When RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 was released in November of 2004, it received mostly mixed reviews, including a 74% from me. I considered it to be a step down for the franchise, but at least the new developer, Frontier Developments, didn’t simply rehash the original (which was the case for RollerCoaster Tycoon 2). They converted the game to 3D and made several other changes, and while some of those changes worked, others didn’t. The result was a game that looked better but played worse than the original.
Now Frontier Developments is back with their first expansion pack, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked! As the name implies, this expansion pack deals with water-themed rides and activities, such as swimming pools, aquariums, dolphin shows, and a strange “RollerSoaker” ride, which is sort of like a low-level rollercoaster where the riders get to drop water on the people below them. There are also scenery objects for the new Atlantis and Paradise Island themes, and you can now modify the terrain to make cool-looking waterfalls. Even the jumping fountains from the original RollerCoaster Tycoon are back.
Plus, there are new things that don’t have anything to do with water. Frontier Developments fixed the most glaring omission from RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and so now you can add tunnels to your parks. You can also add laser shows (they work in about the same way as fireworks shows), passport stations (to encourage guests to visit the entire park), and new rides and shops (including some for Hershey’s products), and there are now “challenges” issued during the scenarios, where you might be tasked with selling a certain kind of souvenir or constructing a certain kind of ride within a time limit.
Plus, there’s more. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked! is an impressive expansion pack, and it contains so many new things that it’s difficult to imagine what Frontier Developments could possibly have left for their recently announced Wild! expansion pack. Certainly, I played through Soaked!’s nine scenarios without being able to try everything out (I never did get around to making a laser show). Fortunately, if you find yourself in the same boat, there’s still a sandbox mode where you can build to your heart’s content, without worrying about money matters, and you could even go back and play the 16 original scenarios again if you wanted, because the additions work with them as well.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, even with all of the additions, is still a so-so game. It still has performance problems once parks get big enough, the guest AI is still a little funky, and the scenarios aren’t very exciting. One of my favorite parts of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 was the idea of the VIP guest, a unique person with particular needs that you have to meet, but those VIPs barely make an appearance in Soaked!, and the actual scenario objectives feel like they were pulled out of a hat -- and not a very big hat at that, since it seems like there are only about 10 objectives that get used and re-used.
There are also some new balance issues with the expansion pack. Guests just love swimming pools, and even if it’s the most basic pool in the world, it’ll still bring in as much money as a rollercoaster -- and without ever breaking down. Guests also seem to like big inflatable slides better than you’d expect. On the bright side, issues like the above make the game easier to play, since it’s easier to make money, and so you won’t have to stare at your park and twiddle your thumbs as much as before.
So, overall, I thought RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Soaked! was a very nice expansion pack for a very mediocre game. The additions are numerous and well designed, and they give you a lot of new options while playing the game, but they don’t really change how the game is played, and so if you didn’t like RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, then this expansion pack probably won’t change your mind. But if you did like RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, then you should definitely buy Soaked!, as it will no doubt give you many hours of added enjoyment.