A Terrible Theme Park

When it comes to theme park games, I think of the awesome RollerCoaster Tycoon series (mainly #2), and to a lesser extent, Bullfrog’s Theme Park, though I didn’t get around to trying that one.  While poking around on the iPad, I noticed that there was another Theme Park game.. EA’s Theme Park for iPad and iPhone.  I think Tim warned me it wouldn’t end well..

EA Theme Park

Theme Park for iPad is another freemium game, but I thought I’d be able to have a bit of fun with it even so.  It’s bright and colourful, and a game based on a theme park is sure to be fun, no?  Actually.. no.

The tutorial itself is overly hand-holding and intrusive, with pop-ups giving you hollow, joyless goals to complete, followed by more pop-ups congratulating you for following instructions, and pop-ups “inviting” you to buy Super Tickets, the in-game currency that costs real money.

You start with a plot of land, with paths already in place.  Rides and shops can only be placed in specific locations, and what’s more, small rides can only go in small plots, medium rides in medium plots, and rollercoasters in large plots.

Most of the rides are locked at the start of the game, and of those that aren’t, many cost Super Tickets.  You can earn Super Tickets in-game, though these are few and far between, or you can get a few more by linking your Facebook account, or visiting affiliate websites (urgh!).  You can’t earn enough from the game to do anything meaningful, though.

So the first ride I built was the Bouncy Castle.. the only ride I could actually choose at this point!

Bouncy Castle

There were two other rides available, but both required Super Tickets.  The real money aspect of the game is difficult to ignore if it limits your choices down to one.  So how bad are they?

In the case of the first ride choice, the Pirate Boat would have cost 65 Super Tickets.  A bundle of 70 Super Tickets costs $2.99.  The Pirate Boat therefore costs $2.99 to build (prices taken today from the Top In-App Purchases list on the iTunes page for the app).  The “EA Way 500”, a little race track, cost 150 Super Tickets.  A bundle of 300 Super Tickets costs $9.99.. so the “EA Way 500” race track costs $5.  Should we really be calling these things micro-transactions?!

As for interacting with your guests in the park.. you can tap the rides to make them go faster, to make the riders have more fun.  This means tapping fast enough to keep a meter filled half-way for a set duration.. and I’ll note that it felt horrible doing this on the iPad.  You can also tap the puddles of vomit they leave in their wake, to earn money and keep your park tidy.  Yes, really.  Vomit tapping.

I “played” this game for 20 minutes, and almost all of that time was spent tapping pop-ups.. and none of it having fun.

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