenery and differing landscape. One has a large mountain, others are hilly, and others are flat.
In addition, you can use props to liven up your creation. Props are basically pieces to liven up the scenery. They include plants, trees, rides, and other things you'd find in an amusement park. Some of the props are animated and have sound, such as the merry-go-round. Props come in six different themes, from outer space, to monster creepiness. You can even change the style of the cars and the roller coaster dock to match your props. You can also be crazy and mix all kinds of different props together. The props help your roller coaster become more interesting. Well placed props that can be seen by riders make your creation a little more lively and interesting.
Of course, you can ride your roller coaster once it's completed. You have the option of several different camera views, including first person. It is always fun to see what it's like from the riders' perspective after you've completed your track. Before you complete your track, you can do a test ride in first person. This serves to let you know what parts of the ride aren't smooth enough. It's much easier to tell when a turn is too sharp or the track twists unpleasantly by testing the ride rather than just trying to look at the track pieces.
The Imagineering mode is where this game gets its depth. This mode challenges you to create a track that satisfies certain conditions. It's like a puzzle game in a way. Sometimes, you start from scratch. Other times, part of the track is already completed for you and you cannot delete existing pieces of the track, but you can modify them. Some objectives include making sure that the ride lasts a certain amount of time, or making sure it takes less than a certain amount of time for the ride to finish. You may have to be sure that no portions of the ride ever exceed a certain amount of G-forces. Sometimes, the amount of parts may be limited. Can you create a ride that contains at least two loops, yet you can only use one chain? As always, there must be enough momentum for the cars to go all the way around the track. Those are just some of the objectives you may be given. There are 50 of these missions. Each mission also has bonus objectives that can be completed to earn medals. The medals are needed if you want to play all 50 missions.
Fortunately, the on-screen menu and read-outs are easy to read and navigate. Whenever you place a new piece of track, the information is instantly updated with the amount of time it takes for the cars to reach that point (that is if they have enough momentum, of course), the amount of vertical and lateral G-forces, speed, and altitude. Placing and modifying track pieces is easy as well. This is done using an un-obtrusive, on-screen menu. The menus are basically buttons with icons on them. The icons are not ambiguous and allow the player to easily find and place the piece he or she is looking for without consulting the help guide. Holding the cursor over any button will prompt a little tag that pops up to tell you the button's function. The camera is also fairly easy to use, but it does move a little slow. Sometimes, it can be hard to select the exact piece you want with the mouse, so you can use keyboard shortcuts to move to that piece. There are keyboard shortcuts for every thing you can do.
Graphically, this game is not amazing, but it works well enough. The textures are nice and the colors are not drab. The props are not very detailed, but they are good enough to make a believable park. Part of the fun is riding the 3D roller coaster you created. The graphics do a good enough job of conveying the experience, but the graphics could have been better.
The sound is also the same in a way. It is not amazing, but it's not annoying either. The music is nice and calming and I did not find it repetitive. None of the songs or memorable, but at least they don't give you a headache either. The sound effects are well done. Steel coasters sound different from wooden coasters. Clinking chains, whooshing air, and all of the other roller coaster sounds are convincing. The only very annoying aspect of the sound is the narrator. When the developer thought it was helpful, they used a female voice that is supposed to sound sexy or something. Fortunately, you can skip the parts where she talks.
Both the Build mode and the Imagineer mode are enjoyable. Don't get me wrong; I like my action games, but it's nice to sit down and relax and just use my imagination for a while. I found myself satisfied after I completed a nice creation. The Imagineer mode is fun and interesting also. It plays like a puzzle game and the objectives have enough variation so that it keeps you interested.
Of course, this game is not without its faults. As I said, graphically, this game is not amazing, but sometimes, when there was quite a bit of track or props on screen, the framerate dropped. Admittedly, the computer I used is not top-of-the-line, but it runs much better looking, more graphically intensive games just fine. The programmers of Ultimate Ride probably did not spend as much effort in this respect.
Another problem is that it is somewhat difficult to make changes to the middle portion of a track you are building. You can only delete pieces at the very end of your track. You can however, change (but not delete) pieces in the middle. This can be frustrating because changing pieces in the middle can change the entire rest of the track that follows. Some may say that this is just part of the process though. The camera can sometimes slow this process. It works fairly well, but moving the camera over a large distance to get a better view of something takes longer then you'd like.
There are a few additions that would have really enhanced this game if the developers had the thoughtfulness. The most minor omission is the option to configure the keyboard controls the way you like them.
One thing this game really needs is a tutorial. It is not a confusing game to learn, but this game is the kind of game that might appeal to casual gamers as well. A tutorial would have been helpful to those who are not used to controlling 3D cameras and building objects in 3D.
If there is but one addition or change I could make to this game, it would be a terrain editor. As it is now, you have pre-constructed maps to build your roller coaster on. The game would have been so much more fun if the player was allowed to create the landscapes as his or her imagination sees fit. I wanted to build deep canyons or tall mountains for my roller coaster to take its riders through. Imagination makes this game fun and an addition like this would have made that all the more true.
Ultimate Ride Coaster Deluxe delivers a great design experience, and the Imagineering mode definitely keeps things interesting. There are virtually infinite possibilities, and this relaxing game encourages you to perfect as many of those possibilities as you can imagine. You can even go to the official site and trade and rate roller coaster designs with other enthusiasts. It's a fun addition to the game, and there are already many users at the site.
This game is getting a good grade because it's good at what it's supposed to do. Keep in mind that this is somewhat of a niche title; it's not for everyone. If you are interested in this game, be assured that it delivers a satisfying experience. For those of you who don't usually play this kind of game, don't be too shy to check it out. It offers a nice change of pace to the kind of games most of us are used to, and it's just a different kind of fun.