RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic review: A near-perfect adaptation
There were two types of kids when I was growing up in the 90s — those who spent summer going on family vacations to theme parks, and those of us who dedicated hours making our own theme parks in RollerCoaster Tycoon.
I was very much apart of the latter group. Because of this, there will always be a special place in my heart for RollerCoaster Tycoon. So you can imagine my elation when I found out that Atari was bringing the full Rollercoaster Tycoon game that I remember from my childhood to Android, blending the first two games in the original PC series into RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic (RCTC).
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, RollerCoaster Tycoon is a theme park construction and management simulator that positions the player as an omnipotent, all-seeing God-like figure in the sky who must build, tweak and manage the day-to-day operations of various theme parks. You sometimes start out with a pre-existing park that needs to see its profits or popularity increased, or are given a mostly empty plot of land and given instructions to convert the space into a thriving, profitable theme park filled with coasters, rides and various shops and food stalls.
One of the game’s key features is the ability to custom design your very own rollercoaster — from old-school wooden behemoths to modern steel coasters with as many hairpin turns, loops, and spine-chilling drops as your budget (and physics) will allow. You’re also responsible for keeping the park clean and the rides up and running, which means you must must also manage the park’s staff, which include handymen, mechanics, security and entertainers.
“One of the game’s key features is the ability to custom design your very own rollercoaster — from old-school wooden behemoths to modern steel coasters with as many hairpin turns, loops, and spine-chilling drops as your budget (and physics) will allow.”
There are a total of 95 different theme park scenarios available to unlock and play, and they’re all included in the base cost of the game. You must continually complete park goals to unlock new park scenarios, meaning you’re probably not going to run out of things to do for a good long while playing RCTC. You’re allowed to have multiple saves for all the parks you work on, so you’re never limited or stuck building one park at a time.
This isn’t Atari’s first attempt at bringing RollerCoaster Tycoon to Android, but it is their first attempt at porting over the pure RCT experience to mobile devices — the less said about the free-to-play abomination that is RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile the better.
Instead, RCTC offers you a complete game (which actually combines elements from the first two PC games in this franchise), ad-free, with the crazy in-depth analysis and statistics you remember from playing the original game on PC. The visuals and audio have been recreated to perfection. It’s so nostalgic to hear shrieking guests as they whizz across the screen on your custom-built rollercoaster and that sweet ka-ching sound of making money — but porting a full PC game to Android phones does offer some challenges.
The most glaring issue is converting the keyboard and mouse controls to a touch-based interface. This game is packed with expandable menus with tabs, small buttons, and often requires intricate movements for placing rides and features around the park. I’ve been playing RCTC on the 5-inch screen of the Google Pixel, and things definitely get cramped at times — especially when you’re trying to tap a small food stall or feature amongst a crowded path of guests or other features. Using the two-finger pinch to zoom in and out is essential for getting anything done.
“This game is packed with expandable menus with tabs, small buttons, and often requires intricate movements for placing rides and features around the park.”
Placing larger pre-designed rollercoasters into tight spots can be challenging, since you’re unable to just tap and drag it into place. Instead, you’re left kind of tapping around until the game gives you the go-ahead to build on the selected footprint. The limited viewing angles also make constructing new attractions in a crowded park an issue, though this is mitigated by the option to temporarily toggle scenery, structures, guests (and pretty much anything and everything in the park) from view in the game’s settings.
While playing on your phone is a tad cramped, these issues are alleviated when you have a bit more screen real estate to work with, which makes RCTC a dream to play on an Android tablet.
I’ll be honest and say I’m inherently biased towards overlooking RCTC’s shortcomings simply because I spent so much free time as a kid messing around in this game. Completing the goals and unlocking new parks were always secondary to designing the most ridiculous coasters and park layouts I could imagine… along with occasionally testing coaster limitations by launching cars full of unsuspecting guests off to a fiery demise. These are still options, but i’m really enjoying the challenge of beating all 95 scenarios. It’s going to take a while.
If this also describes your experiences , it’s definitely worth the price of admission to take a stroll down memory lane spending time getting reacquainted with this gaming gem. Best of all, you can now take your parks with you everywhere and play them during your commute or lunch break.
“The best part of RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic is the way it can totally suck you in for hours on end.”
For RCT newbies coming into this game with fresh eyes, experiencing it for the first time on Android is less than ideal, and likely to be a cramped and occasionally frustrating experience. As mentioned, this game relies on a TON of menus here to build, edit and examine the details of every inch of the park. If you’re still learning the ropes of the game’s interface, it may feel overwhelming as you’re just kind of thrown into the game with no tutorial — left to your own devices to figure out how to churn a profit and keep your guests happy.
However if you’ve got an affinity for city-building simulators for mobile, but hate the reliance on free-to-play game mechanics with construction wait times, in-app purchases, and other annoyances, you won’t find those here. There is the option to buy three available expansion packs, which include new park scenarios and themes along with a toolkit for designing your own rides to import into the base game. These are entirely optional, and nothing that you’re likely to consider until you’ve spend significant time with the base game.
Perhaps the best part of RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic is the way it can totally suck you in for hours on end if you’ve got time to kill. There’s so much to do; from improving the services and layout of your park, to adding decorations from a particular theme, to tweaking the price of everything to maximize profits. It’s unrestrained micromanagement at it’s finest.
For a blast from the past — or a compromised introduction to one of the finest, most customizable simulator games you’ll ever play — check out RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, available for $5.99 from the Google Play Store.
Download: RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic ($5.99)
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