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The first expansion pack for Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, Soaked, proves to be a very endearing add-on, worthy of being called a quality expansion pack that is worth every penny (and more) that you pay for it.
Six Flags theme parks have been expanding into the world of water parks for a long time. Even resorts like Disney World have its own water park (Typhoon Lagoon). Roller Coaster Tycoon 3: Soaked! expands your creative options, allowing you to enter the world of water park attractions for your theme park. And peeps love the new pool complexes that you can build with Soaked.
Frontier has done a great job in making Soaked add many more dimensions to the Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 environment. From pools and waterfalls to laser light shows and wave machines, this expansion pack is much better than any of the expansion packs that came out for Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. Take, for example, one of the new coasters. Not only does the coaster allow riders to release gallons of water on unsuspecting guests while the coaster is in motion, but it also allows you to take control and release the water yourself while you ride the coaster. You get to watch as guests below get plummeted with the water! And Soaked gives you the ability to build underground. You can even build underwater tunnels with clear glass that allow your peeps to see what's going on under there.
But the improvements don't stop there. Another great addition to the game is Challenges. While you're playing the game, a challenge may randomly pop up offering you the chance to accept the challenge, meet the goal, and get some sort of reward (like money or extra publicity). There are a vast array of challenges, some being a bit entertaining. Here's one I got in one of my final scenarios:
"The president's recent accident with our giant foam hand has reduced consumer confidence in our product. If your high profile park can shift 100 foam hands in a month, we will award you a sales bonus."
You have the option to accept the challenge and complete it within the time period given (in this case, the time period to complete was set at 90 days even though the text says "in a month") or you can decline the challenge or postpone it. A simple warning, though; you can only postpone a challenge once. So make sure you're at a spot to tackle the challenge before it pops up again. The rewards are good. Publicity boosts increase the number of people coming into your park, but more likely you will be rewarded with $3,000 to $5,000.
There are plenty of new stores, many which complement the Soaked theme and are visited often by peeps (swimsuit stall, inflatable stall, sunscreen stall, etc.). There are new rides too, like Hershey's Stormrunner roller coaster, which peeps seem willing to pay a lot to ride, without ever boring of it. My favorite new addition is the Giant Slide. Peeps love this slide. And if you build it five levels high, the excitement rating will exceed 5 and you'll be able to easily charge something like $5.20 with peeps never boring of going on it over and over and over. And that's nice on your pocketbook and for the use of the ATM machine you place nearby. :-)
I can go on and on about the new features (a super soaker gun where your guests can blast other guests with water, ability to do laser shows and create laser images against walls, all the extras that you can build with your pool, the ability to build a water show, although it is weak in its current form). The amount of great additions packed into Soaked (which includes lots of waterslide type rides too) make it more than worth the purchase price. There's no debate there. But Soaked also fixes some Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 game problems. Peeps now act better in regards to riding rides. When Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 first came out, getting guests to consistently ride rides was as easy and fun as plucking your eyebrows. Now guests consistently ride your awesome coaster, whether it is one month old or three years old. This is much more realistic. In addition, peeps now do a much better job of leaving your park when you close it. Before Soaked, you had to pull arms and legs to get people to leave your park when you closed it. Now when you close your park, peeps head for the exit... in droves.
There are also some neat unexpected elements. For example, when I was playing the final scenario (I achieved Tycoon level with all of Soaked's scenarios in three days - that's full days) I was building a ride close to the ocean water when suddenly a shark appeared! Awhile later I saw a bat ray swim by! This really adds an extra fun aspect to the game. Neither had to be added for gameplay, but because they were added, it made the environment more realistic and fun.
I'm awarding the Soaked expansion a 9/10 score, which ties it as the highest rating of all the Tycoon games we've reviewed to date. The only reason it doesn't get a 10/10 is because there are still some fundamental problems with the game that the developers have not yet addressed. For example, ride events don't add to a ride's excitement. This is very puzzling to me. If you're on a tram or coaster ride and a huge volcano erupts when you're next to it, that should definitely add to the excitement of the ride! Another problem is that the marketing campaign options are extremely weak when compared to Roller Coaster Tycoon and Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. You actually have fewer options, like the inability to simply promote a ride (without giving free ride coupons). The learning curve for some elements (like MixMaster) is high and not well explained or documented. This increases the learning curve in a game that otherwise has a simplistic user interface experience. Even though there is a "Peep Cam" cheat (so that you can see the park through the eyes of any guest in the park), the developers haven't enabled it as a regular part of the game. Also, you can't add a fence to the edge of a path without taking up a whole grid space for the fence. So if my path is double wide, I have no way of separating it.
Even with these limitations, however, the Soaked expansion and Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 game is well crafted, bringing hours of enjoyment. It's rumored that the next expansion pack is called "Wild" and may entrench on Zoo Tycoon's territory. And that's fine by me because Zoo Tycoon 2 still has a little ways to go to create the same "fun factor" that the Roller Coaster Tycoon series does. And gaming is all about the "fun factor".
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