When I was a kid, I had this deep obsession with wanting to get a roller coaster video game. The object of my affection was Ultimate Ride, which looked incredible and extensive for its time. The demo took a full day to download on my dial-up connection, but in spite of my fervency, my old desktop computer didn’t meet the system requirements.
Flash-forward a few months to a trip to Office Max with my family. While rifling through the bargain bins, I found a copy of ValuSoft’s Roller Coaster Factory, which looked pretty awesome from the jewel case. It would have to do.
Roller Coaster Factory is awful. It’s inattentive and undercooked, even for a lowly budgeted game. (This time, it’s personal.)
Unlike most roller coaster games, or most games of any genre, Roller Coaster Factory strips its features to the bare minimum. The game functions only to create roller coasters. There are no other modes, scenes, or tycoon aspects. Rather than plotting points for your coaster track and creating an interesting route with curves and banks, you can only select from one of five types of pieces – hills, curves, curving hills, loops, and straight lines. The finished coaster will almost always snake along the cardinal directions. Creativity is strongly discouraged.
Roller coaster games draw in players with the prospect of testing a crazy monster ride that no engineer or safety regulator would approve. No such speed or excitement to be found here. Your ride will rarely if ever exceed a leisurely lurch, no matter how many times the game tells you it runs at 30 MPH (which, dismally, is about as fast as they can get).
God forbid you want to go on your roller coaster for the views. The game barely pulls off sub-Nintendo 64 fidelity, which somehow looks worse when you switch from a steel coaster to wood. And that’s without considering the theme park’s thoughtless design, with concrete paths and palm trees scattered around almost randomly. Presentation isn’t a dealbreaker, but the game looks decrepit, even for something released in 2000.
Once you finish testing your coaster, you’re arbitrarily scored for the ride’s “thrill” and overall quality with no indication of how you earned it. I guess you’d be able to compete against other people to make higher-rated coasters, but without any interesting restrictions or track pieces, that just means making long, dense rides. At least there’s a few options to tweak, such as activating night mode, which replaces the sky with a rickety plane of stars and makes everything darker.
That’s all there is to say. There isn’t much here. There’s no joy or spirit. It feels like an obligation, like the generic store-brand version of a roller coaster game. Such are the limits and expectations of a cheap game from a publisher named ValuSoft.
Most frustratingly, the creators of Roller Coaster Factory put out a series of working, decent, coaster games a few years later. But that didn’t stop this one from becoming their best-selling game, shipping 150,000 copies. For comparison, The Last Express sold only 100,000.
Never let another wishful child be duped by this trickery again. Gaaaah.