I remember three things about playing RollerCoaster Tycoon as a kid: Leafy Lake, the carousel music and sending people to their deaths on the Shuttle Loop.
Come on, we’ve all done it. Just shorten the track, add some boosters and watch the show unfold.
I played RollerCoaster Tycoon a lot as a kid when it released in 1999. Who didn’t play this game back then? Aside from Legos, it was the closest thing to Minecraft for 90s kids.
I was 7 years old at the time and still very innocent. My mind didn’t automatically go into slaughter mode. RollerCoaster Tycoon presents you with the opportunity. But after a few hours, the game basically forces you to commit premeditated murder.
You start out with some basic rides available to build. The carousel, of course, is one of the first attractions you open. It’s cheery organ music penetrates your ears for the next several hours of play. You never get that music out of your head. You’re imagining it right now. And that alone is enough to drive you insane.
Within the first hour, after messing around with the scrambler, wooden coasters, food and drink vendors, vandalism and whiny guests who can’t stop puking everywhere, a notification appears on the ticker at the bottom of your screen.
Steel coaster unlocked. And the real fun begins.
You can create your own coasters or use pre-made ones. All you have to do is place it on the map and connect a path so people can get in and out of the ride.
Enter the Shuttle Loop.
This modest, poop-colored roller coaster is not much to look at. It’s nothing but a station, a vertical loop and a tall spur of rail. The train launches out of the station, through the loop and up the spur. It runs out of momentum and gets carried backwards down the track, through the loop again and back to the station.
Now this pre-made ride is perfectly safe for your little guests. The train never gets close to running off the track.
But after hours of hearing organ music, tracking down handymen to clean up all the puke on the paths (because they keep mowing the grass instead) and seeing the guests complain about your meticulously crafted rides not being good enough pushes you over the edge. It’s time to shorten that track.
To better illustrate the sheer amount of fun you can have murdering your guests, I bought the game on GOG and booted up RollerCoaster Tycoon for the first time in a decade. Here is what happened.
A Beautiful Day to Die
It’s the second year in my save file of Leafy Lake. The victory conditions call for 500 guests by the end of year three and a park rating of 600. I have 900 guests and a park rating around 700.
It’s a sunny summer day at the park. A beautiful day to die.
I clear out some space near the carousel for the tiny Shuttle Loop to be placed. This is intentional. I want the organ music to drown out the soon-to-be dying screams of my guests. Even on the Titanic, the band played until the very end.
Next, I place the Shuttle Loop and shorten the rail spur from 50 feet to 20 feet. I then add several boosters to the track outside the station and set the launch speed to 60 mph. I make sure the station can accommodate the largest train with the most cars to maximize casualties – eight cars holding 32 passengers. Finally, I dub the coaster Fastrack to Dyin’.
I create an obnoxiously long queue line because I want as many people as possible in line to watch the impending disaster. Turns out not many people were interested in this ride and it took 10 minutes to get the train to maximum capacity.
We’re ready for take off. I imagine the voice of a pimply teenager crackling over the intercom of the station:
“Attention riders! Welcome to Fastrack to Dyin’! Make sure all loose items are stowed away in the bins and please keep your hands and legs inside the car at all times. Thank you for riding the -“
The teenager’s voice cuts off as the train shoots out of the station at 60 mph. (It was fast – I almost didn’t pause the game in time to take screenshots). The train barrels through the loop and races up the 20-foot-tall spur.
Houston, we have lift off.
A game from 1999 that’s full of tiny little sprites can’t process the horror I unleashed.
Before the train even fully leaves the spur, part of the track catches fire. The last two cars on the train break free and careen toward the food court and carousel. They explode before they can land and their eight passengers die a fiery death. It’s like Fourth of July fireworks.
The rest of the train flies through the air and reaches a peak of 115 feet, according to the ride statistics. Vertical Gs were off the charts.
The sixth car dislodges and explodes in the trees while the remaining cars sail toward the black nothingness at the edge of the map. They detonate as they hit an invisible wall. All 32 passengers die.
The carousel plays a melancholy tune, as if on cue.
Reign of Terror
The game immediately shuts down the ride because of this tragedy. The park approval rating plummets. People start to leave.
Now as the owner of what probably is a publicly traded company, I have shareholders I probably have to answer to. I can’t let this tragedy affect business. I need to stop people from leaving.
RollerCoaster Tycoon won’t let you delete the path to exit the park, but it WILL let you place a “No Entry” sign there. That stops people from leaving. And it would be rude to leave before a proper memorial can take place.
In the meantime I try to reopen my deadly coaster for another go. But no one wants to get in line.
“I’m not going on Fastrack to Dyin’,” thought Guest 292 as I clicked on him. “It’s not safe.”
That’s very smart thinking, Guest 292. I also notice the guest is thirsty. How about a private swim in the lake to quench your thirst?
I drag the tiny person into the lake and watch him drown. One might say he died of thirst.
This upsets more guests. The park rating drops further, but my reign of terror has just begun.
I open up the guest menu to view their thoughts and search for all the negative ones.
“The park is disgusting.”
“The litter here is really bad.”
“The vandalism here is really bad.”
Clearly the handymen I hired are doing a terrible job. As expected, they are all mowing the grass instead of cleaning up the park.
I drown all of them at once. Man, it’s hard to find good help these days. I then start drowning the guests with negative comments.
My park rating drops to 317. Since the guests can’t leave, attendance stays at a steady 912. I then start upcharging for everything in the park – rides, food, drinks, souvenirs, even the bathrooms.
Panic sets in as the guests run out of money. They are starving and thirsty. There is nowhere to pee and they keep stepping in vomit.
A storm rolls in and it starts pouring rain on my miserable guests. Thunder rumbles overhead.
As Leafy Lake descends into madness, an upbeat tune resonates from the mighty organ of the carousel, drowning out the desperate cries of the park guests. The show must go on.