Version Reviewed: 2.1
Graphics / Sound [rating:3.5/5]
iPhone Integration [rating:4/5]
User Interface [rating:3/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:2/5]
Whenever I'm bored, the first thing I think of is roller coasters. Er...sure?
Okay, so maybe roller coasters aren't the most common of diversions when it comes to iPhone apps, but surely some of you have played Roller Coaster Tycoon and the like. And, really, how much fun was it to watch the simulator spit out a first-person view of racing down your contraptions? (I know that that was the whole reason why I added all of those crazy corkscrews into my creations!)
AirCoaster 3D is, as you might have guessed, a 3D roller coaster simulator for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Open the app, and you're presented with a few settings; hit "Start Ride," and you'll be hurtling down an auto-generated track, complete with loops, corkscrews, spirals, and gut-wrenching drops.
...well, maybe not that gut-wrenching. I didn't get any feelings of vertigo myself, but it definitely is fun to watch the track buck and turn and fall. You can completely customize your ride, too. Besides simple settings that increase the amount of loops or alter gravity, you can build your own track up from scratch using the built-in track editor. For the ride itself, you've got plenty of choices: pick a "theme" (background), the sound effects (rushing wind, kids screeching, both, none?), and your position (riding above the tracks or dangling below). You can also toggle track styles (wood, steel) and switch to an overview of the track instead of riding it.
The real genius, though, lies in the community aspect. You can upload your tracks to the internet, and browse for others' tracks for downloading. (Downloaded tracks are stored in a "My Tracks" tab.) It's here that you'll find the most ingenious designs: first, a track based on the Dow Jones from October of 2007 to March 2009; second, a roller coaster incarnation of the Apple stock, from January of '08 to March of '09.
Seriously? Talk about taking an overused phrase to the literal level! Riding the drops and dips of the stock market really puts some things into perspective...oh, who am I kidding? It's just plain fun, if a bit sadistic. The Dow Jones actually has a surprisingly gentle slope, especially compared to the Apple stock, which might actually make you seasick. Besides the stock-coasters, there are plenty of other designs, too, so if you're too lazy to build your own track, it's always good to see what other people are concocting.
AirCoaster isn't perfect, naturally. There are quite a few odd interface issues. For example, there's a whole screen/tab dedicated to picking the background—is that really necessary? Also, the sliders on the main settings screen feel unresponsive. The simulator itself is fairly good, but the backgrounds aren't overly realistic, and are often blurred in the "distance." The track editor can be annoying to try and use; it takes a while to build a track and just feels clumsy. Finally, while all of the menus are displayed in portrait mode, the actual tracks ride in landscape mode.
The basic physics, though, are solid, and the noise of wind rushing past you coupled with other effects makes AirCoaster an effective simulator. Ultimately, whether or not you'll like it depends entirely on how much you want to pretend to ride fake roller coasters; I doubt that it has much reuse value, and at the end of the day, it's still just a simulator. But painlessly experiencing the stock market crash is still worth something in my book, and it's good for laughs if nothing else.