Welcome! In today’s article, we’ll learn how to put the nail in the coffins for longstanding franchises of enormous cultural importance for gaming culture. The first step, of course, is to utterly ignore the progress of the last ten years of simulation games and just reuse the same technology level from the last installment of the franchise. Next, ignore the horrible textures and clipping issues, the players will consider this a feature, not a bug. Finally, scout out your largest competitors, and no matter how badly your game is progressing release your game the day before theirs. Show them who’s boss by clanking your way out of the development studio in nothing but a barrel held up by suspenders, but make sure you do it first.
Roller Coaster Tycoon World has made me use a lot of words in the past two weeks I don’t usually like to use, and almost none of them can be repeated in good company. Playing this atrocity was like going back in time, but instead of seeing Aristotle or hanging out with Alexander the Great, you take a tour of Europe’s most interesting outhouses during the Black Death. On top of that, your phone is broken, so you’re only able to listen to every exercise session of Richard Simmons on repeat.
Let me start with the beginning, and I’ll attempt to dictate exactly how much Roller Coaster Tycoon World physically pained me.
When you start the game, you’re greeted with a Windows 8 style menu screen. There are a few options for various game modes, but the largest section by far is the huge one declaring “Free Content Coming Soon!”. What this actually means is that the game isn’t anywhere near finished, and one day they hope to actually make it playable. I had a lot of time to think about this after I tried clicking on any of the buttons and found that the menu had frozen. I decided to leave it alone and answered emails on my phone. After seven minutes, the title screen started moving again. After I got into the game, I realized how badly Roller Coaster Tycoon World interfaced with the Steam overlay, as I missed out on many opportunities to snag good screenshots, and even lost a variety of saved games.
I decided to attempt the story missions instead of jumping into sandbox mode, inwardly believing I might need some tutorial missions to understand all the new content that was no doubt included in this new and advanced simulation. As my mission loaded, I suddenly got six achievements. It turns out, the first park in the story missions is a complete park, and you’re just learning how to add in a few things. Roller Coaster Tycoon World only sees a highly successful park and decides you are a master at attracting hundreds of guests right off the bat.
The interface is oversized, obscuring most of your field of vision and ruining any immersion that might be achieved. Even then, the game isn’t actually capable of showing you all your different objectives for a map, forcing players to scroll through the cartoonishly sized steps. There are three objectives for each map, each of them declaring a different level of skill. You must complete the basic objectives before you can move on through the story, but I decided I would try and complete every one.
This was a mistake. I learned the hard way that even completing the basic objectives was buggy beyond belief. In one mission, you had to try your hand at terraforming a map, and adding water was such a precise, finicky, and buggy process that I had to restart the game four times. Each time, I had to wait 7 minutes for the title screen to stop being frozen. Once I got the water process to work, it looked like I was adding a texture to the grass, not actually adding a lake like Roller Coaster Tycoon World was suggesting. I panned the camera a bit and realized all my efforts at terraforming had resulted in floating trees and rocks that resembled a snapshot of a tornado passing through the area and dropping off a rainforest.
The rest of that mission was themed around the idea of “building a park around a challenging gully”. All this meant was placing three basic rides in the three flat areas and building roads to them. I zoomed out and gazed at my park’s progress, amazed that I was attracting 300 people by building a Ferris Wheel and a carousel. I moved on, hoping that by the fourth mission, I would at least be able to finally build a roller coaster. You know. The thing this game is based around.
I was disappointed, as the next mission involved doing the same thing as the previous three missions, like a children’s show where you learn a new concept and then repeat it three more times to make absolutely sure you understand it. I thought it might be indicative of the developer’s mindset if they believe their audience is a huge group of 4-year-olds who gaze at their computer screens in vapid wonder, fingers sticky with their recent conquest of a Fruit by the Foot. I kept expecting to see a baby in the sun as it moved overhead. I even looked up to see if it had some silly cartoon face inscribed on it. I was surprised to find the only redeeming quality of the game: an actual night sky, not the fake, random spattering of white dots in a black background.
In this particular story mission, because it was mostly boring repetition, I decided to keep a close eye on the “peeps”, or the fictional families that visit your park to enjoy the blurry roads and torturous ride animations. I discovered that, when affected by certain desires and needs, the peeps had different walking animations. It was a neat idea on paper, seeing your people walking around holding their crotches as they looked for a bathroom. The downside is that Roller Coaster Tycoon World is forever in the annals of history as the game that accidentally made the people in it smash tacos against their crotches.
The walking animations aren’t the only thing bugged beyond belief. Once, as I looked over my park, I realized people were complaining about the long lines at “Please Make it Stop” (my Ferris Wheel). I didn’t see a single person waiting in line, so I zoomed in close to investigate. It turns out, there was a long line, but apparently, everyone in it was invisible. It’s almost as if waiting for Ferris Wheels made people want to disappear from this plane of existence. I found myself wishing I could join them.
Zooming away, I discovered a group of people near my “Wanna Taco Bout it” food shop who were in a T-pose and face down on the bricks. This is when I realized it wasn’t a bug. The peeps in this game had reached self-awareness and they were attempting to figure out what they were walking on. The textures are so bad, in fact, that if your eyes aren’t too busy trying to escape into your nasal cavity, you might notice the “deluxe edition” of this game includes extra textures just to solve this problem.
