Theme Park goes freemium, but loses a lot of what made it fun in the process
Ever since the iPhone launched, and especially on the iPad, these devices have been ripe for a simulation game like the PC classic Theme Park. While the thought of having Theme Park on these devices seems like it would gel well, this freemium offering from EA is severely dumbed down in every area, and relies heavily on very expensive premium items.
Theme Park takes the same basic concept from its predecessors by giving you a large plot of land for you to build your park on. Unlike the older game, you don’t actually place down pathways or rides exactly where you want them, as there are specific places where you can put certain shops and rides down. Smaller rides can only be put down in the small spaces, medium rides can be placed in medium spaces, and so on. The largest spaces are reserved for roller coasters. After these rides are placed, you can even upgrade them to make more money.
The thing about Theme Park that really doesn’t sit right with me is how deceptive it is. Starting out, you think that you’re probably going to be able to build a sizable park in little to no time. After all, there are quite a few rides to choose from at the start. However, things go downhill very quickly as soon as you finish the tutorial. It’s about this time that you enter the store to buy your next ride, only to find it is either level locked or costs Tickets to purchase.
Tickets are the premium currency in Theme Park, and can be used to buy premium rides like roller coasters. As with all freemium games, there is usually a catch to playing them where you will have to pay money for certain items, but with Theme Park, the prices for most of the items range from appalling to outrageous. I understand trying to make a buck with these types of games, but you could pay upwards of $60-100 on a single item in this game, and that just seems unnecessarily greedy and unfair. In the beginning, for instance, you are given a roller coaster for free. After that one, all roller coasters cost a ridiculous amount of Tickets to purchase.
Theme Park is not a total loss however, as the graphics are definitely cute and it has a few activities you can do while you’re waiting for certain rides to be built or be ready. If you tap on a ride, you can run it by moving your finger in the motion of the ride. (A ferris wheel requires a circular motion for instance.) While these do help a little bit to pass the time, they also give out plenty of money for future rides and upgrades.
If this game would have been called pretty much anything else but Theme Park, I probably would be more forgiving when it comes to evaluating it. I can honestly say I was saddened by this release, as a simple port of the original would have been much better. Instead, this release is a stain on an otherwise great classic game. Let’s just hope that if RollerCoaster Tycoon ever comes to the App Store, it’ll receive more care than Theme Park did.