RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride is a first person shooter. Just let that sink in for a moment. RollerCoaster Tycoon — a franchise famed for building rollercoasters and running a theme park — is now a VR rail shooter, but worse than that, it’s not even a good game. It’s buggy and unstable, and it’s just built on the awful premise that riding a rollercoaster alone simply isn’t fun enough.
The cynicism with which this game was built permeates into everything it does. It feels like a cash-grab and plays even worse. Even when you get to the bread and butter of this series, the rollercoaster building, it’s merely OK. That’s probably the highest praise the game is going to get in this review, because it’s all downhill from here.
The first encounter with construction in RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride puts ten missions in front of you, awarding stars for completing simple missions like making a track of a certain length or adding a certain number of boosters and brakes. It’s not the most intuitive construction tool and I certainly spent more time than necessary wrestling with the menus trying to delete a piece of track I had changed my mind about. Amusingly, there is a track autocomplete button which should, as the name suggests, automatically finish the track for you when you’re done with your creation and you just want to jump straight in. For some reason this only works when you’re close enough to the end of the track that you don’t need the button at all, rendering the button absolutely pointless.
Considering that this is marketed as a VR game, it’s disappointing that everything up to this point is purely flatscreen. If you’re playing with the VR headset on, you’re simply looking at cinema mode, which is a real shame because building the track in VR would have been really interesting and would have added a huge amount to the process.
VR doesn’t kick in until you finish the track and opt to ride your coaster, when you’re asked to put the headset on so that you can be transported into the car, waiting underground so that you may be lifted onto the track. On three occasions the game got stuck here, forcing me to reset the game in order to ride my creation.
If you get past this part, you’re also asked to pick one of three weapons, two of which you have to unlock, each with different ranges and firing rates. You’re then given the option for a tutorial and some target practice. This is quite simply being given some floating balls to shoot at with no explanation as to what you’re meant to be doing. Even for something as simple as shooting floating targets, it infuriates me beyond compare that this passes for a tutorial.
It’s also baffling when you certainly didn’t get to put any targets down on the track creation screen. so you shoot the target that lets you start the level and you are lifted up to see your creation in all its glory. Unfortunately, I had the game crash on me twice here and, when it didn’t crash, I drifted out of the car more often than I stayed inside it. This is not exactly what I would call a stable game.
It turns out that your track has been filled with autogenerated targets, some of which you saw in that “tutorial” from earlier. Why are they there, you wonder? So there I am, hurtling around the track, thinking they’re there and I’ve been given a gun, so I guess I should shoot them. I shot the spherical ones, I shot the non-spherical ones, and I finished the track thoroughly underwhelmed and a little bit nauseous. Later on, after digging around the game menus looking for some semblance of fun, I discovered what exactly the non-spherical targets did. It turns out that the closest thing to a tutorial was hidden away in the Target Gallery, but I’m still not sure how the score multiplier works.
At this point we’ve finished one ride and I’m left wondering who thought adding shooting to a rollercoaster game was a smart idea. If you want to make someone motion sick in VR, asking them to focus on something hurtling at them at speed while they’re traveling upside down works every time.
I go to see what else the game has to offer and I soon realise something else: there are only two maps on which you can build your coasters in the entire game. There’s a desert level and a city level, and that’s it. Disappointed, I back out of the missions and try something new. There’s a sandbox mode, Easyrider and Headspinner modes, where you can play prebuilt levels, and something intriguingly titled Blueprints. Do not click Blueprints at this juncture, as your game will inevitably crash.
A lot of searching revealed that you can download community levels if you dig deep enough – you find them through the global leaderboards at the end of a race, not a community hub or anything logical – and save them as blueprints to edit or play at your leisure. This makes the Blueprints menu option useful, sure, but there is nothing to tell you that in advance. There is almost nothing in this game explaining anything, making Rollercoaster Tycoon Joyride both a trial and full of error.
Backing out of single player and into Party mode, surely, I thought to myself, this would be where the fun lies. I chucked my second controller to my sister and asked her to help me figure this out. She foolishly agreed. This time we opted for TV mode — I thought this would be better for what appeared to be two people shooting the same gun and looking out the same pair of eyes. The game crashed.
So we tried again and I reluctantly put on the headset, only to find out that party mode was just pure trash — I controlled the camera, I shot the gun and my poor sister on the second controller, who could also fire but not control the camera, sat there and simply said “I’m not sure what I’m adding to this”. I asked her about 30 seconds later if she was still shooting, because I genuinely couldn’t tell, and she wasn’t even holding the controller. Remember when you were a kid and you gave your little brother/sister an unplugged controller so they could pretend they were helping you out? That’s Party mode.
Worst party ever.
I would be genuinely angry if I had paid money for this RollerCoaster Tycoon game. There is none of the tycoon fun of the original game, the rollercoasters are overshadowed by the shooting and the VR is slapdash at best. The entire experience feels like an alpha build of a rail shooter that someone decided to slap the Tycoon name on to sell more copies. I cannot, in good faith, recommend this game under any circumstances.