I'd like to think that there was a meeting at some point in 2016 in which the entire game development community decided that 2016 must be blessed with multiple terrible park management games. On PC we had Roller Coaster Tycoon World, which destroyed the name of a classic franchise. Don't laugh PlayStation 4 owners, for it's now our turn to get a terrible game. Arguably, it may be worse. This is Rollercoaster Dreams. It is a nightmare.
There are no scenarios to follow or story to go through in Rollercoaster Dreams. The game's management is condensed to a single mode with a single goal; get 500,000 daily visitors. Before you start building, you're asked which difficulty you want to play the game on, but as far as I can tell the only difference between difficulties is how much starting money you get. There's no real tutorial outside of telling you how to move your cursor around and how to get to the menus where you can buy things. If you want to know how to manage your park, how to set prices, run ads, and find the general information on how your park is performing, you're basically on your own.
All of this information is buried and nearly impossible to interpret. For example, one menu showed a number that could be anything from 1 to 100 next to stats like "amount of restrooms" and "amount of chairs". These aren't the actual amount of restrooms and chairs you have in your park, but rather your guest's opinion on that subject. Figuring that out was already tough enough, but just having a 1-100 number doesn't help me at all either. Do I want 100 guests to have opinions on the number of restrooms? Or 1? Which one is good and which one is bad? If you're expecting Rollercoaster Dreams to tell you, keep dreaming.
The above is just one example, and the entire game is this cryptic. You can set advertisement campaigns on five different types of media, but the game never makes it clear if the ads are actually helping you or not. You can set money aside to research new park attractions, but with no indicated timeline as to when these attractions will get finished, I'm never sure if I'm throwing my money away or investing wisely. You can hire staff to clean up and entertain the guests, but all the staff is invisible so you just sort of need to take the game's word for it that they're actually doing something. Of course, all the guests are invisible too, so good luck keeping track as to how many are in the park, which rides are a success, and what should be scrapped. The best you can do is select each ride one-by-one and get that same useless information I mentioned above.
Maybe at least building a park is fun, right? Let me squash that hope now: no. Even the simple act of controlling the cursor is difficult as you can only do so with the D-pad: for some reason both the right and left sticks are assigned to the camera. Building anything in the game costs two currencies: money and points. I have no clue what points were, as far as I could tell I started with about 7,000-ish of them and could never find a way to get more. With everything only really costing a few points my best guess is that they exist to stop you from flooding levels with inane props, but with the graphical fidelity we're seeing with Rollercoaster Dreams, I can't imagine the PlayStation 4 having much trouble with the game even if you could.
If you want to build anything you have to navigate a totally cumbersome and barely legible menu to do it. Rollercoaster Dreams only lets you look at a single attraction at a time, so trying to find anything you want means having to slowly go through every single attraction in the game. Trying to figure out what an attraction does is an equally difficult task. Nearly every description of every ride is translated into some kind of mumbo jumbo that only vaguely resembles English. You can place "Gods Shops" and "asfalt". I bought a hamburger shop and found it to sell "a hot dog with big sausage". At an ice cream shop, I was able to buy cola, which had the description "Twist the cap to refreshment. The cola." I don't even know what they meant by this, plus the cola was clearly in a plastic cup with a straw, so twisting the cap would only ruin the cola. I genuinely don't believe a real person translated this game, but rather it was just thrown into Google Translate along with a pile of hopes and dreams.
No matter how hard I tried or how many I visited, the game's parks always had the same problems. You can't build paths of any kind, as each new park is placed in a big open area. Every park, no matter how well the creator tries to hide it, just looks like random rides and attractions strewn around haphazardly. I already mentioned the invisible guests before, so it's not like it ultimately matters at all for these guests you'll never see, but it's still a pain if you want your park to actually look nice.
Well I could at least have fun building roller coasters, right? Oh, my sweet summer child. How I yearn to return to the days where I thought that. For some reason building a roller coaster splits one screen into four different screens and turns the entire game into a wireframe. If you can manage to adjust to this view, coaster building is extremely awkward. You can place a piece at the press of a button, but accidentally placing a piece you didn't mean to means you'll have to go through several menus to delete it. When I was building coasters, I had a strange problem with all my coasters leaning slightly right, like the track didn't want to go straight. It's frustrating, and trying to build a dream coaster was basically impossible.
Even if you manage to build the roller coaster, there's little to no guarantee your creation will actually operate as expected. Turn too quickly? Carts fly off the track and you have to rebuild the coaster. Drop too fast? Carts fly off the track. Bumps? Sudden swerves? Too fast? Too slow? There go your carts, sailing over the rest of the park as you once again have to try and figure out what the problem is. The game looks for any excuse to toss your carts and tell you that your coaster isn't even made correctly. Once you get a working coaster, the game tries to play up the humor by having people ejected from the coaster at random while giving you constant notifications of the amount of people who have gotten sick, pissed themselves, suffered memory loss, or endured countless other tragedies while riding your roller coaster. Ultimately it's more confusing than anything else.
