Roller Coaster Tycoon: Deluxe is an isometric tycoon game where you manage your own them park. Not just one, but each of the game's 70+ scenario is a different park. The scenarios get broken into four different categories: original, loopy landscapes, corkscrew follies, real life parks and extra parks. There is no fast forward button, so you're stuck going at the same pace. A game year would be an hour of real life time and several scenarios go between 3 - 4 hours. Each scenario has success conditions like have X amount of people in your park by year 3 with a rating of over 600. Others are more complex like double the park value without taking out a loan. Then after the time expires, you can keep playing if you'd like. There is around 210+ hours of game in these scenarios.
As the manager of the theme park, you can plop down rides. From there, you can paint them, change their music and entrances. Even change different options on each one like how many times does a Ferris wheel go around? You'll build walkways to get to places and lanes to get to ride entrances. Without lanes no one will stand in line. The longer the lanes, the longer people need to wait in line. You can even raise and lower terrain, add water all at a price.
The joy here is designing your own tracks. Roller coasters, go carts, flumes, slides and every other type of track. The game comes with premade tracks, but you can design your own as you go. Couture them to your land, have them dive into tunnels, over walkways. Heck design them to launch the trains off the track to kill people. This is your game, you do what you want. Just don't expect anyone to ever ride a crashed roller coaster again. You can even take away bridges to drown your patrons.
Building the tracks is fun, there are a lot of roller coasters to chose from. Standing steel, sitting steel, inverted steel, wooden, twisting steel, diving coasters that can drop at 90 degree angles, hanging steel and far too many others to list. Different rides have different needs. Some need to be a smoother ride with less sharp turns. Others like the wild mouse roller coaster need sharp turns everywhere. The only down side is you make it as you go. There is no way to construct your perfect coaster, then add it into the game like you can with Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. You can still save any track design to your premade tracks to use at a different time.
Each ride has stats broken into three categories, excitement, intensity and nausea. Every patron has their own stats. If they're looking for something calm, intense or exciting. If your ride is 18 loops back to back with an excitement stat of 23, but an intensity level of 23, don't expect many riders. If rides are too gentle, like kid slides and bumper cars, you'll hear about it. You need to pace things, blend gentle rides next to thrill rides. The more nauseating the ride, the more people will throw up unless you have enough benches outside the ride exit for them to sit down on.
If someone throws up, you'll need to hire handymen to clean it up. They'll also water gardens, mow grass, empty trash cans and so on. You can even set the land they cover. When your rides break down, you will need mechanics not just to fix them, but inspect them. This ensures rides run with less down time and no one randomly dies due to brakes cutting out and one trains smashes into another. There are security guards for when patrons get too angry. Costumed characters can get hired to keep people happy while they're waiting in line.
Decorations also boost patron enjoyment. Plant flowers near walkways, statues near lines, plants and trees next to rides. Its all up to you. Decorations next to a ride will slightly increase its excitement value. For the most part, designing a ride track under, over and next to either itself or a different ride will boost its excitement level. With enough effort, you can make a merry go round into an exciting ride, but its easier to make anything else in the park exciting.
There is a thought view of everyone in the park, so you can determine what the people want. Are they hungry? Thirsty? Sick? Do they need to 'go?' Well then build food stalls, drink stalls, benches and bathrooms. There are a lot of different stalls and you can set the price on everything in the park including setting all your drink stalls to charge the same price. Not just that, but there are plenty of merchandise stalls full of things for your patrons to buy when they're happy enough.
So how do you get different stalls, rides, coasters and decorations? You devote X amount of dollars each month to ride development. Minimum, medium, maximum or no funding at all. This will be how quickly you'll unlock something for the park you're managing. There are even check boxes for what you want to research. Gentle rides, thrill rides, roller coasters, shops & stalls, scenery and ride improvements. Ride improvements are simple things like putting a wooden roller coaster train backward.
The game is very flexible when it comes to finances. Each scenario will usually start you off with a hefty bank loan that has minimal interest. You can get a bank loan up to a certain amount, depending on the scenario. Having money always lets you keep playing and growing. If you outgrow your park, then just buy land tile by tile. Its a little tedious, but whatever. Sometimes you need to buy rights to have your coasters go over roads, because you can't buy the land itself. While you can charge money for each ride, you can also make them all free with a park entry fee. Some scenarios force you to do certain things financially. The restrictions, coupled with the different parks make it interesting. Instead of just having the perfect park over and over again.
On top of that, there is promotion for your park. Pay X amount for park or ride marketing for X number of weeks. Free ride vouchers, free food, half price entry for the park and so on. Its all to draw people in when you need it. Without patrons you can't make money, but all you really need are fresh rides. Old rides start breaking down more often. People visit them less in favor of newer rides. No one wants to spend $4 to ride your 3 year old roller coaster and so on.
The patrons themselves seem pretty dumb. They'll walk in circles, so I've found straight lines are the best way to get them around the park. In one of the expansions of the deluxe version, there is a no entrance sign that you can post. People can't enter, but they can come out. Its helpful, especially for scenarios that start you in a park that has dozens of paths. Patrons get lost and start destroying things.
I've owned Roller Coaster Tycoon for 15+ years. Its one of the first PC games that I bought with my own money after playing the 3 scenario demo. Not just that, but then I proceeded to buy all the expansion packs. I've completed the game on 5 different computers. I am big into management and tycoon games and I think this is one of the best if not the best.
Even though a lot of people enjoy Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 more for its much larger parks, I still like the original better. I still feel its the best management game, but I can understand that the game can play itself at some point. You can walk away for two hours and come back with the scenario completed. Unless of course a roller coaster explodes or something. Its a relaxing low stress game, even if you're put in charge of a place that people could die... and you can kill them.