Retro Review – Disney’s Coaster

If you ever went to an amusement park as a child you remember with joy those moments spent riding roller coasters and waiting in lines with nothing but your anxiety and a severe sunburn to comfort you. Maybe you remember laying down to sleep after a long day of amusement, feeling the rush of crazy inversions and steeply angled hills in your gut like heavily greased food that won’t let go.

Maybe you never went so you don’t know what I’m talking about. I have a message for you: you’re an adult now so go have some childish fun at Disney World or Cedar Point or Hershey Park or whatever park is most economically efficient for you and your household unit.

If money is a concern, then I understand and I’m here to help. All you need is a personal computer that can run the DOS operating system, or a little know how and a program called DOSBox.

Now that you are armed with knowledge and 20-year old technology, you can play the Disney classic video game, Coaster. Or if you feel too mature to build and ride thrilling roller coasters in a video game from the 90s, perhaps you could teach the game to your child instead. I used to play the crap out of this when I was a kid, so you might get some quiet time in your home.

build a coaster

No, you aren't looking at CAD.

This is one of those games that Google doesn’t know about, nor does it have a Wikipedia page. That makes me feel old because it reminds me that I grew up without internet being ubiquitous and Google knowing everything. In this case it was a good thing because I had to learn DOS, and I had to learn the controls in Coaster so I could build amazing rides and completely blow away the critics.

I should explain this game. You can either design or ride roller coasters with a 3D interface and mouse and keyboard controls. Designing allows you to choose the track pieces and their orientation on three axis, depending on the piece. You can add loops, corkscrews, lift pieces, brakes, acceleration and even different gravity types and upstops. The designing portion of the game is educational because it requires an understanding of gravity, spatial awareness and a knowledge of measurements. The riding part of the game is just pure fun.

The nostalgic perspective
I created more than a dozen tracks in my pursuit of the perfect scoring coaster when I was young. I learned what each of the six critics liked about riding coasters and tried to apply their specifications in my designs. Does that sound like fun?

Okay it sounds more like work, but I found it fun. I always liked building and designing things because I felt a sense of accomplishment seeing the finished product. Maybe that’s why this game was fulfilling. Much like today’s achievement or trophy points on Xbox Live or Sony Entertainment Network (formerly Playstation Network), the game’s critics reward you by scoring higher for better designed coasters.

Of course, I also like seeing things break or be destroyed, so I liked watching the crash dummies die a horrible death when I built an unfinished or unsafe coaster.

crash dummies in coaster

Best. Ride. Ever! Hey, where's the track?

The now perspective
There are a few undesirable traits to this Disney published game. 1. You need special knowledge to get it running, or an old computer running MS-DOS. 2. I found only two meaningful Google entries relating to this game, and I was lucky to have found anything at all. 3. The animation isn’t as smooth as I’d like it to be. 4. The sound is outdated.

I want to move past those negatives because I still think this game merits a second look, and I don’t think it is finished contributing to society. I believe that this game is an excellent choice for parents to teach to their kids if they show any interest in building things. Even if that doesn’t happen, I must say that I enjoyed playing it again and building a new coaster from scratch. Watching the critics ride it and score me in the top ten was just a bonus.

Final thoughts
Ultimately, I’ve decided I’m going to use this game as an educational tool for when I have kids. But you shouldn’t write it off as a do-not-play for yourself either, especially if you think design, architecture, creativity or amusement parks are some of your favorite things. You now know something that Wikipedia has no page for.

You are smarter than the Internet.

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