If you really want to drive yourself crazy with the roller coaster building, there's also a challenge mode. Here, your goal is to build a roller coaster that passes through point balloons as fast as possible. It's certainly a unique premise for a theme park management game, but with the roller coaster building as terrible as it is, the mode isn't actually any fun to play. There are six challenges total, and it took me about an hour to get a gold medal on each one. You also get bonus points on how "trilling" your roller coaster is (I assume they mean thrilling?) and lose points for how dangerous it is. Without fail, these two stats would always cancel each other out, making them totally pointless. Between challenges, you talk to "Mr. Jet", a tiny Asian dude who vibrates violently and tries to make funny jokes that are all just as poorly translated as every other bit of text in the game.
Okay, but at least you can wander around parks that you and others build, right? Well, yes, you can. I'm just not sure why you'd ever want to after your first attempt. For starters, you're finally able to see people in your park when you're in this view. I immediately wish I couldn't, as the character models are low quality and scarier than what I've seen in some horror games. You can talk to these people, and they also speak in broken nonsensical English. Instead of just giving the general idea of some of what they say, I feel like just quoting them works a lot better.
- "I'm getting more fun a little"
- "After all, I like cheese burger"
- "Although I'm not good at calculation, I can calculate 20 digit numbers in my head if I think it's a calculation of money"
- "This amusement park is not too bad. However, I'm always thinking of you rather than the amusement park."
- "I will make the next New Year's gift cheaper. Wahhahha!"
More importantly, you can ride the rides and play in the attractions from this view. What followed my attempts at this was a total nightmare, as it felt like I was diving into people's first Unity projects after they were quickly compiled and thrown into the game. The maze is overwhelmingly boring, being little more than fences in an empty landscape. There's a strange matching mini-game where you need to match all tiles horizontally, but if you match three vertically you blow up. There's a horror version of the maze where you can't see anything and "ghosts" stuck in a static position no-clip through walls to try and get to you. There's one where a bunch of zombies awkwardly dance around a ballroom and you need to avoid them.
All of these are bad, games that would be laughed off of the Steam store even if they cost only 99 cents, but somehow the worst is still to come. Some games, like the bumper cars and the go-kart races, require turning your DualShock 4 like it's a steering wheel. There's only one winner in this race, and that winner would be Factor 5's ill-fated 2007 dragon combat game Lair, which has now lost its reputation for having the worst use of forced motion control in a PlayStation game. Controlling your kart is impossible, as I either found myself spiraling off tracks, careening into invisible walls, or making endless circles around the people I'm supposed to be ramming. There are also some games like basket throwing and dart throwing that also require the use of motion controls. It's equally awful and the game's instructions (which, yes, are also all written in Engrish) actually suggests violently shaking the controller if you can't get them to work correctly. If the best advice you can give players is to rage against the controls, maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board.
All of this is wrapped in one of the least appealing visual and audio packages available on PS4. Every texture is blurry and every model looks flat. All the characters feel like they were lifted straight out of Theme Park World on the original PlayStation. The audio presentation is equally horrid, with most of the sounds suffering from an extremely low quality. The mic crackling as people screamed into it to voice lines seems to have been a common occurrence, and there are instances of static for reasons that are beyond the scope of this review. Things sometimes get extremely loud for no reason, especially noises played during the minigames. The game's soundtrack was totally forgettable, which may be a blessing because it's just about the only part of this game I will truly ever forget.
If you own a PlayStation VR device then you can put it on and wander around the parks in VR. You can only wander the parks and ride rides in VR, the other modes not available for use. Similar to Here They Lie, you can choose to either use the right stick to sort of teleport-turn 45 degrees, or set it so that you'll slowly turn in the direction you're facing. Unlike Here They Lie the game isn't designed around these gradual turns so it's really easy to get stuck on objects. If you want to ride any of the rides in VR, you first have to go through several menus and disable an in-game lock that prevents you from riding anything.
You really shouldn't do this. None of these experiences are improved by VR, and many are made worse. Riding complicated looping roller coasters and spinning rides is basically a recipe for motion sickness, an experience I haven't felt since my first few brief runs with PlayStation VR Worlds' ill-made VR Luge mode. The VR stuff is so bad that I feel like it actually devalues VR as a whole. Rollercoaster Dreams is basically the exact opposite of what VR needs right now. Making an amazingly terrible game is one thing, but by attaching it to VR as well, it's basically going to be a game that people point to when they try and talk about how low-quality VR as a whole is. Virtual reality lacks the big amazing must-haves that can counterbalance games like Rollercoaster Dreams, making the fact that my personal least favorite game of 2016 really advertises its VR angle so much more unfortunate.
At this point, I don't think I need to make it clear how I feel about Rollercoaster Dreams. The game fails in every possible way a tycoon game can possibly fail in. Not only does it fail at every single task it sets out, but it takes what I believe to be a genuinely cool innovation in the world of video games and drags it through the mud with it. Don't buy Rollercoaster Dreams. Just forget this dream ever happened.
Rollercoaster Dreams was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
If something can go wrong in Rollercoaster Dreams, it does. This is a game that attempts every gameplay idea it can and messes them up one by one without fail. There are no dreams here, only nightmares.
- Retroactively Makes Lair's Controls Seem Good
- Ugly Graphics
- Park Management is a Disaster
- Roller Coaster Building is a Mess
- Minigames are Terrible
- VR is Poorly Implimented and Misused
- Translation is Weird and Sloppy