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game reviews

GAME REVIEW

Zynga—Facebook’s highest grossing gaming application developer—recently released Coasterville, the new millennium’s Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Players start with one green plot to begin an endless field of possibility in this amusement park-management simulation game. They can expand on, construct, customize, and control the park according to their imaginings.

The game’s thematically designed, realistic, and charming characters introduce players to the storyline and goals, providing clear tips, direction, and indicators of progress or achievement. From the beginning players are overwhelmed and excited by visual and aural stimuli: stars, rocket ships, fireworks, confetti, and coins that pop up every time the player levels up—where they then find new characters, quests, rides, attractions, and facilities available for play-hard earning.

The experience is entirely customizable. The player can design the amusement park theme of their choice, and the game then provides specifically designated goals which help the player achieve that chosen theme. Players also have the option of not choosing a specific theme at all for their park; that is the beauty of simulation games like Coasterville: the player has the ability to project their personal preferences onto a pre-designed grid to create their own perfect world. They can choose the roads, the decorations, the rides, and the orderliness or disorderliness.

Each ride, shop, attraction, or facility goes through various levels of upgrades via various goal completions. Like a real life brick and mortar establishment everything in the business starts small and gets bigger and bigger.

The rides, shops, attractions, and facilities are not the only upgradeable thing, of course. Not only are these rides, shops, attractions, and facilities upgradeable, but by unlocking expansions for the park grounds themselves, additional options are unlocked to the player. Essentially, the bigger the land, the more amenities the player’s park can hold. As the amount of park amenities increase, so do the activities and choices available for gameplay.

Once there is enough land available (or unlocked) a player can even take the items earned during theme-oriented goals and create distinct sections of the park so each area has a different theme. The player can have a medieval theme with items catered to that design, or they can have an old western theme—each decoration crafted to match the chosen mood. If you’ve ever been to a Busch Gardens, you get the idea. If the player chooses the medieval theme for example, there are rides, shops, attractions, and facilities available for construction and earning that correspond with the player’s chosen theme. Coasterville’s gameplay is entirely accommodating in that regard.

All of the rides are upgradeable, but most come with a default design; the roller coasters are the most customizable attraction. They can be expanded on and painted with the player’s color choice, and each section of the coaster can be constructed whatever way a player likes. Coaster options in the game offer the player different loops, twists, drops, and tunnels available for a personalized coaster design. Again, the bigger the park grounds, the bigger the coaster’s expansion and customization.

Social networking is also a major part of game progression on Coasterville, as players need the items only their friends can send to complete certain given tasks—those tasks which also permit further fun. For players, helping a friend complete a goal or finish items, especially when they are both working toward the same goal, also encourages the sense of a shared experience that goes beyond typical online activity.

Gaming on social network applications—like Coasterville on Facebook—is so much greater than solo PC gaming—like Roller Coaster Tycoon on Windows or Xbox—because on Coasterville and games like it, the game itself expands the more friends a player accumulates.

Although players don’t have to interact directly in social network simulation games, they progress by sharing with their friends and their friends progress by reciprocating. Friends can send coins to purchase park expansions, park decorations, and other items needed to build certain rides or attractions.

One thing that distinguishes Coasterville from other Zynga applications on Facebook is a player’s option to join the “Coasterville Community” which allows gameplay with others without having to add them directly as a Facebook friend. Not only is this good for privacy, but it contributes greatly to being able to progress faster in this game than in games without the community play option.

Because players have the ability to build and then almost endlessly upgrade rides, shops, attractions, and facilities; to create perfectly themed worlds through consistently designed game options; to build and rebuild, disorganize and reorganize; to expand not only on these features, but also on the virtual space available for these features, Coasterville isn’t a game that ends as soon as it begins. Gameplay is endless, and provides an endlessly satisfying and continually active virtual reality.

The player’s amusement park world works on its own thanks to Zynga’s crafty designers. Everything that the player sets up works individually with continual motion and activity. If the player designed a circus-themed park, for example, the jester-jugglers walk around the park without having to be clicked on or prompted in any way. Players must activate their rides if they are gone for an extended period of time, but once activated, the rides move: the Ferris wheel turns, the coaster slides, the bumper cars bump. Park visitors walk around, wait in lines, and can be seen riding, eating, smiling, etc… The player can even make their park visitors throw up by boosting a coaster to the extreme!

Because a player needs virtual energy to construct, customize, expand, and complete quests, the only thing that may frustrate players is running out of energy or coins needed for task completion. These things, however, are what keep the player coming back for more.

The game’s design is easy to work with, and its theme—combining the fun of amusement parks with the fun of video games—stands alone. Being able to customize and manage an amusement park to one’s own personal liking, with every necessary resource sharply, clearly, colorfully, and engagingly available at their fingertips, Coasterville becomes a game everyone can enjoy.

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