Growing up, PC gaming was never really a norm for me. The most gaming I ever got out of a computer was typically flash games, something that was free and readily available. Many classics, and a whole style of gaming, were lost on me, as were many simulation style game series like The Sims and Roller Coaster Tycoon. Though these series often received ports to consoles, even on the outside looking in I knew a controller was not the intended way to play, taking out a certain ease of access to the gameplay. Regardless of that lost style of gaming, I still have always had an interest in these predominately PC preferred series. When Roller Coaster Tycoon Adventures was announced for Switch, I saw a perfect opportunity to take a gamble on a console based simulator once more, one that I knew my fiancé Nadine would appreciate and eat up as a fan of past PC entries. Note: Nadine helped give me some input on what the game does right and where it lacked, having extensively played Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 in the past.
RCTA is a title unique to Switch, and being so, it draws inspiration from a variety of titles from the series. It blends traditional RCT gameplay with the update visuals, management, and touch screen play of Roller Coaster Tycoon Touch, one of the Google Play/ App Store offerings. This allows you to play with a controller or the touchscreen when in handheld mode, but not forcing you to do only the latter, meaning you can play comfortably with Joy-Con controllers while docked and on the big screen. Either way, I found the game pretty easy to control. The menus were laid out in a simple matter, making it pretty easy to navigate, although some bits could be clunky. Sometimes when laying a piece of the park, whether it be a food stand or a ride, upon completion you get kicked back to the first layer of your hub of categorical choices. This meant digging back through your choices of what you are picking and what type of item within a category you wanted to pick. Not a huge drawback, but it can hinder the experience when trying to design a section of your park only to be slowed down by the menu options. Again, outside of this, for not being on PC I actually really liked the control scheme. Rotating the camera, finding what you need, and overall moving and placing objects was no chore at all. Building a custom coaster is a bit rough around the edges, but with time, it’s easier to find that sweet spot of where and how to place each pinpoint of the track.
RCTA includes three different gameplay modes to dabble in. The first is the Adventure mode. This essentially serves as your “Career” or “Story” mode. The goal is to expand to a level 10 park, represented by Permits. Each permit gained allows you to house more rides and decorations as your park value increases. You pick one of four themed landscapes, including Forest, Old West, Space, and Tropical, and go from there. Money needs to be put into research to reveal more rides, food options, décor, and more. You are limited to what you can unlock depending on what permits you have, but there is plenty to get. Even after gaining my last permit I still had PLENTY to unlock, and honestly, that leads me to having a gripe with the feature.
I had tons of expendable cash at this point in the game, but you can only actively work towards unlocking one new feature at a time. Though you can pick multiple segments like thrill, family, food or more at a time from which to gain the new item, and even pay to speed up the development time, it’s still silly to me that you can only get one item developed at a time. This is even more problematic when my visitor’s main concern tended to be the amount of rides. I wanted to have variety instead of plugging in five or more of the same ride in an area for business sake, but that what I was forced to do in a way. This reduced my profits too, because for simplicity sake, I tended to make the price of a ride consistent across all copies of said ride. So if I lowered the price on one copy due to degradation and lack of satisfaction, it would lower the price on the newer ones I just had erected and I only plugged those in because of patron’s complaints. It is one vicious cycle. The profit issue could have been avoided by including some sort of easy to read ledger-like feature. See, once your park gets crowded, managing the prices of each individual item can be cumbersome, especially on the smallest attractions. A simply laid out book, with item names that, when highlighted, can take you to the location on a map and be adjusted on the fly would have worked much better in my opinion. Especially when considering that this is a console version.
Also bothersome is the fact that you cannot build while time is paused, which means while trying to design at your own pace, you must also let the park consistently run. It is not the worst feature, but it is annoying the creative side of me that desires to design slowly and intricately. One of the best aspects of the game's adventure mode is also one that is barely used. There is a feature where, every so often, you must make an important business decision. These can be simple, like choosing a style of energy drink to stock at the park, or whether or not to have season passes offered at the park. I really liked this feature, as it added a “Game of Life” sort of Risk/Reward edge to it, granting you a timed positive or negative attribute depending on the outcome of your decision was. Problem is, they were super limited. I think I saw maybe 5 over my six hour long adventure, and would have loved for them to put more in place, with randomization of previous scenarios even. They added a sense of flair that helped make your time feel worth it. Their limited implementation, as well as a lack of general goals (more on this in the next paragraph) make Adventure mode pretty dull after you hit that tenth permit. It basically assumes you want to just start from scratch again, but truly I don't.
The mode that does include goals however is the Scenario mode. This drops you in an already existing park, and challenges you to complete some goals to beat the scenario. This all needs to be done within a time frame, as in a specific day of the month during a specific year(s) passed during the in-game time. Now while I don’t need this mode, it is a good addition for those who like a challenge. It contains 16 scenarios of varying difficulties and time frames. The challenges might range from getting to a certain park value, having so many of a certain type of ride, or having so many decorations. I would have liked some of the simpler goals to also make an appearance in the story mode. Rotating challenges like “install 15 new family rides” or “remove 10 degrading rides” to earn bonus funds or temporary perks would have helped keep my interest in the mode past the 10th permit, where I instantly fell off in terms of overall enjoyment.
The final mode is Sandbox, which features a Creative mode and a Career offering as well. The career mode is Adventure, without those seldom used executive decisions being absent as the only difference. This is a pointless option in my opinion. But creative allows the creative types to express themselves freely, with everything unlocked and unlimited funs. Dream parks are a breeze to create in this mode, with very little holding you back from success.
Visually Roller Coaster Tycoon Adventures is about what I would expect. Not bad to look at but not great either. Its colorful, which a game of this nature needs for sure, and I definitely like the designs on some of the rides, although some of the premade roller coaster tracks often appeared broken and incomplete. The mascots from the entertainer options also added a nice touch to the park for sure. Audio is standard too, with screams, simple background music and “wooshing” of coasters all being present. A nice touch was being able to “feel” nearby rides via the JoyCons, which I was not expecting. There are, sadly, some major performance issues when dealing with a bigger park. Once you get roughly past the 60% full size of the park and beyond and start really filling it in, your frames are going to drop, especially when zoomed out. This also slows down the responsiveness pretty badly for the menus. It is a big deterrent, considering it slows and dulls down any continued plans of expansion and design. There is currently no support for in-game captures on the Switch, so I do not have a representation of this, but trust me, it is not a fun problem to have. A minor issue I also consistently ran into saw the game crash when exiting Adventure mode, putting the console into sleep on the base game menu, and returning to the game. It did not happen while playing a mode thankfully, so it was not a huge problem for me.
Even with my complaints in mind, I want readers to know that I thoroughly enjoyed my time grinding out the Adventure mode. The game sucked me in, and I beat the mode over the course of three days. I really liked expanding on my business, but again, there is so much more that could have been improved upon. With certain aspects feeling underdeveloped and underutilized, it is kind of shocking to me that the game carries a $50 price tag. Dedicated fans will no doubt find that to not be a problem, but with it being a simpler entry in the series, I see a mid-range price more suitable to finding it a wider audience. Lacking the ability to go on rides, a feature made popular in RCT3, as well as the rest of my jabs on what it dropped the ball on may make RCTA a hard sell at that price. Again, I had fun without a doubt, but outside of that initial adventure, RCTA leaves too much substance out for me to really find a reason to now come back, and paired with troublesome performance issues later in your massive maps, that is a concern others may share. As far as a management game goes, there is not enough depth here to put it on par with a core experience.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review.
Final Score: 7/10
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