Theme Park – The classic Theme Park experience in the palm of your hand* (* now with extra compromise and expense)
Theme Park is no-longer available for mobiles.
Generational Variation on a Theme (Park)
Many younger browsers of this site are unlikely to remember the good old days of MS-DOS gaming but for many this was the golden era of gaming that, in spite of hardware limitations at the time, produced some seriously entertaining games with a focus on quality gameplay and original concepts. One game that qualifies for this nostalgic greatness is the original Theme Park. These days there is more power in the palm of your hand than in the top-end PCS of the 90s however, so what if I told you old fogies (myself included) that you could have the Theme Park experience in the palm of your hand? Before you get too ecstatic about the prospect, bear in mind that this review is here to highlight a number of compromises that have been made for the mobile version of the game.
Familiar on the Outside (Looks Can Be Deceiving)
To the untrained eye, this mobile version of the game looks a lot like the original Theme Park, save for an updated interface and visuals that speak volumes about how far graphics processing technology has some since 1994. The concept is still the same: you’re given a plot of land on which you must build a Theme Park and manage it to financial and critical success. Even at this stage of explanation however, I’m forced to highlight the aforementioned compromises that already make themselves known in the game.
Sadly, you’re not able to just build anywhere you want like you’re free to do in the original Theme Park, and must instead build certain types of structures in designated areas. Small rides go in small spaces, large rides in large ones, and medium.. well you get the idea. For example, small concessions stands go in small spaces whilst the larger spaces are reserved for full-on rollercoasters. There are also bouncy castles, Pirate Ships, Ferris Wheels, and other such Theme Park classics to make your park more interesting. But the restriction on placing your items isn’t really a terrible compromise by any means – if anything it makes it easier for mobile users to quickly get down to building. You’re also able to upgrade your rides when you’re earning enough dollar to do so.
Release Date: 01/11/1994
Available on: iOS, Android, iOS, Mobile
There’s Always a But
But – and perhaps one of the biggest buts in my history of using the word – thetruly damaging compromise in quality and general enjoyment here comes from the insane in-app purchase prices that have been set, presumably by EA themselves. Tickets are the premium currency that you will have to spend in order to buy rides and rollercoasters in this game, and the sheer quantity of tickets you’ll have to spend to get a decent theme park up and running becomes immediately apparent once you’re out of the deceptive tutorial, which makes you feel like you’ll be able to continue to play for free without investing a massive amount of time.
As if the pricing on the freemium content wasn’t enough of a fun-dampener, the levelling system also means you have to be at a certain level to purchase and use a majority of the rides and attractions. What you effectively need to do is tap on your existing rides (of which you won’t have many if you’re not spending real-life money to get them) in order to gain experience points, which in turn lead to levelling up. The problem is that this process simply takes too long for the game to be enjoyable.
Just put things into perspective (and to show I’m not just whining about the freemium model in general), purchasing a Skull Train rollercoaster will set you back.. how much do you think? $10? $20? This is already too much anyway, but when I tell you it’s $60 to purchase the tickets necessary to be able to afford this rollercoaster, you get an idea of how ridiculous the pricing is here.
The Sour Taste of Freemium Gone Awry
Somehow, the fact that the game has a social aspect that allows you to pay visits to your friends’ theme parks doesn’t make up for the high prices and long waiting times. Even the colourful and playful graphics can’t make up for the sour, borderline acrid tang left in the figurative mouth by the ridiculous pricing system.
This is game whose original PC version was iconic for many, and it’s a shame it had to make such a bumbling entrance to the mobile platform. The final straw for me was discovering the existence of zero entrance-fee theme parks like Knoebels, and the fact that to have the complete Theme Park Mobile experience you would have to pay more than you would fork out for an actual theme park experience in real life. This is pure insanity.
Theme Park is developed by Electronic Arts.