There's something about a game featuring rollercoasters that seems to stir up a frenzy in gamers. That's certainly what I felt when I heard about Frontier Development's Coaster Crazy [Free]. Offering a bit of a fantastical twist to thrill ride creation, there's a lot to enjoy in Coaster Crazy despite some nagging freemium objections.
Before folks get excited with visions of an iOS take on RollerCoaster Tycoon, let's get one thing straight: Coaster Crazy is not a theme park simulation. Rather, Coaster Crazy focuses exclusively on the creation of rollercoasters, with a bit of freemium-based resource management thrown into the mix. The game is broken up into levels, and each level tasks you with building a roller coaster with a variety of objectives. Objectives include the mundane (such as creating a ride that is complete) to interesting (make a rollercoaster with a certain amount of upside-down time) to the complicated (make your ride offer a certain amount of vertical or horizontal g-forces).
Resource management, meanwhile, is limited to collecting piles of cash that build up over time. Once you build a ride that hits all the objectives of the level, you can open it to the public, which allows it to start earning cash. You use that cash to buy new plots of land (i.e. new levels) which allows you to build and open more coasters for cash, and so on. For the most part, cash comes relatively easy in Coaster Crazy, which is a sigh of relief. Opening rides also increases your level, which unlocks new parts to use in your creations.
Where Coaster Crazy shines is in the basic act of creating your rollercoasters. Players are afforded a decent amount of control over the created rides, including setting elevation, orientation, and length. There's also a host of different items that can aid in raising your score. Mechanics range from the standard (loops and scenery) to the strategic (boosters and decelerators) to the crazy (cart elevators). While most coasters need to have certain elements in order to hit the level goals, the game allows a lot of leeway as to how to accomplish those missions.
I'm also a big fan of the physics system, as it adds a lot of strategy to the coaster creation. Create a ride that accelerates too fast into a turn and your riders may fall out of the cart, causing you to lose points. Conversely, a slow coaster may not have enough oomph to get over hills or loops. In addition to those obvious factors, Coaster Crazy monitors more nuanced stats such as nausea, horizontal and vertical g-forces, and more, each having an impact on the final score of your coaster. In this regard, Coaster Crazy is surprisingly deep and offers a lot of gameplay, especially in later levels that feel more sandbox-ish as players are afforded more freedom in hitting the objectives.
Other areas that worked well for Coaster Crazy are its visuals – which are colorful, cartoony and have a lot of personality – and the overall presentation. The presentation is due in large part to the Crazies, which act as both your riders and objective bearers. I also thought the actual controls worked well, although iPhone players (even owners of the iPhone 5) may feel a bit cramped.
While Coaster Crazy works well in most of its facets, there are a few elements that simply feel out of place and detract from the experience. For example, a lot of the freemium elements are annoying and do little to add to the game. Purchasing new plots of land to build new coasters take time to "acquire the permits." While the first few plots take minutes to unlock, subsequent purchases start taking hours to unlock. I see no rationale for making players wait this long to build new rides other than to encourage the use of the premium currency (which can really only be bought via IAP) to unlock land purchases instantly.
Other issues, such as unskippable cutscenes with the Crazies, lengthy load times (most likely due to a reliance on the online infrastructure) and a lack of a centralized manual are more annoyances than anything else. Thankfully, the pros of Coaster Crazy outweigh the cons, making it a game worth checking out. True, it's no RollerCoaster Tycoon, but it's still a highly competent coaster builder with a nice dose of puzzle objectives. Suffice to say, if you're a fan of making thrill rides, you should give it consideration.
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