RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile Has Far More Lows Than Highs [Review]

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There’s a familiar look you see on the faces of parents at theme parks. It’s a look their children are rarely able to understand — caught as they are in the clutches of school vacations and roller coasters with names like Afterburn and the Dahlonega Mine Train. It’s a look that says, ‘No matter how much fun this is, the credit card bill at the end of the holiday is going to be hell.’

RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile by Atari
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Price: $2.99 w/ in-app purchases

I wanted to be the carefree kid when playing RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile. After all, this is a sequel to a game franchise I loved to death growing up. There are few better things in life than riding roller coasters — but designing them may be one.

When I sat down to play RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile, however, I quickly found the childlike innocence behind my eyes fading. Not only did I want to put away childish things by the time I stopped playing — I wanted to smash my iPad and send the bill to Atari.

And I would have been entirely justified in doing so.

You see, RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile is nothing more than a cynical cash-grab, disguised as something you remember fondly.

There’s a happy medium developers can find when it comes to integrating IAPs into their games. Speaking purely as a games player, I would rather shell out premium prices and have no further demands made of me — but I realize that IAPs are where the money is in iOS game development, even when the game itself is not free, as proves the case here.

RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile is nothing more than a cynical cash-grab.

The question, then, is how do you work IAPs into the game in such a way that it benefits those who pay for them, without totally excluding the player who doesn’t want to? One imagines the developers of RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile spent about ten seconds coming up with an answer to this question — with nine of those seconds spent laughing maniacally like movie villains.

Where they try to get you, of course, is with the game’s build times — by making any kind of progress so unbearably slow that you’ll happily hand over money to be put out of your purgatory-like misery. A ten minute build time might be sufficient for something like this — since it would allow some gamers to pay, while others to wait an acceptably frustrating amount of time, while still leaving the game playable either way.

Do we get ten minute build times in RollerCoaster Tycoon 4? Of course we don’t. What do we get instead? Two hour build times. That’s right: if you want to construct anything more than the most basic of rides, you’re going to be spending upwards of two hours sitting around to wait for construction to be completed.

It’s a ridiculously obvious money grab, and it renders the game utterly broken for anyone who doesn’t want to shell out.

Two-hour build times are, frankly, ridiculous. And this is only the second coaster on the game.

Two-hour build times are, frankly, ridiculous. And this is only the second coaster on the game.

It’s a real shame, because Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile is otherwise perfectly acceptable. It’s not as complex as it was on computer, but the graphics, charm and roller coaster building tools have been converted handily to iOS.

But when the game is as money-grubbing as this one, it’s ultimately small recompense.

A bit like being robbed blind by a gangster who at least wears a stylish fedora.

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Game Name: Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile
The Good: The concept of a game in which you build roller coasters and run a theme park is a great one.
The Bad: IAPs are utterly out of control.
The Verdict: A lot of people were very excited about the arrival of a new Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 Mobile game. Hopefully those people have a strong support network to get them through this difficult time.
Buy from: App Store

Cult of Mac rating: 2/5

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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