“Once again, IAP proves to be the Nemesis of flowing game design. Coaster Crazy’s long waits certainly don’t mean Oblivion, but they hold back what is otherwise a clever, fun and very different kind of puzzler.”Free
Coming from the developer of the Mac and PC game RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, we had high hopes for Coaster Crazy. It’s not a full-on theme park creator, though – all you do here is create the ’coasters, without worrying about maintenance or entrance fees. In fact, despite its management-game lineage, Coaster Crazy is really a puzzle game where each challenge is solved with clever rollercoaster design.
Coaster Crazy’s world is divided into continents, each of which has several ‘Plots’, where you actually build your rollercoasters. You’re given a series of challenges to meet in each one – rides that complete all their challenges earn more money. The different combinations of challenges are what gives the game its variety, and they do a good job of demonstrating and testing the different ways to build tracks.
Actually building the ’coasters is both incredibly easy and surprisingly frustrating. Laying a track out initially is fine –tap a section allows you to edit it, with the main options being to move the section, raise or lower it, or bank it. When you’ve tapped on the end of the track, the move option lets you build more track by dragging the route you want, though it sometimes takes a couple of goes to get it to behave. The flexible way it’s done means that you can effectively build a flat oval to start with, and then massage it to the design you want – it’s like manipulating a ball of clay from a blob to a vase.
It’s in the fine-tuning that it gets annoying: if two sections of track cross over each other, it can be difficult to select the right one; selecting some special track parts and utilities is infuriating; deleting a bit of track often involves removing a huge section, instead of a small wrong part… Coaster Crazy definitely makes it easy to build rollercoasters, but there’s a lot of sighing and swearing involved in trying to build a really good rollercoaster.
Once you’ve mastered building, there’s no doubt it’s a fun game, and you’ll want to plough on, building more rides. This is where the fact that it’s a free game with In-App Purchases derails things somewhat. The main currency in the game is cash, and this is actually handled fairly well for a freemium game – you earn it over time simply by having rollercoasters open, and it comes in at a good rate. It’s used to create your rollercoasters, and buy new Plots and (some) continents. You can buy cash as an IAP, but you won’t need to. The only annoying thing is that each ride has a set limit it can earn in one go, until you ‘collect’ that cash to your wallet. It’s basically the app’s way of trying to get you to come back over and over. Okay, fine. The core game is fun, so you can always have a shot at making another rollercoaster when you open it again, right? Well, maybe not.
Every Plot or continent takes time to unlock, and in the case of the continents, we’re talking 24 hours or more. Oh, unless you spend gems to speed it up. Yes, gems are the other form of currency, and without them, buying new areas is slow, some continents remain permanently locked, and you can’t buy some special track segments. Predictably, you can only really get a useful number of gems through IAP.
In many ways, we suppose Coaster Crazy is a fair approximation of the rollercoaster experience – long waits for a decent, up-and-down experience. It’s full of character (we love the little people who represent the challenges on each Plot), and you can create some fun stuff once you get practiced. But it’s one of those freemium games that literally stops you playing any further unless you spend money, and once you put it down, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll pick it back up.