Rollercoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile is one of the worst games I have ever played on any platform ever.
Yet it was not ever thus. Previous entries in the franchise on PC were critically acclaimed and well-loved by legions of players. Now one of those games, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, has made the leap to mobile. And there's not a microtransaction in sight.
In spite of the name, the game is about running a theme park as a whole. You'll have the chance to build coasters, of course, but they're just the biggest cog in a well-oiled machine. If you want to make a profit you'll need other rides, family attractions, shops, and lovely landscaping. Plus toilets. Lots of toilets.
Coining it in by making sure your park is making more than it costs to run is just one of the goals you're challenged to fulfil in the career mode. Others include building rides to specific length and excitement values, or achieving high guest ratings.
Passing most of the career scenarios at the minimum Apprentice level isn't generally too tough. You can let your artistry or sense of silliness run away with you.
Rather than focusing on rides and profits you can sculpt replicas of ancient earthworks in the grounds. Or try and build the most nauseating ride you can until your guests are vomiting merrily off hundred-meter towers.
This level of freedom and creativity is a big part of the Rollercoaster Tycoon appeal. There's even a sandbox mode, in which there's no limit to your budget at all. You can just scribble in sand and steel to your heart's content.
When you try to do so, however, you might find that this port isn't quite as smooth as you were hoping. The change from mouse to touchscreen has resulted in some clumsy interfaces.
It can take a lot of trial and error to do something as simple as selecting the right item on the screen. Path building is particularly onerous, which is unfortunate, since the same system is also used to build custom coaster tracks. You'll be thankful for the pre-designed tracks and the auto-complete function.
If you're more interested in challenge and strategy than imagination, don't worry. Aiming at the higher Entrepreneur and Tycoon ratings in career mode should still give you plenty to think about.
To tick off these levels you need to think much more carefully about how your park is going to work. When you delve in, there are plenty of satisfying options to tweak and experiment with.
It's not just about laying out your park well, with a variety of attractions and stalls. You can hire and train staff. Research and test new rides. Raise and lower admission charges to strike the perfect balance of profitability.
Learning what you need is a little more awkward than it needs to be, thanks again to some short-sighted porting. Rather than an interactive tutorial, getting to grips with the game involves watching YouTube videos.
However you choose to play, you'll love the various camera options in the game. Tilting, zooming, and panning round your own creations is fun enough. But the real pleasure is in getting to take virtual rides on the tracks you've built with a first-person view.
Putting together your own ride then experiencing it for yourself is a special experience. And one unique to Rollercoaster Tycoon.
And that's the magic. Although this port has some flaws, and the game is too open ended to suit all players, there's nothing else quite like Rollercoaster Tycoon. That combination of a little strategy, a little creativity, and a whole lot of amusement park joy is strangely compelling.
It's not perfect, but it goes a long way to restoring the glowing reputation of the franchise. So if you're at all interested, now's a great time to find out what all the fuss was about. And reward the developer for taking the premium route.