Zynga has quite the reputation of releasing games on Facebook and mobile that are arguably derivative of similar games on those platforms. There's no denying that, but one area that Zynga has stayed away from is the PC. That is, until now: CoasterVille, developed by Zynga Los Angeles, recently released on Facebook as Zynga's (perhaps unintentional) answer to RollerCoaster Tycoon.
And while it's important to critique a game solely on what it is, it would be remiss not mention its intense similarities with the commercial (and critical) late '90s powerhouse that was RollerCoaster Tycoon. Players can build roller coasters in almost any style and direction (albeit with several restrictions), visitors vomit after riding boosted attractions and the symbiotic relationship between park layout and visitors are all present.
While the more lively, cause-and-effect game design of CoasterVille is undoubtedly a step forward for big time social games, that it's so similar to a nearly 15-year-old game is more than off putting. Maybe these similarities would be less pronounced if CoasterVille's sameness with social games of 2010 and 2011 were less pronounced, too.
For instance, nearly every method of advancing your park will eventually be blocked off by an artificial limitation. This mostly comes in the form of an arbitrary item--in the case of roller coaster expansions, usually operators' uniforms--that you'll either have to ask your friends for or buy outright with paid currency. While these forced obstacles are found even in FarmVille 2 and other recent Zynga games, they're used far more sparingly. But frankly, this tactic has never been enjoyable and likely never will be, and therefore it needs to stop.
That said, there are moments of pure delight between those in which CoasterVille limits your progress artificially at nearly every turn. For starters, as far as 2D isometric social games go, this is by far one of the most visually impressive to date. CoasterVille is filled with fireworks and fanfare for every bit of progress you make, which makes having to ask your friends for yet another random item sting just a tiny bit less.
CoasterVille also provides several ways for players to "game the system," so to speak. Namely, when visitors lose their lunch after riding a heavily boosted (a feature in which players can make rides faster for more Thrill Points) attraction, they almost instantly become hungry again, rushing to the nearest food vendor. Simply place a bunch of vendors near a ride that yields the most Thrill Points after boosting, and effectively double your profits.
Surely, there are even more interesting ways to take advantage of cause-and-effect nature of CoasterVille's play hook. There always has been an innate joy in discovering new ways to manipulate a game's world, and CoasterVille nails that. What else CoasterVille nails is the music. These tunes filled with crescendoes play on loop, and that's a loop you might not feel compelled to shut off an hour in.
Ultimately, CoasterVille is a mixed bag. It's tough to recommend this property management simulator due to how derivative it feels, while inversely it's difficult not to simply because few have done it yet on Facebook. Like any decent roller coaster, CoasterVille will throw you for a loop, for better or worse.
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