The Roller Coaster Tycoon series is classic for a reason; the compelling strategy gameplay, fun experience of designing a theme park, and thrilling sensation of riding on a roller coaster all combined into a package that was hard to put down.
This new 3DS version, technically, has all of that stuff. You can do many of the same things you've always been able to, only now it not only fits in your pocket, but it also has a 3D display to enhance the experience of riding a coaster.
And yet... somehow, it doesn't work much at all. A combination of faults and sloppy presentation leave you wondering if there was ever any magic in the formula, which is about the worst result imaginable for a retro remake.
If you're unaware of the series, don't be too hard on yourself - the last was released way back in 2004, with two expansions that both dropped within a year or so after that. Basically, your goal is to build and manage a theme park, taking care of the various minutiae that such a task entails.
You not only need to build (and test) the big coasters, but you'll also have to lay out the path that your park visitors will use to get around, hire and fire staff, and ensure there are enough food and drink stands around the place to keep everyone happy.
A number of features from the original games have been removed, including the ability to name your coasters and check in on a random visitor to see what they're thinking, however their omission is only noticeable if you're familiar with the previous titles.
You achieve your tasks via what can only be described as an extremely cumbersome interface; buttons conceal functionality in surprising ways and you'll constantly have to back out of what you're doing to get important messages from the game's advisory system. Given there are two screens on offer, and that the developers - nSpace - are very experienced with Nintendo's handhelds, it's hard to understand why it's all so poorly put together.
Building a coaster in particular is an exercise in frustration. The cludginess in every aspect of the UI leaves you feeling much like you're trying to assemble a jigsaw while wearing boxing gloves. There's just not enough information and the tools that are available have a myriad of issues that ensure each and every one of them is clunky and annoying to use.
Disappointing, too, is the game's story; you play the role of an uppity brat attempting to make his way in the world, which he's determined to do (it seems) by being rude to his elders. All of which is clumsily presented with text that doesn't suit the speech bubbles it's displayed in, and an implementation that clearly meets a "that'll do" level of quality that will be familiar to purveyors of shovelware everywhere.
While there is some thrill to be had from riding on the coasters, that too is disappointing. The 3DS, while short of a powerhouse perhaps, is still a capable device, yet n-Space have failed to execute here as well. It's visually crude and sections of track often don't connect together properly, making for a rather scarier experience than is probably intended.
The strategy of building your park within the parameters or to meet the objectives has some level of entertainment to offer, but it's slight and all too regularly brought crashing to earth by the game's myriad of presentation issues.
It's not good to look at, not fun to play, and a poor homage to a genuine classic. Getting through the game is a chore and would likely put you to sleep, were it not for the frustration generated by nearly every interaction. Roller Coaster Tycoon 3D is disappointing in every key respect, and not recommended - unless you have a morbid curiosity and are interested to see how they managed to mess it up.