If you’ve ever had that feeling when, after a few nights of no sleep, you’ve reached a sort of manic trance where you find yourself doing things you normally wouldn’t, but don’t see a real reason to stop doing them, then you understand exactly how I felt at this point. I had been playing for six hours and I was still on the fourth mission, which was basically still a tutorial. I decided to try my hand at placing the utilities and staff because I thought if I was already experiencing this many bugs I might as well jump in feet first, get it over with.
I didn’t notice a bug, but I did notice a fascinating design decision. Placing the janitorial building meant choosing a certain radius on the map that they could affect. I decided to make it on its own little path that jutted out from the main park, because I apparently have more aesthetic sense than some certain game developers do, and I tend to make houses in Minecraft out of a few dirt stacks. The janitors walked out of their building with an interestingly perky walking animation that made their progress infectious. I watched them closely, fascinated as they passed over piles of trash and vomit. Vaguely I wondered if I had messed up something. But all five or six of them decided to bypass trash pile after trash pile before finally reaching the point in the path that was closest to their utility building, just behind it. There, they began to clean. Interestingly, instead of scouring the sidewalk of any refuse they pass by, they pinpoint the closest piece of trash to their building and home in on it like a broom-wielding missile, ignoring everything on the way. Every single janitor employed at that building went through this process. It was like watching a Walmart entrance on Black Friday, except some of the customers randomly drop through the floor.
Another feature included in the game, an actually interesting one, was the addition of “influencers”. These are random special guests that visit your park and decide if it’s cool or not. This is based on some arbitrary and inane things that no sane person on the planet would visit a theme park to do. For example, I had a young kid visit my park. He had 50 followers on Roller Coaster Tycoon World‘s version of Twitter and was a toy collector. He came to the park to find a good toy, and fulfilling that for him meant my ratings would go up. I sold him a balloon. He was extremely satisfied by the balloon and then left the park without riding a thing. His trip cost him a grand total of $35. I had someone else visit the park simply to test out the Italian food at one of my vendor shops. After playing multiple parks, I realized these weren’t random visitors: they were all designed by hand to visit at different increments. No matter how many times you play the game, you will always meet CollectingKyle, the kid who loves toys, and he will always have 50 followers, and he will always be immensely satisfied with your park if you sell him a balloon. Even if the kid has to wade through knee-high amounts of trash and vomit to get that balloon, it doesn’t matter. Then, and only then, you can move on to the next tier of park ratings.
On the fifth mission, I finally got to build a roller coaster. The tutorial held my hand so tightly throughout it that I ended up cutting it off so I could do my own thing. Despite the mess on my keyboard, I kept playing, finally reaching the point in the game where I could do something fun. I felt like I had been lost in the desert for a week and, despite trying, I just couldn’t die. Now I was seeing an oasis, a beautiful copse of trees surrounding a crystal clear lake.
Like most of the stories involving deserts and very thirsty people, the oasis was a mirage. Instead of a crystal clear lake, I found a weird lake texture imposed on the sand like some godly individual had just painted the sand dunes blue. The roller coaster building process was somehow stripped down from Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, and it possibly had fewer options than Corkscrew Follies added to Roller Coaster Tycoon 1. I built a simple steel roller coaster and realized it couldn’t be opened unless it was tested, and the tests had to fulfill certain restrictions. The intensity couldn’t go above a certain number, and its nausea rating had to be low. No more building coasters that would guarantee the total destruction of your parkgoers stomachs. No more building an obviously dangerous coaster and dropping people into the lake. You get the choice of six rides (“research” is done through a feeble point buy system on the main screen) and a few coasters for which you must sell your soul to the mascots in order to get working.
At this point, Roller Coaster Tycoon World bugged out and I had to restart it one more time. I waited my seven minutes, and then hovered the cursor over “Continue Game”. A long time ago, I played Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The water level scared me so thoroughly that I never actually finished it. I thought it was a mastery of terror, giving me a monster I couldn’t actually see. Every time I tried to play the game, I had a moment like this. My cursor hovered over the icon on my desktop, shaking slightly as I felt chills down my spine, terror already coming back. Except, in this case, it was frustration, anger, and utter boredom. My cursor sat there for a few moments as I pondered whether it was worth it to complete the game or get fired from this job.
The Roller Coaster Tycoon franchise was deeply influential to my childhood, like Brian Jacques novels and Quantum Leap. Unlike those things, Roller Coaster Tycoon has not decided to leave this world with the dignity it deserves. Instead, it did something akin to the gaming version of the Darwin Awards; seeing the oncoming success of similar games, turning to its competitors, and stating “hold my beer”. With cheery absurdity, it destroyed itself and any chances of a dignified continuation of the line.
Roller Coaster Tycoon World was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
Roller Coaster Tycoon World is the bullet that ended a glorious and benevolent reign of park building games. Buy this if you enjoy waterboarding yourself and frustratedly destroying your computer monitors.
- Realistic Depiction of the Night Sky
- Exiting the Game is Fast and Easy
- Atrocious Gameplay Mechanics
- Blurry Textures
- Lack of Content
- Bugs, Bugs, Bugs
- Oversized and Horrendous Interface