Game Review: Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile

July 29, 2014, 1:35 PM · Like most roller coaster dorks with computers in the 2000s, Roller Coaster Tycoon provided an outlet for my wildest theme park fantasies. All three games and their many expansion packs delivered countless hours of enjoyment while deepening my affinity for roller coasters, theme parks and questionable business decisions to further develop the first two.

So when I saw there was a mobile version available for 99 cents on the Apple App Store I was...skeptical. Dubbed Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile (get it?), the game claims to offer lots of appealing features, including an “Intuitive Roller Coaster Designer” which sounds great! So I figured what the heck, for 99 cents? What can it hurt?

Well, it can’t hurt per se, but what I found in this mobile version of the classic game is a lot like what you find in other mobile games these days. That’s not great news for those looking for a mobile update on the game they know and love.

Screen shot

If you have any degree of familiarity with the most popular mobile games of this era, for lack of a better word, a lot of this will sound familiar. When you open the game you are led through a brief tutorial that teaches you how to place rides and even lets you design a roller coaster. You spend coins to build rides, restaurants and other amenities and you get coins from the aforementioned attractions. The coins need to be collected by you at regular intervals — sound familiar?

The idea is to keep you coming back as frequently as possible. The more time your face spends glued to the app, the better for their Branding (and the more likely you are to spend money on in-app purchases, but more on that later). So what about that roller coaster designing thing? Well, it’s not bad! Really! It’s kind of okay!

When building a wooden coaster (I haven’t messed around with a steel coaster quite yet) you can build hills and turns and...well, that’s about it. There is no delineation between a “lift hill” piece and a “regular hill” piece, so I assume the game will just power it up a hill if it does not have enough juice to get there on its own. You also can’t bank curves. The game does not appear to dock you points for this, but the lack of realism cheapens the experience a bit (not to mention that this wouldn’t be a particularly difficult game feature to add).

In keeping with features the game does not have: there is no queue and there is no cycle of trains. The very Real World problems the PC games forced you to deal with (like the capacity of your roller coasters) don’t really exist in this game. You will receive alerts like “your roller coaster has broken down,” but you don’t need to call a mechanic; instead, you just tap on the coaster and within a few seconds...VOILA! It’s fixed!

Not-so-coincidentally, building rides isn’t quite as instantaneous. Don’t worry, the game has something just for such a problem. You can spend some Real Money to buy some tickets to speed up the process. They give you a healthy number of these tickets to whet your appetite when you first start the game in the hopes your impatience will lead to spending some money on their in-app purchases.

You are given a list of goals that is seemingly never ending. Build a hotel, build a bathroom, build five pieces of path, etc. Some of the goals are necessary to keep your park running, others are nothing more than Busy Work to give you something to do until you level up, unlocking more restaurants and attractions. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this set up — it’s a game, there doesn’t have to be a point, after all. It’s just that Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile both fails to give you challenging goals to achieve and fails to give you a fun sandbox to mess around in.

If it were free? No big deal, it’s a fun diversion; and truthfully, 99 cents isn’t exactly breaking the bank. But if you own a PC you’re better off heading over to Amazon to buy the Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 Triple Thrill Pack for $9.99. RCT 4 Mobile is low in excitement, and if you get conned into spending more than 99 cents, it’ll be high in nausea.

Replies (3)

July 30, 2014 at 10:47 AM · This sounds like a pretty lame experience. I used to be addicted to RCT3, but I just don't have the time or patience for it anymore. If you accelerate the passage of time to accrue more cash, you can't keep up with the needs of the park, but if you slow it down, it takes forever to build new rides. I've always thought the game was a really well done and realistic, and anyone who wonders why their local theme park can't build a record breaking ride every year should spend a few hours playing the game to see how complicated park management really is.

However, it seems like this mobile version is just a way for the developer to skim more money out of users who run out of patience for the game. The assorted online reviews for the app are pretty scathing, particularly from fans of the computer and console versions of the game. The app has nearly a quarter of the reviews on the Apple Store listed as 1-star (about half are 5-star though--most likely those who never played the previous games).

July 30, 2014 at 12:01 PM · It's a shame this turned out the way it did, considering the rest of the Roller Coaster Tycoon series is fantastic. Atari is supposed to be releasing a full version on PC soon; hopefully it has better results!

And let me just say I bought Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 the other day, and what a great game it is!

July 30, 2014 at 1:55 PM · Wow, that sounds awful! I was hoping they'd at least try to match more of the capabilities of RCT 3. This looks like a lame version that's just using the name to get people to buy it. No thank you.

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