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Ultimate Ride

Disney Coaster - Ultimate Ride Redux?

PC Game A Rockin' Roller

by Jim Bray

Roller Coaster nuts have a new virtual best friend, thanks to Disney's Interactive's "Disney Coaster."

Very similar, in fact nearly identical to, "Ultimate Ride," "Coaster" is a Windows 9x/XP game that lets you design and build your dream coaster and then virtually ride it until you lose your virtual lunch.

Sounds like heaven, doesn't it?

It's pretty addictive and it really does let you design, customize, test, and then ride a variety of roller coasters that either come in the box or that you create from your own "twisted imagination."

Build mode lets you indulge your fantasies to your heart's content, mostly, while if you deign for the "reality" of Imagineering you have to confront such mundane issues as the laws of physics and the number of gravities a human body can take before it becomes a soggy bit of jam on the coaster seat. I preferred throwing the science out of the window and going for maximum "Whee!"

Oh, you can also customize your coaster with various characters and props to make it look more "amusement park"-like.

I started things with a couple of trips on pre-created coasters that come with the game. This whetted my appetite for action, so I went straight into Build mode to unleash my own creativity on the theme park world.

After you've chosen your "world" (including asteroid, grid, or mountain area) you pick a "station", the place where your unsuspecting customers get onto and off of (if they survive!) the coaster. Then you can start laying track, in my case the steepest and highest hill I could build into the chosen setting. Alas, the area of your coaster is strictly limited, but that only means you have to be more creative with your curves and hills.

After a long and steep hill (you can customize the length and steepness, too), a longer and steeper downhill was in order, followed by custom-banked curves, a few loops and/or corkscrews, and back into the uphill work of returning the roller coaster to the heights of ridiculousness.

A good, and needed (and fun), feature lets you test the coaster as you design it, even though it doesn't yet close on itself to make a full track. Using this you can find out if your train has enough velocity to actually make it up those incredibly steep hills you've built. If it doesn't, you can change the hill, or add accelerators onto the track that'll speed the car up to something more approaching that of light itself.

The game keeps an eye on things for you, too, so if your track strays too close to another piece or to the edge of your "world" you'll get a warning and have to change the configuration.

You can build a non-traditional traditional wooden coaster, a steel rocket, or one of those ones where the train hangs below the track (until you loop over onto your backs, of course).

The graphics and sound are pretty good, and you can watch your coaster ride unfold from a variety of camera angles, the best of which put you on board the coaster train and let you experience the ride. I was using a 19 inch monitor and it was pretty neat; when I get around to it I think I'll output the video to my 57" TV and see what kind of a rush that gives.

My favorite tracks were the steel ones, but you can put together some pretty interesting rides no matter which of the three types of coaster you choose.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


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January 31, 2006