Review: RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic

By Mark Robinson 10 Jan 2017 3

Review: RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic

Released 20 Dec 2016

Developer: Atari
Genre: Simulation
Available from:
App Store
Google Play
Reviewed on: Samsung Galaxy Tab A

Remember Theme Park? Back in the mid 90s, I would spend hours tinkering and fiddling with Bullfrog Productions’ construction and management sim. Though I have to make a confession: I would use the cheat code to unlock all the rides and have unlimited money (look, I never understood making business deals over a stack of biscuits till years later).  Bullfrog Productions was on its last legs by the turn of the century, and at this point, Scottish developer Chris Sawyer was making waves with games like Transport Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon – with the latter heralded as the kingpin of the rollercoaster management genre.

The transition of the series to mobile has not been smooth, as RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile was widely criticized for its freemium infrastructure and real-time construction of rides, while the port of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 was a step in the right direction with in-game purchases removed, but it was guilty of poor UI implementation and a rather woeful performance rate.

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RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic is a blending of the first two games, which means a return to the isometric view and, in my personal view, THIS is why this game excels. There has not been an overhaul in the presentation; it retains the feeling of the original by looking like a Windows 95 game built in 86x assembly language. There have been a number of older games ported to iOS/Android that have been “enhanced” visually but in the process strip away the character of the game (looking at you, Final Fantasy VI) so I am glad that Origin8 and Atari only made functional changes to the game and left the pixel art style intact. It looks a bit rough around the edges when you zoom up and close, but there are some small touches and little attentions to detail that give the game a lot of character. The game can begin to chug a little as your park starts to get busy, but it is not a level that could be defined as ‘game breaking’ and everything runs as normal when you zoom in on a specific area, which is what you will be doing for a lot of the game.

The most noticeable change to anyone who played the original is the user interface. The tile-based menu layout is similar, but the visuals are chunkier and clearer, which is beneficial to a touch-based platform. Tapping on any of the tiles will open up a new specific menu, which can be dragged around the screen but annoyingly cannot be scaled up or down. This can be a pain when trying to place something large like a rollercoaster, but that is not a frequent occurrence. The most common situation where the UI blocks the screen is when trying to move your workers around: when you tap on your workers menu, this opens up a window with different tabs for all the workers you currently have (handyman, mechanic, guard, entertainer), tapping on one of your workers opens up another window that gives you a live feed of where they are, from here you can manually pick them up and move them. This is a handy feature, as trying to locate any particular worker in the park can be difficult when it starts till fill up, but when both windows are open it blocks up half the screen, meaning going back and closing the first window – this is a minor quip in an otherwise well constructed interface, but it is a frequent quip that could have been addressed by allowing some level of customization over the size of windows and what content you need in there.

The touchscreen controls work fine and everything feels responsive; the biggest issue comes when laying down elevated paths or rollercoaster tracks – you never feel sure where you need to press on the screen to get the next piece of track in the place you want it. The game behaves fine when placing paths or track on the ground, but as soon as you need raise it, it can become fiddly.

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The objective of the game is to complete each of the 95 scenarios the game offers to you. Each scenario has a different goal, from doubling the value of a park to reaching a park rating by a specific date. The park itself can be in a different stage of completion, which can add to the complexity and difficulty of the challenge, as a park with all its rides implemented will fill up with customers quickly, but it means you need to get shops, toilets and staff in the correct areas quickly and you have little room for customization, whereas as an empty park gives you room to do as you like, but it means waiting a while to get all the decent rides available, and having the funding available to do it.

The wonderful thing about RollerCoaster Tycoon is that there are a ton of options within the game - but it never feels overwhelming. Each ride, shop, worker, contains menus to tweak variables to your hearts content, from whether a ride can start before it is filled up, to the pricing on balloons and whether they will cost the same all over the park, to fixing a worker to a particular path. These menus are easy to navigate and before long you will have a park up and running in a fraction of the time from when you first start.

There are times when your park rating starts to tank, and it will take a while for the game gives you any hints to what is the cause of this. This can be a pain, but it also reinforces you to be wary about how you create your park and making sure you have the right things in place to avoid this from happening. The biggest two issues I noticed is that park-goers can get lost easily, which can be tackled by being smart about your path layout and placing information desks around, and the workers, who I swear have little regard for the path finding feature, though I cannot say with full confidence.

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There are several in-game purchases available, but nothing that is tied to the gameplay: these include two expansion packs (Wacky Worlds and Time Twister) both for $1.99, which combined form 31 new scenarios to tackle. There's also the Toolkit, which costs another $5.99 but gives you access to the ride designer, park scenario editor and allows you to import your old PC saves from RollerCoaster Tycoon 2.

If you have played the original, a lot of this review will be common knowledge already, but that also means if you played and enjoyed RollerCoaster Tycoon, there is no reason to not purchase this port, as it acts and behaves pretty damn well close to the original release and offers an incredible degree of value for money.  It is the best entry to the series in years, which is not saying much as they have largely been somewhere between average and terrible, but it is absolutely essential for anyone who has an appreciation for these games. 

Even with a few minor quips, this a fantastic port of a classic that is immediately accessible and works in both ten minute bursts or a long weekend session. Essential.

Review: RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic

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