Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures is a hypnotically beautiful experience. It’s laggy and jittery, the tutorials left me even more confused than when I started, the game simultaneously plays both in safe mode and Extreme Mode, and I just can’t stop playing it.
On the surface, RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures looks like some sort of HD remake of the original two games, mixed with the 3D graphics capabilities of the third and topped off with a modern HUD and fancy new features. You’d be forgiven for thinking this, seeing as RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures is essentially a Switch port of the mobile game RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch – a downgraded port of the critical blunder RollerCoaster Tycoon World. It’s a mish-mash of ports, but on the bright side, RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures doesn’t have microtransactions and everything comes unlocked so there’s no insidious pay-to-play or pay-to-win mechanics at work.
There are three main game modes (or four if you count Tutorials as a game mode, as you can keep playing after the tutorial is over and ‘win’ the scenario): Adventure, Scenario, and Sandbox. I headed straight for the tutorials to learn what exactly was going on and came out even more confused. One tutorial was meant to teach you how to build coasters and, while I mastered it effortlessly in the tutorial scenario, trying to build a coaster in any other mode made me feel like a modern-day Sisyphus. Also, coasters in RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures are entirely decorative and you can build more rides and features literally right in the middle of the track. The coaster’s trains aren’t even attached to the tracks half the time. Heck, the tracks aren’t even attached to the tracks half the time. The game has some truly wonderful pre-rendered rides and stalls, so why couldn’t the coasters be afforded the same love and care?
Adventure mode lets you build a park from scratch and occasionally presents you with some “X or Y?” chance cards which you can either win or lose. However, there’s not really any repercussions for failing the chance cards aside from some minor setbacks or a drop in some stats. I failed the third chance card I was given and lost 10,000 gold, which would have maybe been an issue if I didn’t already have 100,000+ gold in my theme park’s coffers. After about 30 minutes of playing in Adventure mode, I found myself just mindlessly fast-forwarding the game until new park features were unlocked or until a chance card popped up. Sure, it was fun, but it didn’t feel like a challenge.
Scenario mode will be most familiar to fans of the series. You can choose from a series of scenarios and work your way towards set goals. While the challenges are fun and unique, they can be cleared fairly easily and, much like Adventure mode, playing through it is effortless. I tried my best to fail some of the scenarios and it took more effort to lose than it did to win. Unless you have your heart set on sabotaging yourself, success is virtually guaranteed.
Sandbox mode, however, won my heart. I spent almost 8 straight hours just building away. Everything in the game is unlocked and you can just get right to doing whatever you want to do. My octo-hour run was spent pouring my heart and soul into making a perfectly symmetrical park and I didn’t even realize how much time had passed. If you’re more into expressing yourself than trying to challenge yourself, Sandbox mode is perfect.
On the more technical side of things, RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures falls short. For a game running on a console that can near-flawlessly run games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I expected more. It constantly lags regardless of whether it’s in dock mode or handheld mode, the menus will sometimes get confused and select multiple things at once or just not load at all, trying to switch between touchscreen and controllers gives it an existential crisis, and sometimes the game would crash for no apparent reason.
What it lacks in capability, it almost makes up for in graphics and sound. A lot of the in-game sounds are recycled from the previous installments in the series and each time I heard a scream or shout of joy from the original games, I felt like a kid again. The pre-rendered rides and stalls are honestly beautiful and the options for customizing things are straightforward and well laid out, with everything labeled clearly. The HUD, regardless of how laggy it is, is intuitive and scales perfectly whether you’re playing in dock mode and handheld mode. Also, there’s an entertainer in the form of a human-sized owl who wears a cowboy hat. The owl alone made the entire game for me. I would willingly pay $49.99 just for the owl feature (Atari, if you’re reading this, I’m willing to pay $$$ for a plushie of the owl entertainer).
Did I enjoy this game? Yes. Would I recommend this game? Only if you have the money to spare for it or if you’re as big of a fan of cowboy-themed owls as I am. Sandbox mode is a wonderful way to pass the time but only if you can get past the constant lag. If you’re looking to relive childhood nostalgia but with a more modern set of features, I’d recommend getting RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic instead.