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RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Graphite Lab
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2023

About Andreas Salmen

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Switch Review - 'Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventure Deluxe'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 28, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe provides a streamlined and massively improved version of the cult classic, with added controller support for precise theme park building and management.

Rollercoaster Tycoon is one of the biggest simulation-style PC games of the early 2000s. The game had me glued to the family PC for countless hours as I built new attractions, created immersive scenery, and managed staff, queues, and finances. Somewhere between a chill park builder and a slightly deeper economic simulation, it hit the spot and is still a fun, nostalgic time today. However, the newly released Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe is a disappointment across the board. Offering little beyond the name of a beloved franchise, it is a full-priced extension of a mobile port, and it's devoid of challenge or depth.

What's devious is that Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe looks like the real deal. In various game modes, players get a plot of land and may fill that plot with the theme park of their dreams. Players get to plan pathways, place attractions, manage the happiness of visitors, and improve the cash flow. So far, so good. As you go through the tutorial section and move on to its adventure and scenario modes, you'll quickly realize this isn't the Rollercoaster Tycoon you know and love. It's like a cardboard cutout of a theme park; it looks like the real deal from a distance but falls flat upon close inspection.

Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures is a port of the free mobile game that Atari released a while ago. The Deluxe version lacks any microtransactions and inflated waiting periods, and it adds even more attractions to its impressive selection of rides. Is it worth full price if the developers just ripped out the wait times from a mobile game? The answer is a resounding "no."

It started with the realization that there is no need to build queuing paths for attractions. There's no need to space out queues for the most popular rides or decorate the surroundings to make the wait time more engaging. Instead, we place attractions next to any path, and that's it. Decorations are limited. Items like bins and benches, which you used to place as you saw fit, are now automatically set when building paths, which are also limited compared to previous installments. Other decorations, like trees, are still available but must be placed one at a time. The fun part is that the menu closes when you put down a decoration. If you want to place four trees anywhere, you need to navigate two menus, place the tree, the menu closes, and you must repeat that three more times — if you're able to select the correct tree, that is.

One of the more curious issues I kept running into with Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe was navigating its simplified menus. The selection cursor would regularly reset to the first position when selecting an item further down the list, causing me to always choose incorrect items. This wasn't an isolated incident but happened repeatedly, and it actively annoyed me whenever I needed to place anything. In some weird way, this game managed to simplify a lot of what made Rollercoaster Tycoon fun by removing those features altogether, but it caused it to be much more frustrating and finicky due to poor quality control. This is only some of what's missing or changed for the worse.

In fact, you have little control over anything. There are no individual staff to control. Instead, each type of staff, such as mechanics or janitors, has a distinct building that covers a specific area. Instead of managing salaries or work paths, you place a building, and that's it for the rest of the game, as long as the area is covered. The only significant decision you'll get to make beyond manually placing rides, pathways, and the occasional decor is setting the entrance price for the park and attractions. Even that is simplified and finicky at the same time.

For each ride, you can adjust the price individually or for "all of its kind," which dictates whether people would pay the price of admission. Rides lose their attractiveness as they get older, so you have to adjust prices over time, but the game never makes it easy. I had to manually check individual rides occasionally to catch rides getting older and prices being perceived as too high. I set the price for all similar attractions to be shared to enable me to manage prices in bulk. There are also issues if those attractions were not placed at the same time, since older rides should be much less expensive than newer rides, making this feature just as tedious as setting individual prices for each ride.

However, you can still build custom rollercoasters, which is tedious on a controller but works overall. The biggest downside is that those rides cannot be experienced in first-person view like in previous installments. Considering all of the other changes, this may be one of the bigger ones. Ultimately, Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe has ripped out anything that made its predecessors fun, and it leaves behind nothing but the most basic building blocks. It's not fun or challenging in any capacity, and you can't even go bankrupt unless you actively try. Buildings cost money, but once they've been placed, they make money at decent rates, and there's no way to lose money without building something new. Ultimately, you buy as much as possible and profit for the rest of the game.

Outside the tutorial, there are three modes: adventure, scenario, and sandbox. Adventure mode is the attempt at some sort of campaign, so you take over a park, and a few random events happen that may slightly change certain parameters. The scenario mode is played without money or research constraints, and everything is immediately available to build. Since managing money isn't an issue, this is almost identical to the sandbox mode, except you have to unlock rides over time.

The unlock mechanism is annoying. As the park grows, it levels up, and you can build more rides — after you've spent money researching them. Building parks isn't very challenging, and the game is constantly drip-feeding you more things to build at an agonizingly slow pace. This makes sense considering the game's mobile origins. This started to grind my gears when entering the scenario mode, where certain conditions have to be met for different ratings. As an example, some scenarios ask you to exclusively build family rides. If you want to achieve the highest rating, that often means buying a couple dozen of them, but only five are available to build from the outset. You could start leveling up and researching a bunch of family rides to grind out the time it takes to gain access to new attractions, and you can adequately finish the scenario. You could also proceed to plunk down the same five rides repeatedly to avoid all of that unnecessary waiting time.

Regardless of what Rollercoaster Tycoon meant to you, keep your fingers off of Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe. It's an insultingly simplified version of a classic at best, and it's an uninspired cash grab at worst. It also doesn't sound or look that good, and it clearly shows its mobile roots, which falls flat on modern consoles, even the Nintendo Switch. In fact, the game can stutter quite significantly at times on the mobile hybrid, especially when placing giant rollercoasters or activating one of its many unhelpful heatmap overlays. If the content doesn't keep you from giving this a go, the technical aspects won't wow you, either.

Overall, Rollercoaster Tycoon Adventures Deluxe isn't right for fans of the series. It isn't right for anyone, really, and especially not for the price of $40. It works, and it looks nice enough, but it's a smokescreen that hides a game that's been simplified beyond recognition. The experience is also devoid of any fun that I'd usually associate with building a dream theme park.

Score: 4.5/10

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