Rollercoaster Mania is a new theme park management game for Facebook, developed by Noisy Duck and published by the increasingly-prolific 6waves. It is currently showing up as the 22nd fastest-growing Facebook game by MAU with user figures up by 130,000 to 580,000 in the last week — a gain of 35%. It’s particularly likely to appeal to fans of the 1994 PC game Theme Park in that it uses almost the exact same aesthetic, though the gameplay has been rearranged to focus on social play.
Rollercoaster Mania casts players in the role of a new park manager. An initial tutorial walks players through the processes of laying down paths, placing food and drink stands, setting up rides (including ensuring there is space for customers to queue and a means for them to get off the attraction) and introduces the fact that some rides are friend-gated — though as in most other social games, this may be bypassed by the expenditure of hard currency.
Many things in Rollercoaster Mania are time-sensitive. The player has the option to keep their park open for between 30 minutes and seven days, for example, though shorter shifts provide more profit over time, and keeping the park open for longer periods costs soft currency up to a period of 24 hours, and hard currency for between 3 and 7 days at a time. Opening the park for 30 minutes, however, is free, and provides the fastest income — but it does require the player to regularly check in on the game to maximize their profits.
Food and drink stores also carry timers, which function in a similar manner to the park timer. Better quality products last for shorter periods of time, but are also less likely to make parkgoers sick. This, in turn, helps players to increase their “park rating,” which in turn attracts more visitors per hour and thus provides a stronger income stream.
While the game superficially resembles Bullfrog’s 1994 title Theme Park to an almost uncanny degree (see comparison screenshot below), the gameplay does not go into quite as much exhaustive detail as the retro classic. Players won’t find themselves adjusting the amount of salt on the fries to encourage people to spend more money on soft drinks that they have conveniently inflated the prices on, for example, nor will they have to negotiate with staff to ensure they are happy with their wages and treatment. Instead, the player finds themselves focusing more on placing structures to improve areas of their park where ratings are struggling the most. This provides a degree of additional strategy over and above what many building sims offer, providing the gameplay with some welcome depth without being daunting for casual players. Impending updates will also allow the player to design their own rides, adding creativity and self-expression to the mix.
It’s difficult to ignore the fact that the game doesn’t quite feel finished, however. After the initial quacking splash screen for the developer, there is no sound whatsoever in the game. There is a “music on/off” button on the interface, but this is stuck on “off.” The game’s performance also struggles a little in full-screen mode on less powerful computers, particularly when viewing busy parks.
There’s a solid foundation here, though, despite these flaws. The game mechanics work well and there are plenty of premium items for paying players to purchase. Meanwhile, there are also enough soft currency-based items available to ensure free players don’t feel like they’re being forced to open their wallets. The game would benefit from additional development time to finish off the audio-visual presentation and fix some of the performance issues on slower computers. While players are certainly flocking to the game at present thanks to 6waves’ marketing and cross-promotional efforts, in this case it’s probably best to wait and see what the next few updates hold before determining whether or not this title will enjoy long-term success.
A solid foundation that needs a bit of extra work, particularly in the audio and performance departments.