Atari appears intent on making up for what has been a bumpy few years.
The gaming giant of yesteryear has gone through many a restructuring, not to mention a bankruptcy or two. It didn’t help that it almost completely ruined a beloved franchise in RollerCoaster Tycoon.
It announced RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 to much excitement, only to softly ruined everyone’s nostalgic dreams by bringing it exclusively to mobiles, and plaguing it with in-app purchases (IAP).
Strangely, a sequel to one of the greatest PC games of all time wasn’t coming to PC. How bizarre.
Then came RollerCoaster Tycoon World, the game that was supposed to right the wrongs of the mistakes of the mobile monstrosity. Except the game barely got out of the alpha stage before fans started bemoaning its quality.
Atari went into damage control: it released a trailer that looked so bad, the consensus was universally, exclusively negative. The publisher came out and said that the game was in early stages of development, and that the graphics would be improved by launch.
That begged the question: why release a trailer in the first place?
After a number of buggy betas and an eventual release, RollerCoaster Tycoon World surprised no one: it was about as compelling as a Ferris Wheel.
To make matters worse, Frontier Developments, the iconic studio behind the original RCT games, was making Planet Coaster, and game that — rightly so — is one of the year’s surprise packets: it’s the spiritual successor to RollerCoaster Tycoon that we’ve all been waiting for.
Then, suddenly, just before Christmas, something amazing happened.
Stealthily, under the cover of night, RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic was released.
Made exclusively for iOS and Android devices, the game brings together the best of RCT and RCT2 to form a surprisingly good mobile port of a PC classic.
While RCT4 should never have been considered for mobile, Atari’s effort to reignite nostalgic memories of a classic franchise must be applauded.
At $9.99 AUD, it’s a bit on the pricy side, but if you’ve forked out for Super Mario Run, you can surely invest in something at a cheaper price that offers many countless hours more value and depth.
This “classic” version offers more than 90 different theme park map variations, countless pre-made coasters, and the same old clunky, charming gameplay that made the originals so great.
The controls are hit-and-miss but are mostly competent: laying down pathways, placing down workers and battling the camera when building rides can be a bit trivial, but I’ve gotten used to it after a few hours. There’s nothing particular about this game that I would consider a deal-breaker.
There is a minor downside, however, and it is a defining quality of the modern Atari: the game still has IAPs.
The original games’ expansion packs as well as the Tool Kit cost a few quid each, while the ability to cross-save with the PC version of RCT2 will also cost you.
Atari almost — almost — hit a home run with this release, but it’s hard to give them a pass for monetising such small yet engaging elements of the original experience.
Further, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 is also available on the App Store, with a cheaper price and no IAPs.
The appeal of returning to the original — and best — RollerCoaster Tycoon games may be too strong for many of you — as it was for me — but Atari’s business models appear to be doing more harm than good to its most prized assets.
It’s good, then, that RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic offers a great base game with all the basics.
I played it until 3am last night, battling broken rides, staff wages and visitor needs. It’s not as good as the original, but then again, nothing ever will be.
RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic is simply a peaceful reminder of the franchise’s roots, and a step in the right direction for a publisher finding its feet.
RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic is out now on the App Store and Google Play.