JAGUAR: Theme Park

From: John Daniels (ah499@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 08/16/95-10:24:53 AM Z

From: ah499@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (John Daniels)
Subject: JAGUAR: Theme Park
Date: Wed Aug 16 10:24:53 1995

Theme Park
1 Player
Ocean, for the Atari Jaguar
    So, you think Michael Eisner's pulling in easy money?  Ever wonder how Six
Flags gets away with charging $3.50 for a cup of Pepsi?  Think you can do a
better job?  If so, then Ocean's THEME PARK for the Atari Jaguar is for you.
This port of the computer simulation from Bullfrog Productions puts you in
charge of designing and maintaining a world-class amusement center.  Every
aspect of park operation, from placing refreshment stands and roller coaster
tracks to labor negotiations, stock trading, and visitor satisfaction is your
responsibility.  Plan well and you can amass a fortune by building parks
throughout the world; plan poorly, and you'll go bankrupt soon enough.  A
number of options let you set the difficulty and complexity levels, and five
different games can be saved to the cartridge.
    The biggest strength of THEME PARK is its complexity, as the game offers
an overwhelming number of features, options, and decisions.  None of them are
trivial, which provides plenty of room for strategies.  But this also makes
the game difficult to learn.  Even with a sixty-six page instruction manual, a
brief built-in tutorial, and your advisor's helpful hints, you'll need several
short sessions before you learn all the controls and become familiar with  how
to activate all of the features.
    One of the things that bother me about some simulator games is the lack of
a concrete goal.  In SIM CITY, for instance, there's little incentive to play
it again once you've successfully built a thriving metropolis.  THEME PARK
avoids that problem by being very competition-oriented: in the full game mode,
you're not only running the park, but also fending off hostile takeovers,
investing in competitors, and trying to make your park the most popular
worldwide.  On the other hand, it's possible to play a less demanding game and
avoid the problems that you wish to avoid.
    While all this sounds wonderful, what keeps THEME PARK from greatness are
numerous minor flaws that, taken together, hurts the experience.  The controls
are sometimes sluggish, selecting small objects is difficult, and option
dialogues have inconsistent controls.  The monetary unit is confusing; are you
spending dollars, pounds, dimes, or yen, and why are guests willing to pay 180
of it to visit?  There seems to be no optimization of the Jaguar itself, as a
little slowdown occurs when things get frantic.
    The biggest disappointment is the game save feature.  The only time you
can save a game is at the end of the year, and only after you auction off your
current park.  The only data recorded is your balance and the countries you've
built parks in; when you restore a game, you're essentially starting from
scratch.  This means you need several hours of uninterrupted play during each
game session (to build and develop a new park), and loses the feeling of
accomplishment that makes other simulations fun.
    The graphics on THEME PARK are merely serviceable, lifted directly from
the computer game and don't take advantage of the Jaguar's capabilities at
all.  Rides and objects are identifiable, but the animation is simple.
Scrolling is done in fixed jumps, which distracts a little.  Most annoying,
though, are the small graphics.  Text and icons originally formatted for a
high-resolution monitor comes out smudged on a regular television screen.  I
was able to find out what some icons did only with trial and error, while the
text on a few buttons and screens still remains unreadable.  If you don't have
a large-screen TV or a monitor attached to your Jaguar, be prepared to do some
deciphering of blobs and blurs.
    The sounds fare better, though they're still somewhat sparse.  The music
consists of a variety of bouncy amusement park tunes, which play during the
regular day-to-day operations of the park.  Sound effects come from a wide
series of digitized samples, like cheering kids to racing roller coasters and
"disturbed digestion," which are sprinkled through the game.  They're all very
clear and amusing enough, but there's nothing that stands out, and often the
game is simply mute.
    THEME PARK on the Jaguar is a case of approach-avoidance: there's a fun
and engrossing game here, but various flaws (most notably the save-game
feature) keep the player from totally embracing it.  This is a cartridge best
recommended for the simulation buff who's looking for an unusual challenge and
can spend several hours for each play session.  For them, THEME PARK will
easily provide months of entertainment, despite its warts.
                GAMEPLAY:        7
                GRAPHICS:        6
                SOUND:           6.5
                OVERALL:         6.5
  Rating values  10 - 8   Great! This game can't get much better.
                  7 - 5   Good. Average game, could be improved.
                  4 - 2   Poor. For devotees only.
                      1   Ick. Shoot it.
  Pity.  A good first effort from Ocean, but the rough edges could have used
a bit more polishing...
  Send whatevers to  |      If it has pixels, I'm for it.
--------------------------------------+------------------------------Lynx up!
"You weren't chosen because you are the best pilot in the Air Force. You were
    chosen because you are the class clown and frankly, you're expendable."

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