I love visiting theme parks and, of course, I especially love building my own virtual versions of them, with my early years tinkering with Theme Park and RollerCoaster Tycoon some of the finest hours that I’ve spent with video games. Who wouldn’t want to craft their own rollercoasters and theme parks that would rival those seen in the likes of Universal Studios, Disney World, or Busch Gardens, right?
Despite having a load of fun with the park-building genre when I was younger though, I haven’t played any similar titles for a long time – despite there being great efforts made to revive the genre. Seeing RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition on the Nintendo Switch seemed like the perfect means to jump back in then, with the portable take on the 2004 classic (and all of its DLC content) seeming like the perfect way to experience the thrills of building my own theme park all over again.
Of course, titles like this often come with the caveat that they can’t always make the transition from a mouse and keyboard to a controller smoothly. Thankfully, they are competent for the most part here and it’s not difficult to dive into the coaster-building action, even if there are moments where they can feel a little bit clunky too.
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition is all about creating your own theme parks, with players able to place and customise attractions, fine-tune every aspect from staff to finances, and then manage all of the behind the scenes intricacies as they look to make it into a success – simple. As if the title wasn’t a clue, one of the things that it allows you to play around with the most is the creation of rollercoasters, with players able to freely build an exciting rip-roaring coaster of their dreams from the ground up. You can even ride it afterwards from a first-person perspective to see how thrilling it is, though I must admit that age hasn’t been kind to the game in that regard…
Whilst building rollercoasters is a blast in itself, there are over three-hundred other attractions and shops to place across your theme park, so there’s a whole lot to dive into in the game. Depending on the mode you play, a lot of this is dependant on your finances too, meaning there’s a real sense of progress in place as you develop your theme park further to make it more exciting and appealing to the paying customers. Their happiness is the goal of the game after all, with happy visitors typically equating to more cash… well… provided you’ve set up your businesses perfectly, that is.
That’s the thing with RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition: you can literally fine-tune everything, from the price of your food, the staff you have, how many of each public amenity is available, the quality of rides and how much excitement they offer… there really is a whole lot to think about in the game and it’s certainly a lot more than just placing a bunch of attractions all over a grassy area and watching the money roll in. There’s a heavy focus on the business side of running a theme park and it’s actually one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game, with the emphasis on both man and park management coming together to make for a really satisfying experience. Every aspect of your theme park is under your control, so each success and failure is ultimately your own doing.
Best of all, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition comes with the ‘Wild!’ and ‘Soaked!’ DLC expansions, meaning you can bring animal attractions and water rides into your parks. This brings a whole new dimension to the gameplay (especially since your customers will care for the well-being of the animals) and also adds a heck of a lot of extra content to the base game. They’re really fun additions that really compliment the game’s main gameplay loop in a meaningful way – plus, they put me that step closer to ATTEMPTING to re-create Animal Kingdom, albeit sans Pandora…
I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition’s Sandbox Mode where players have the complete freedom to make the park of their dreams without financial constraints, but those who want a challenge and something to really work towards will want to tackle the game’s Scenarios. These Scenarios bring with them a range of different objectives that players have to work towards, meaning they have to cater their rides, amenities, prices, and so forth in a particular way to accommodate these requirements. With varied goals on offer across each Scenario that really do change everything up and a decent bunch of them to get through, Scenarios offer a really fun way to approach the game where there’s an actual purpose to work towards… you know… outside of just trying to make a MASSIVE theme park or trying to re-create one of your real-life favourites in Sandbox Mode. They’re fun and definitely worth checking out.
It’s clear then that RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition’s gameplay is great throughout and has certainly aged well over the last sixteen-years, but how does it feel to control? The best way to describe it would be that it’s… fine. You control the cursor with the left stick, whilst the right stick will move the camera around. Zooming in and out is assigned to the trigger buttons, whilst there are radial menus in the bottom corners of the screen that can either be utilised by using the shoulder buttons in combination with the left stick. Everything is accounted for and you’ll get used to the buttons after about an hour or so of play, so it’s certainly easy enough to get building on your Nintendo Switch with minimal fuss.
There’s just this slight awkwardness to the controls that makes for quite a few moments of imprecision, especially when placing down objects across the park or fine-tuning their details. Sometimes the cursor could be a bit too sensitive when selecting options, whilst other times it wasn’t sensitive enough – I had quite a few moments where I found myself missing the accessibility of a keyboard and mouse where you are able do just about everything with ease and fluidity.
As I said though, you do get used to the controls quick, with even those moments of imprecision easy to adjust to the more you play the game. RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition’s controls are certainly not perfect, but they definitely work on the Nintendo Switch and they offer an enjoyable way to play. Just expect to have to put in a bit of practice before you master them…
Between the level of customisation, the different gameplay scenarios you can play through, and the (mostly) competent controls, there really is a lot to love about RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition – even if it does look its age in the visuals department, which I don’t think have been improved upon too much in the long time since its original release. I got completely addicted to the park building, whilst seeing my finances soar with each success just felt SO satisfying. Believe me, it’s easy to get hooked in, with a whole ton of content on offer to keep you building parks for potentially hundreds of hours.
There’s a brilliant tutorial that runs you through each and every aspect of the experience too, so it’s easy to learn how everything works. It can be a little intimidating seeing all of the customisable aspects of the game at first, but everything is explained in clear and concise depth. Know it all from experience? They’re easy to turn off too, so you won’t have basic actions that you learnt sixteen-years ago thrown in your face once more.
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition is a whole lot of fun to play on the Nintendo Switch – even if the controls can feel a little fiddly to begin with. There’s a ton of depth to the park-building aspects of the game thanks to the sheer number of attractions available, whilst fine-tuning the business side remains mighty satisfying too. Every decision you make will have a positive or negative effect on the park, with the buzz of each success you have making the experience all the more addictive. Or you could go bankrupt and start over fresh… who knows?
Either way, there’s no denying the fun offered by RollerCoaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition, even IF it is sixteen-years old now. I certainly won’t deny that it’s probably better played with a keyboard and mouse, but those excited to play it on console or on the go will definitely enjoy their time with the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC