Who would have thought way back in the late ’90s – when PC gaming was producing some of its biggest and most beloved hits – that a simulator all about building and maintaining a theme park would prove to be an enduring classic in its own right? And while the RollerCoaster Tycoon games took something of a nosedive once creator and programmer Chris Sawyer departed for digital pastures new, the first three titles remain some of the best sims to ever simulate.
So, of course, there’s some genuine excitement surrounding the franchise’s debut on Nintendo Switch. The genre has come a long way since the early ’00s, and RollerCoaster has made the jump to both consoles and mobile in the two decades that have followed. The latter iteration is the basis for RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures, a port of RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch (which itself is a port of RollerCoaster Tycoon World on PC), and sadly, it makes for a muddled experience where glimmers of that once potent magic are overshadowed by performance issues and technical hangups that should have been phased out in the porting process.
Thankfully, the microtransaction-based coin system from the mobile version has been completely removed (this adopts a full-price approach rather than the free-to-play model used in Touch) so there’s no need to worry about spending an age waiting to build one measly ride. Right out of the box, you get access to four modes all based around the zen-like art of theme park construction and management. 'Tutorial' is a short ‘does what it says on the tin’ experience that introduces you to the basics of the game, but most of your time will be spent in the 'Adventure', 'Scenario' and 'Sandbox' modes.
Drawing from the controls of RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch, RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures does a remarkable job of transposing an experience that was once locked to keyboard and mouse into a hybrid of analog inputs and touchscreen manipulation. You can adjust the length and heights of a RollerCoaster with a few swipes of Switch’s display or use the Joy-Con sticks and buttons to place amusements and build paths. You can spin the camera around to see your gradually-expanding theme park and zoom in to see your rides and your visitors up close and personal.
Apart from the Creative version of Sandbox mode (which unlocks everything from the start, so you can just start building with infinite cash and access to every ride), Adventures kicks you off with a modest-sized site, a respectable pot of cash and a handful of amusement choices. Want to use that cool observation tower? Fancy adding that rad haunted house? You’ll need to spend money researching new options and increase your park rating high enough to earn a new permit (which in turn, unlocks new things to research).
It sounds slow and tedious in theory, but in application, it’s a measured approach that finds the right balance between keeping you satisfied with new ‘stuff’ and making you work diligently enough to achieve them. You can adjust entry prices to your park, and the cost of admission for each ride, restaurant and piece of entertainment so money is never that hard to accumulate, but hike them too high and your park rating will drop and customers will start leaving in disgust. Much like the old games, there’s a tangible pleasure in placing Ride Maintenance buildings to fix broken rides or Janitor stalls to mop up post-rollercoaster vomit.
The problem is, the transition from mobile to Switch hasn’t properly adjusted the amount of automation Adventures implements in its core gameplay. In the old games, you’d have to manually request janitors to clean said chunder, or tell mechanics to fix a faulty set of dodgems. It was an extra dimension that made the classic RollerCoaster Tycoon formula much more of a hands-on experience, but by using the Touch setup as its blueprint, Adventures simply automates all these processes by giving each utility a radius so nearby problems will be solved automatically.
You can’t hire and train workers like you can in Zoo Tycoon, or mix-and-match ride designs in the way you can splice dino DNA in Jurassic World: Evolution, so your only real concern is researching new rides, keeping customers satisfied and the general design of your park. The latter is still an engrossing experience – including using themed decorations to create distinct areas and designing path layouts the maximise space – but you’re still left hankering for the extra challenge of the older entries.
You can, however, design your own rollercoasters (there are multiple styles to choose from including 'ye olde' wooden variants and sickness-inducing inverted versions) and using both the touchscreen and the Joy-Con makes for one of Adventures’ best features. It’s a shame you can’t terraform the land to make these creations (and your park in general) so you’re perpetually locked into working on an amusement-filled plateau, but just being able to create rollercoasters that fit the space of your site and the limits of your imagination is a blast.
