I hate roller coasters. Despite my appreciation for their architecture and my love of other less intense parts of theme parks, I’ve never been able to get on a coaster without it devolving into an exercise in how tightly I can shut my eyes and how much I can renew my faith in a deity to make the ride stop. That being said, I’ve had a fondness for the RollerCoaster Tycoon series since I was young, and I loved subjecting others to the terror I felt when I got on one of the twisted mountains of metal.
With Rollercoaster Tycoon Joyride, I was finally able to leave my fear of roller coasters behind me and experience all the dips and turns in VR, and though it certainly does that job admirably, Atari and developer Nvizzio Creations haven’t perfected everything surrounding it.
Despite advertising PlayStation VR support, most of RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride is only playable on a traditional display. Across a few different modes – “missions” and “sandbox” being the two most prominent – you design your own coasters, complete with loops, upside down segments, twists, and anything else you’d expect to see at a real theme park. Limiting this to the television was presumably done to avoid giving you a headache while you’re planning your coaster’s design, but the camera angles you’re given are pretty atrocious. You can either be directly on top of the track as if you were riding it, or zoomed out above or to the side. None of them give you a great view of what you’re doing, which often results in needing to delete sections of track and start over.
You’re limited to a single coaster on one of the game’s two environments, though both the canyon and the city provide enough variety in their design to make it worthwhile to experiment. An “autocomplete” function is also offered if you want to get to riding more quickly, though I found it to be useless much of the time, unable to finish even small sections of track that I didn’t want to design.
But it’s after the coaster is completed that RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride really sells itself. Armed with a blaster (think Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Disney World) you ride the entire length of the coaster and fire at floating orbs along the way. Some are worth more points than others, there are power-ups and multiplier orbs to increase your total further, as well as electrified gates and bombs to decrease it. With a slow-motion ability, you can briefly get a better shot at your targets, but doing this takes away much of the fun of being on a coaster in the first place. It’s a bit reminiscent of the coaster shooter focused PC VR game RollerForce.
That is, unfortunately, an issue that pervades much of RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride. Your goal is to get as many points as possible playing the courses you have designed, but the best way to do this is to design boring, slow-moving coasters. The few people also creating coasters online seem to have picked up on that quickly, as their designs aren’t as thrilling as I was hoping. Pre-made courses are also included, and these fare better, but they’re unlikely to hold your attention for too long.
If, for some reason, you don’t want to use your PlayStation VR for Joyride, you can play the entire game in traditional mode, but it takes every ounce of fun away. Riding the coasters feels like playing a simplistic video game rather than riding a roller coaster, and you’re unable to rack up the high scores you can while wearing the headset. It’s bizarre that it’s even an option to play them on a television, as the interface was clearly designed with VR, and VR only, in mind.
There’s also a “party” mode which allows more people to join in, but it literally consists of the same one-screen display, but with multiple players able to control the design elements and zapper at the same time.
RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride serves as a decent proof-of-concept for PlayStation VR, but more than two years after the headset launches, is that really what we need anymore? During our time with the game, we also experienced three crashes and a bug that forced us to restart it completely, and without a large group of players interested in designing their own courses, it’s going to end up like many of the worst RollerCoaster Tycoon theme parks: empty and dull.