I would consider myself a pretty big RollerCoaster Tycoon aficionado. I spent much of my formative years in front of the computer meticulously developing the ultimate theme parks. In fact during the first year of dating my now wife we spent hours playing RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 working together to build theme parks. So to say I’ve got a deep appreciation for the franchise is an understatement, and I was very intrigued when Atari announced RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile for iOS.
Loading up RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile it appeared to be the 2D experience that I was hoping for. It’s a call back to the first two games which made the RollerCoaster Tycoon moniker synonymous with great simulation experiences. Unfortunately that feeling of nostalgia faded quickly. You start out with some simple challenges to get your feet wet, like build a couple of shops and rides, before left to do what you want. Right away you can start to see the shortcomings of this mobile version pile up one after another.
To start, the game requires extensive build times for the more sophisticated rides and experiences. It should take longer to build a roller-coaster than a merry-go-round right? But should it take a couple of hours longer? RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile uses a free-to-play cool down system that we find in so many mobile games today. You’re given a stack of tickets that eliminate build times and can gain more tickets by completing specific tasks. However you will eventually run out of tickets and at that point, you can either wait the couple of hours needed to build the rides or purchase tickets. This would be a bit more acceptable if the game were free-to-play but you are paying $2.99 for the game already. Any game that makes you wait a couple of hours for something to happen gives the player a golden opportunity to find something more engaging and worthwhile to play as they forget about your own. There were a few times where I decided not to pay for more tickets and turned the game off rather than wait out the clock.
Even if you can get around the free-to-play mechanics, the game is missing most of the “tycoon” staples that drew me in to begin with. There really isn’t much to manage in your park. You are still in charge with basic park development though there is a lot less to it than you would think. In the past, you had to make sure to keep the park up to code by hiring the staff needed to keep it clean, the guests entertained and attractions in working order. That is not the case anymore. Your main job in this game is to build the park and collect revenue by clicking on rides and shops. It reminded me of collecting suns in Plants vs. Zombies but far less entertaining.
You can upgrade rides and attractions as you go but those too require build times. It is often not readily apparent what those upgrades actually do either, successfully modifying the attraction without any visible changes. And that’s about the extent of what you can manage in the game. You can build roads and pathways but don’t worry if you run out of money, as people will find their way through the grass and onto your ride just fine. You also don’t build lines for rides anymore which means it is hard to determine which rides are popular or not.
I never got the sense that anything I was doing was helping or hurting my park. You can build coasters but guests seem to enjoy it the less creative you are. Make a simple circle and guests seem to love it. It’s a shame too because the actual core touch controls are in place to make this a far deeper and richer experience then what is given. I put in hours into this game and never felt like I got anything in return. Put the horrid free-to-play mechanics to the side for a second, and even at its core this isn’t a good RollerCoaster Tycoon experience. The game is all but lacking the necessary Tycoon hooks to keep you wanting to press forward. At this point you would be far better off picking up a copy of RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 then dishing any money out for this one.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.