Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Robert Jung appears too!
So, you think
Michael Eisner's pulling in easy money? Ever wonder
how Six Flags gets away with charging $3.50 for a cup
of Pepsi? Think you can do a better job? If so, then
Ocean's Theme Park for the Atari Jaguar is for you. This port
of the computer simulation from Bullfrog Productions
puts you in charge of designing and maintaining a world-class
amusement center. Every aspect of park operation, from
placing refreshment stands and roller coaster tracks
to labor negotiations, stock trading, and visitor satisfaction
is your responsibility. Plan well and you can amass
a fortune by building parks throughout the world; plan
poorly, and you'll go bankrupt soon enough. A number
of options let you set the difficulty and complexity
levels, and five different games can be saved to the
strength of Theme Park is its complexity, as the game offers an
overwhelming number of features, options, and decisions.
None of them are trivial, which provides plenty of room
for strategies. But this also makes the game difficult
to learn. Even with a sixty-six page instruction manual,
a brief built-in tutorial, and your advisor's helpful
hints, you'll need several short sessions before you
learn all the controls and become familiar with how
to activate all of the features.
One of the things that bother me about some
simulator games is the lack of a concrete goal. In Sim City, for
instance, there's little incentive to play it again
once you've successfully built a thriving metropolis.
Theme Park avoids that problem by being very competition-oriented:
in the full game mode, you're not only running the park,
but also fending off hostile takeovers, investing in
competitors, and trying to make your park the most popular
worldwide. On the other hand, it's possible to play
a less demanding game and avoid the problems that you
wish to avoid.
While all this sounds wonderful,
what keeps Theme Park from greatness are numerous minor flaws that,
taken together, hurts the experience. The controls are
sometimes sluggish, selecting small objects is difficult,
and option dialogues have inconsistent controls. The
monetary unit is confusing; are you spending dollars,
pounds, dimes, or yen, and why are guests willing to
pay 180 of it to visit? There seems to be no optimization
of the Jaguar itself, as a little slowdown occurs when
things get frantic.
The biggest disappointment
is the game save feature. The only time you can save
a game is at the end of the year, and only after you
auction off your current park. The only data recorded
is your balance and the countries you've built parks
in; when you restore a game, you're essentially starting
from scratch. This means you need several hours of uninterrupted
play during each game session (to build and develop
a new park), and loses the feeling of accomplishment
that makes other simulations fun.
on Theme Park are merely serviceable, lifted directly from
the computer game and don't take advantage of the Jaguar's
capabilities at all. Rides and objects are identifiable,
but the animation is simple. Scrolling is done in fixed
jumps, which distracts a little. Most annoying, though,
are the small graphics. Text and icons originally formatted
for a high-resolution monitor comes out smudged on a
regular television screen. I was able to find out what
some icons did only with trial and error, while the
text on a few buttons and screens still remains unreadable.
If you don't have a large-screen TV or a monitor attached
to your Jaguar, be prepared to do some deciphering of
blobs and blurs.
The sounds fare better,
though they're still somewhat sparse. The music consists
of a variety of bouncy amusement park tunes, which play
during the regular day-to-day operations of the park.
Sound effects come from a wide series of digitized samples,
like cheering kids to racing roller coasters and "disturbed
digestion," which are sprinkled through the game.
They're all very clear and amusing enough, but there's
nothing that stands out, and often the game is simply
Theme Park on the Jaguar is a case of approach-avoidance:
there's a fun and engrossing game here, but various
flaws (most notably the save-game feature) keep the
player from totally embracing it. This is a cartridge
best recommended for the simulation buff who's looking
for an unusual challenge and can spend several hours
for each play session. For them, Theme
Park will easily provide
months of entertainment, despite its warts.