Game Over Online ~ Ski Resort Tycoon

GameOver Game Reviews - Ski Resort Tycoon (c) Activision Value, Reviewed by - Rorschach

Game & Publisher Ski Resort Tycoon (c) Activision Value
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium II-233, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 67%
Date Published Tuesday, November 21st, 2000 at 07:49 PM


Divider Left By: Rorschach Divider Right

"Rollercoasters on ice."

It's late fall here in New England, and that means a couple of things. Firstly, it means raking - lots and lots of raking. Like a ticker tape parade, tons people come up here to look at the leaves, but when the party is over, who's left to clean it all up? My wife and I, that's who, and we're seemingly responsible for fully half the maple trees in southern NH. Secondly, it means that it's time to get ready for ski season. Now, for those of you in other parts of the country, or the world, you may have a picture of skiing in your heads. A picture in which people shush down a crystalline slope of deeply-fallen powder or sit in hot tubs drinking hot rum toddies with mountains in the background. Here we have the drinking down pat, but your picture of skiing has clearly been colored by satellite feeds from Colorado and Nevada. No, skiing in New England is a different animal altogether, as many days the temperature creeps above freezing, turning the mountain into a slurry of slush and ice, only to freeze absolutely solid with the coming night. The next morning, the groomers come out and chop the ice into a base with the consistency of pea gravel, and then the sun rises and it starts all over again. Part luge run, part highway construction project, skiing up this way is an experience all to itself, but I'm a hardcore ice skier through and through, and I'm up here waxing up my skis and checking to make sure my crutches are in good shape for the coming season. The final annual late fall rite is the dozens of local newspaper stories debating which regional ski resorts will re-open this year after having declared bankruptcy at the end of last season. As I'm paying $40 a lift ticket and $6.50 for a hamburger at the lodge, I can't help but wonder just how hard could it be to run a ski resort to a profit, anyway? Now is my big chance to find out with Ski Resort Tycoon.

On the surface this game looks a lot like Rollercoaster Tycoon, but as you dig down you find a game that still looks a lot like Rollercoaster Tycoon. But even underneath that appearance lies a deeper one, and there you will find an almost complete lack of differences between Ski Resort Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon. All right! Who the hell do they think they are kidding? 'I'm Clark Kent.' 'No, I'm superman!' Hello? Duh! You could peel back layers all the way down to the Marianas Trench and it would still be a lot like Rollercoaster Tycoon. The layout of the game is much the same, with buttons across the top of the screen for building new lifts, terraforming, buying buildings, landscaping, and the like, along with game controls like zoom in, zoom out, save game, etc. The rest of the screen, the lion's share, is devoted to a view of your burgeoning ski resort. You start each level with a mountain, some cash, and some goal you are trying to achieve. See? Almost exactly like Rollercoaster Tycoon, only instead of rollercoasters you have ski runs. It's a difference, but is it enough to carry a whole separate game? Well, the gameplay is a little different; I'll give it that.

For starters, laying out a ski resort is a lot more restrictive than an amusement park. The mountain has a sloped part (the mountain itself) where the runs have to go, and a flat part near the base where you build all the support buildings - food, maintenance, equipment rentals, bathrooms, and hotels. Almost immediately I had to be careful about how I was laying out a rope tow, because it occupies some of the flat building space at the bottom, and it cuts a line along the mountain slope where I'm going to be unable to build a ski run later. I felt a need to come up with some master plan - a black diamond here, a bunny slope there - to make the most of my mountain. This is in sharp contrast to an amusement park where you can build pretty much anything anywhere there is space for it. I would usually just kind of drop rides and concessions as they occurred to me - though maybe there are hardcore players who also come up with some amusement park master plan at the beginning of a new park. As I see it, the flexibility of designing your own coaster lets you squeeze one in over and under and around other rides. A ski run has to go downhill, or maybe across the mountain slope for a short distance, and it can't go over or under a building and it can't go where a lift is, etc. I think you get the idea.

