Coasters and Rube Goldberg. (Gameplay)(computer games) (Column) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
And now for something completely different! Only computer gamers could find themselves in a rut because they've spent too much time exploring dark dungeons, flying F-16s, and playing professional football. If you want to try something really different, both Disney and Sierra/Dynamix offer breaks from the ordinary. And amazingly, in today's world of 20MB games, each of these games ships on a single high-density floppy.
Coasting along. Disney's Coaster takes you off the flight line and into an amusement park, but at the speeds and altitudes you'll reach here, you may forget you're not still flying a jet fighter. This program, originally announced last year, is a construction set that lets you build, test, and ride your own roller coasters.
You'll start out in the Coaster Design section, where you can create your ride from scratch or modify one of a number of existing designs on 640 x 480 VGA screen You've got straight track curves, loop-the-loops, and corkscrews to choose from. Sections can be different lengths, they can climb or plunge at angles up to 60 degrees, and they can twist up to 50 degrees in curves. Sections of track can be lifters or accelerators, or they can be equipped with brakes. You'll need a mouse for this section of the program, which has to be one of the easiest-to-use construction sets I've ever encountered.
Track design is fun, but you've got to be careful. One of the most difficult aspects is making sure that the final section of track can actually wrap around and meet the platform again. If you ever created your own track layouts with model trains or electric race-cars when you were a kid, you'll recognize this difficulty - you create what would have been the perfect layout, except there's no way to get the track back to where you started building it.
Once your track is laid out, it's off to the Ride screen. Just select Ride from the pulldown menu, and you're in the coaster car. Note that if you haven't installed the upstops, which keep the car from flying off the track, or if your track ends in midair, you won't be able to get anyone to board your coaster. Click the mouse button to launch, and you're in for a wild ride. Fast graphics and realistic sound effects make the ride a fun experience, but it's not very interactive. You do have buttons to accelerate or brake if you find that you haven't quite planned the proper amount of momentum in your coaster design, but that's the limit of interactivity here. Most of the game is in the designing, not the riding. After the ride's finished, you can get opinions on your coaster from a panel of evaluators. These will range from "Well, lasso me to a bronco! That was one of the best trips I've ever had!" to "I've seen better speed bumps at the post office." The Signature screen lets you examine a graph that shows the lateral and vertical g's achieved, maximum speed, longest drop, and other stats.
Once you've perfected your design techniques of Earth, you can try again with moon or Jupiter gravity, which can make for some interesting design problems.
Coaster is a winner in many respects. The only problem is that the graphic updates a too fast on a speedy PC, making loops nothing more than a blur. If you're the type who enjoys building for building's sake - if your fondest child hood memories involve Legos and Tinkertoys - you'll love this little game. It's a bargain at only $24.95.
TIM's back. From Jeff Tunnell Productions comes Sierra/ Dynamix's latest puzzler, The Even More Incredible Machine. If You played The Incredible Machine, you know what to expect, as TEMIM offers 160 new levels with everything that made the first game fun. If you're not familiar with the series, TIM and TEMIM essentially put you in the role of Rube Goldberg. You have to create complex, interconnected contraptions to accomplish goals that range from popping balloons to saving a little white mouse from a hungry cat. You connect pulleys, motors, jack-in-the-boxes, ropes, balloons, and many other parts to try to set off reactions that will accomplish your goal. The puzzles range from really easy to, at the end, well, really puzzling. My favorite aspect, though, is that the game is smart enough to let you win even if you pick a solution that may not have been what the programmers intended. Many times, I've solved the puzzles and had parts left over. TEMIM is extremely easy to learn, and both young kids and adults will find hours of enjoyment here. I know I did - I installed TEMIM at 9 p.m. and didn't get to bed until after 3 a.m., and many, many levels of play ad passed.