Ask any veteran of Roller Coaster Tycoon or Thrillville and they’ll tell you the same — managing a theme park is hard work. At least it used to be. Roller Coaster Kingdom takes a trip down easy street and strips the traditionally deep theme park management genre of all of its detail and nuance, delivering a social game from Zynga that feels surprisingly underwhelming.
Roller Coaster Kingdom places you in control of your own theme park. You’ll set up rides, build walkways, and book tours to bring a variety of guests to your park. The gameplay itself is simple to a fault. Once you’ve set yourself up and you’re ready to start booking your first tours, there’s very little left to do. You’ll just have to sit there and wait for visitors to come and spend money so that you can afford to invite more visitors. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sure you’ll expand your park and add new rides, but for the bulk of the game the scope doesn’t grow beyond what’s described here.
There’s nothing you can do to entice more people to your park either – you simply book tours in a manner that mirrors Farmville’s crop planting. Pick a parking spot, choose from a variety of tours with different booking costs and times it will take for them to arrive, and wait for them to show up as the timer ticks down. Unlike Farmville though, the main game area doesn’t have a lot of “crop rotation,” so to speak. Once you’ve built a ride there’s little to do asides from making upgrades and changing staff.
Being stuck with managing the comings and goings of your guests wouldn’t be such a problem if Roller Coaster Kingdom borrowed from the tycoon games that inspired it, but that’s clearly not what Kingdom was striving for. Had the game offered up some basic micro-management, like controlling ticket prices or making sure there were adequate bathroom facilities, there might have been something unique here that made it worth coming back to.
The Farmville comparisons go further than just the parking lot/crop comparison. Most of the games social aspects are cookie-cut from Facebook’s favourite farming game. You’ll be able to send and receive gifts, invite neighbours, and help your friends by doing simple chores in their parks. You’ll even find lost animals that other parks can adopt. In most aspects of Roller Coaster Kingdom, the similarities to Farmville are downright uncanny.
Roller Coaster Kingdom spreads itself too thing to do any one thing well. In attempting to appeal to both the Farmville crowd and the theme park simulation crowd, Roller Coaster Kingdom fails to successfully appeal to anyone. The gameplay is simply too limited and basic to satisfy park sim fans, and too stale and passive for the Farmville faithful to feel engaged.
As it stands, Roller Coaster Kingdom is simply a Farmville clone with a carnival coat of paint, and not a very good one at that. If you’re idea of fun is “planting” cars in a parking lot while waiting for a bunch of rubes to queue up for the bouncy house, maybe this is the game for you. If not, you’re bound to find a more enjoyable experience with other games in the genre.