The other gameplay facet that makes this different from Rollercoaster Tycoon is that there isn't any researching of new rides or concessions. In its place is a construction tree - some things can only be built after other things have been. That, combined with the fact that the more advanced structures also generally cost more, guides somewhat the way in which you can build up your ski resort. This is more realistic (I always found it odd that you had to research to have bumper cars in your amusement park in RCT as bumper cars have been kicking around since at least the 1920's), but I can't decide if I like it better or not. It does give the game a kind of Civilization feeling which would let you build a marketplace only after a granary had been built, etc, blurring the lines between a sim game and a 4x. Now if there was just another ski resort next door that you could attack and take overů

The one part of the game, which I felt would be a problem going in, was how to determine by sight how steep a hill is or what kind of a run it will make. I had visions of numbers all over the hills (as in RCT) indicating how high each point was above zero ground, and having to trace lines through all these numbers in my head. The designers handled this more elegantly than I had expected by giving you a surveying tool. You drag a line between two points, and it tells you the slope and how difficult the rating for a run along that line would be. Using the tool it is a breeze to set up your mountain with the good mix of beginner, intermediates, and expert slopes necessary to win your park, uh, resort, a good rating. The game also has a good variety of stuff you can build - jumps, half pipes, several lift styles, and many different hotels, restaurants, and added attractions such as an ice-skating rink, bowling alley, or cinema. More stuff than frankly I see at ski resorts in NH or VT. I went skiing once at the Sierra Ski School in Tahoe, and I don't recall it having a bowling alley either, but that was like 10 years ago so maybe it has one now. The mountains in the game are quite large giving you a chance to construct a large and varied resort.

The graphics, predictably, are comparable to those found in Rollercoaster Tycoon. The vast majority of the mountain could have appeared as stark, eye-blasting white, but the designers wisely chose to use shades of gray copiously to tone it down some and help you see the slope of the hill better. Skiers wear bright colors, and the trees are pleasant shades of green and brown (when they're not covered with snow). In an odd addition that parallels the less-than-successful Sim Theme Park from Bullfrog, you can climb inside the head of one of your guests and see the resort from their eyes as they ride a lift or ski down the mountain. You can't control where they ski - you're only along for the ride - and the graphics for such an undertaking are less than stellar making its entire inclusion kind of bizarre. Perhaps it's there to help differentiate this game from Rollercoaster Tycoon. That it does, but not for the better. Sounds are the big disappointment as you don't hear much besides the clatter of the machinery and the shush of the occasional skier. I'm so used to the laughing, music, and general festival atmosphere of Rollercoaster Tycoon, that this is pretty drab by comparison.

The only real headache of the game - the only place that I can point a definite finger and say that this should have been done better is the ski patrol. A customer gets hurt on the mountain, and he's lying there in the snow yelling for the ski patrol, and where are they? Who knows? I'm not sure they do. You can't grab the workers in your resort like you could in Rollercoaster Tycoon and just drop them where the trouble is (you could also grab customers in RCT and frankly that was a little unrealistic, but it was fun, especially dropping them in the water and drowning them). So the ski patrol is just sort of out there looking for the injured customer, but they look everywhere, in seemingly no particular order. People are skiing past the injured person - you'd think they would notify the ski patrol where they are. Apparently not. The ski patrol spends a lot of time looking around in the woods far from the trails and not where they need to be, and I've had people die of hypothermia waiting for them. Yeeeeh.

I think, given that winter is almost upon me and I enjoy skiing, it's sort of a kick to lay out a steep ski slope and watch my customers fall on their faces (not as much fun as piles of puke building up outside an intense rollercoaster, but fun nonetheless). The question remains will non-skiers be entranced enough to allow Ski Resort Tycoon to reap the same marketing gold that Rollercoaster Tycoon accumulated? I'll leave that decision to the game reviewers. Oh, wait, that's me. Well, I've been listening to me a lot lately, and here's what I've been saying: I'm not ready to quit Rollercoaster Tycoon for a play-alike game that I feel is ultimately kind of seasonal (I don't expect to be interested in planning a ski resort in August). It's not a bad game, and maybe hardcore skiing and RCT fanatics can add 10 points to my rating, but as a whole I believe Ski Resort Tycoon is the answer to a question no one asked.

[ 35/50 ] Gameplay
[ 07/10 ] Graphics
[ 04/10 ] Sound
[ 03/10 ] Plotline
[ 09/10 ] Controls
[ 09/10 ] Bugs

 

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