The RollerCoaster Tycoon series was one of the most beloved simulation games on PC. It gave players control of an entire theme park, tasking you with the simple but fun jobs of building rides, keeping your visitors happy, and making enough money to build more rides.
Originally released in 2004, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 was the first to take the series 3D. Its big new feature was letting you ride your own custom-built coasters from a thrilling first-person perspective.
In a growing trend, the original developers have now created an iPad version of RCT3. The intuitive design meshes well with the new touch screen controls. However newcomers may be put off by the low-resolution graphics and somewhat slower pace.
Career Mode and Sandbox Mode are both present in this new tablet version. Tutorials only link to YouTube videos. But thankfully the gameplay is easy enough to pick up, and my decade-plus experience with the genre helped me jump right in.
Career Mode presents well-decorated starter parks, like a Western-themed mining town and a palatial water garden. Building new rides, stalls, and coasters takes only a few quick touches. Moving around feels especially responsive thanks to the numerous camera options. Rides can easily be dragged and rotated. Coaster construction is a breeze even with dozens of special track options and over 50 different styles of roller coasters.
The scenarios in Career Mode have three levels of objectives that offer fun little goals to meet. These goals include things like earning a certain amount of monthly income or building several exciting coasters. Each scenario acts as its own saved park, allowing you to always drop back into a previous park and play around. The 20 scenarios will take hours to master—even more if you just want to play around with them.
Sandbox mode gives you one gigantic plot of land and zero money requirements, allowing you to construct the park of your dreams. Sandbox parks potentially offer unlimited replayability, hampered only by your time and battery life.
Time is probably the biggest concern when playing RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 on the iPad. In most of the scenarios money trickles in quite slowly. The scenarios are designed so that you take out a large loan at the beginning, construct some killer rides, then sit back and watch the money come in to further fund your park. While watching your park operate on its own and riding your own rides can be a lot of fun, it just takes a bit too long to make money. You can speed up time using three different speeds. I felt almost forced to use the fastest setting most of the time.
This is definitely the RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 I know and love, and it’s perfectly represented on tablets. The controls and menu work wonderfully for touch screens, and even my 3-year-old was able to jump in and help me paint landscapes and place rides. The aging, blocky graphics are far less distracting on tablets and have a certain quaint charm. I’m bummed that the two original expansions didn’t make it in (Soaked and Wild), but hopefully they’re coming in the future. If you have any fond memories of the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise or want to see what all the fuss was about, I highly recommend this excellent port.