Expectations are dangerous things -- after all, they can ruin what could otherwise be a fairly good thing. Unfortunately for Atari, its Nintendo 3DS game RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D comes chock-full of expectations. Even worse, the game fails to meet most of them.
It seems that developer n-Space took everything good about the PC originals (which were developed by Chris Sawyer Productions) and stripped it bare. On the PC, the game was all about creativity down to seemingly the smallest of details. Guests could be interacted with, signs could be coded to say different things, and theme park rides could be customized nine ways 'till Sunday. Heck, even ducks could be clicked upon to make quack and balloons to be popped. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D allows for none of this.
Guests cannot be tapped upon to view their thoughts, signs cannot be customized, and rides offer minimal customization. Worst of all, the park's terrain cannot be manipulated -- meaning that if you need to carve through a hillside (or even go underground) during the construction of a ride, you simply can't. Furthermore, side features like weather and fireworks don't even exist.
Sadly, what isn't included in n-Space's rendition of RCT pales in comparison to what actually *is* in the game. With an interface that would make the 1991 SNES version of SimCity look high tech and modern, the ugly and clucky touch-interface menu system that RTC3D forces players to suffer through is just too much. Had this been a game where the menu is just an afterthought of a feature, this wouldn't be such a big deal. Unfortunately, the game lives through its GUI; and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D has one so poorly designed that users would wish it just came with an in-game version of Windows ME or Vista (or worse yet Windows 8).
The only saving grace here, other than the *want* for the game to be good, is that a park's various attractions can actually be "ridden". Do you want to see what it would be like (visually, at least) to ride that steel rollercoaster you painstakingly constructed? Or, would you like to take a spin on a merry-go-round? That much you can do, and it's one of RTC3D's few features that n-Space actually pulled off to some degree of satisfaction. A word of caution, however, about adding cameras to your rollercoaster: passing one will pause the ride and literally take a photo of you before resuming the ride. While on-ride photo taking itself isn't a bad thing (it's actually a novel use of the 3DS's front-facing camera), the game shouldn't be interrupting the ride to do so.
It's almost literally painful to say that RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D is not a good game. After all, the three iterations for PC were all quite good. RCT3D is simply a disappointment that could (and should) be much better than it is. Were series creator Chris Sawyer dead, he'd be spinning in his grave so fast that he'd be drilling for oil postmortem.
Final Game Guys grade: D-
(Atari provided a copy of this game for review.)