Roller Coaster Tycoon is one of the iconic “fun” simulators; there’s never any story and no real conflict, just an endless toybox that lets you fulfill the childhood dream of running your own theme park and—best of all—design your own roller coaster. The game has come to iOS with much of its gameplay intact, but it’s marred by Farmville-like elements and pay-to-win mentality.
Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile still has the elements that make the original game work. You start off with a small amusement park, and you have to build profitability by balancing attractions, rides, and food shops, as well as amenities like restrooms, walkways, lighting and trees. Except for the coasters (which I’ll get to in a moment), all of the buildings are pre-built; you have standard attractions like carousels and sling chairs, food stands serve pizza, coffee, and there are other money-making operations like balloon stands, photo booths, and hotels.
Coasters, however, are the name of the game—the biggest attraction and the most fun, since you can build and customize them yourself using either a piece-by-piece interface or by modifying an existing track. Sadly, unlike the desktop version, you can’t take a virtual ride on your coaster.
Once you have the elements of your park in place, it’s a matter of keeping your paying customers happy. You have to repair rides as they break down, upgrade rides and attractions, collect the money, and expand your territory. The game measures your success in “buzz” and attendance—new rides and well-maintained parks equals more money, which you’re going to need because Roller Coaster Tycoon has turned into one of those games where they want you to pay to play.
Building new rides—as well as upgrading or repairing buildings—uses coins. Now, you earn coins from your money making operations and completing goals. Building or upgrading also takes time, from a few minutes to hours (of real time). You can build it instantly using “tickets,” which again you collect by meeting goals. When you run out of coins or tickets, you’ll get a warning screen and an offer to buy more coins and tickets via in-app purchase. Get used to seeing this screen.
Additionally, as you run out of coins, tickets, time or land, there comes a point where the only thing you can do is watch the game, or stick it in your pocket and check back in a day. Again, the desktop version lets you take virtual rides and explore your park as a visitor. Alas, with Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile you’re stuck floating above it all.
If you’re one of the people (and there are tons of them) who like farming-type casual games, you might find Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile enjoyable. It’s brightly colored, well designed, and the bits where you can build your own coasters are totally enjoyable. But too much of the game is just dropping pre-made building into space, then tap-tap-tapping to collect coins, or encouraging you to spend real money to continue playing.
Download Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile
Requirements: iOS 5.0 or later
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
Age Rating: 4+
Price: $2.99 with in-app purchases