App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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Roller Coasters have been a fixation of gamers for quite some time, and we are not just talking about riding them, either. A perfect embodiment of this was the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise, which was introduced back in 1999 and followed up by Thrillville: Off The Rails in 2007. There is just something about designing and maintaining massive hulking coasters that has smitten a whole generation. Frontier Developments, the team originally behind Thrillville, are now hoping to reshape the genre on iOS with an eye towards free-to-play.
The result of this interesting experiment in game re-design is the aptly named Coaster Crazy. Placing players in control a theme park empire, the title serves as equal parts micromanagement simulator and roller coaster design suite. Oddly enough, the combination not only works well, it thrives behind the strength of a compelling puzzle mechanic, found in the coaster designer.
Before ground can be broken on a new coaster, first the land must be purchased. Early on, the process of buying up land is simple and quick, allowing for rapid expansion. As time wears on and levels increase, the period of waiting between paying for a new property and unlocking it for full use can prove to be rather excessive.
Once land is securely in hand, the design sandbox is opened to the player. Initially they are set out to accomplish two or three unique tasks before starting design, leaving the methodology used to reach those means open for interpretation. At the end of the ride, as long as the coaster meets the bare minimum goals, a section can be completed successfully. The process of designing tracks in this mode is both engaging and satisfying to those indulging their inner experimentalist. As players continue to level up, more pieces of track are unlocked, even further augmenting the creative (and in some cases, destructive) potential.
There is one piece of the puzzle that ultimately holds the title back from an instant home run: excessive land purchase wait times. While they wait for land to unlock, players are left running around collecting cash from their existing coasters and otherwise twiddling their thumbs. Granted, there is an option pay actual cash to speed up the unlock process, so really it is a moot point. Ultimately, the gameplay itself is compelling and entertaining enough to encourage an impulse skip or two, just to see what comes next.
As long as players are willing to be patient or pony up a little coin, Coaster Crazy is an exceptionally fun trip into the deepest recesses of a creative mind. The open-ended gameplay and interesting challenges will keep players guessing, long after queue lines have been opened for business. Forget free-to-play, this is a definitely-should-play.