There are, unfortunately, some significant issues with performance. RollerCoaster Tycoon World had its own problems with slowdown, and its grandchild of sorts has inherited these flaws, both in handheld and docked modes. When you’re building on a small scale (such as when playing through the 16 Scenario missions, which task you with meeting different tiered challenges) things run relatively smoothly, but once you start adding lots of rides (each with their own animation cycles) the frame rate begins to plummet. It’s still playable and enjoyable, but if you really want a RollerCoaster Tycoon game on Switch you’ll have to accept a camera that chugs as you sweep through your park and button inputs that sometimes take too long to respond.
RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures is both incredibly enjoyable and considerably infuriating. There’s just enough of that classic magic in there to make the design and management of a theme park a consistently rewarding experience, and using permits and research to space out your access to the good stuff makes this a genuinely fun time sink. However, the level of automation that’s migrated over from the mobile iteration really does negatively impact this Switch port, and issues with overall performance place a big caveat around its neck. While it's not a total disaster, RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures does leave you wanting a little more – especially if you're a seasoned fan of the long-running series.
Somewhat disappointed to hear this won't quite live up to the legacy of the series, but not really that surprised. I may still give it a go if it goes on sale..
So it's not a true theme park simulation, without the nausea and vomiting after you go on one of those high speed rides? That's a shame.
I think I'll stick with RCT Clssic on my PC...
a sale price might be a buy
Looks like the developer is trying to "take us for a ride" with this one.
Like others have said, the right sale may catch my attention. Shame it doesn't seem up to expectations though... :l Was really looking forward to this since the initial announcement of RCT coming.
@Ricube You should try out Planet Coaster. It's made by the creators of the original Rollercoaster Tycoon 3.
It's absolutely amazing and just delivers Atari a huge kick in the face for the terrible abominations they putting out lately, like this one...which is nothing but a quick cash grab port from Roller Coaster Tycoon Touch.
Is the terrain adjustable in this game? I remember the original game where I could literally build mountains by adjusting the terrain. It was awesome punching holes through a mountain and making a roller coaster go through tunnels.
A 6/10 is very generous.
@Jeronan I saw that game, but my PC is to weak to make it run properly... Thanks for the advice, anyways!
This series just hasn't been good since the early days, kinda sad really.
Ugh just give me the originals again....
@Jeronan do you mean RollerCoaster Tycoon 3
@Aerona if you want them you have to buy this game they won’t do it if there is no demand for the game
@Snowyday ehumm... yes RCT3. Oops
@Snowyday I'm not buying a game I don't want for the slim chance that they'll put out a game that I do.
I will repeat myself...
RollerCoaster Tycoon has been dead since Frontier Developments left.
Planet Coaster is the best this "genre" has to offer. Anything else is just a waste of time and money.
@Ricube If you ever get a computer in the future that can run Planet Coaster, I strongly recommend that being the first game you purchase. There is nothing you can't do in that game.
Remember when these games were good? Pepperidge Farm remembers.
This game turned out better than I thought considering its origins from a shady fundraiser.
I'm honestly just glad the developers removed the microtransactions in favor of a premium experience. Even if the game has its flaws, a premium experience like this keeps RCT alive and I'm sure that when people see this game go live on the eShop it will garner lots of sales.
This is one of those where I'd wait for a really good sale before picking it up. In the meantime, I still have the original disk that surprisingly still works in my Windows 10 environment (for the most part).
I really want to like this game, but it sounds like I am better off just sticking with RCT Classic and RCT 3 on my ipad.
And to think they actually wanted us to invest at least $250 in this game, or $750 just to get 25% off this game!
I didn't know this game was coming for Switch.
Now all I need is a remake of SimCoaster!!
with all the 16bit style games out these days they should bring back theme park, great game
just port rct 3 over properly maybe with enhanced graphics a lot of people would jump on it in an instant i already have rct classsic on mobile for the old school style on the go
@Mykillvee Read the text of the review. It says that there is no terrain editor.
@andywitmyer I totally skipped over that part. Thanks! That was one of the best things about the RCT games. It’s a shame that they didn’t include it in this one.
Now I really want to see the either Planet Coaster or Parkitect be ported to the Switch.
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