Madcoaster for iPhone and iPad
The thrill of riding a roller coaster comes from when the feeling of danger you get from every gravity-defying loop-to-loop. In Chillingo’s lovably-addictive platformer, Madcoaster, that danger is very real… if PG rated.
You’re tasked with controlling a small roller coaster as it careens over hazardous tracks and through several themed worlds. With a tap of your finger, you send your roller coaster jumping into the air to hit targets, collect items, and avoid numerous drops. Like many platformers, Madcoaster docks you a life if your coaster falls off the track toward the doom waiting below.
Madcoaster utilizes the “endless loop” platform paradigm popularized by Adult Swim’s Robot Unicorn Attack, but eases up on the difficulty level. While you’re initially given three lives to collect coins and beat your high score, the pace is more approachable, the obstacles more forgiving, and the many items keeping you entertained and (mostly) unscathed.
Players score points by not only keeping their coaster alive and on the tracks, but also by collecting coins, hitting animals, and executing jumps perfectly. Despite the moral implications of running over many endangered species with your amusement park ride full of laughing children, the game is surprisingly bloodless and kid-friendly. Just don’t try this at home.
Chillingo builds a strong achievement system around a very thin gameplay concept: As you progress, you’ll gain levels and complete objectives (which you can view by pausing). You’ll unlock aesthetic changes like different riders on your coaster but also upgrades like jet packs and coin-magnets. These upgrades—both superficial and substantial—create a higher degree of replayability than you’d expect, turning a couple of minutes worth of distraction into a couple of hours worth of timesuck.
The further you go, the more places your coaster will travel, with each world offering a different theme and set of animals that you can run over for points. In the jungle area, you’ll hit gorillas, while in the ice level you’ll try to run down penguins. As the animals change in the different worlds, one drawback of the game is that the different tracks all feel very similar. There is a dearth of loops or particularly steep declines, making the game play like a never-ending, rather mundane track with different cosmetic differences. Safety aside, this is not an interesting enough roller coaster to ever ride in real life.
Notwithstanding the somewhat repetitive track design, the objectives are varied enough to keep players coming back for more. Your tactics will change dramatically if you need to reach a certain distance versus trying to hit several of the same animals. And as you progress, you’ll get more confident in deploying the various bonuses in the game like magnets and jet packs. Competing against your friends via social media also ensures that certain players will come back for more, even throwing down real money to purchase some of the in-app bonuses.
Chillingo has a strong reputation for creating streamlined, fun, and clever mobile apps that succeed where bigger budgets and deeper concepts do not. Madcoaster continues that tradition, offering simple joys in short play sessions.
[Former associate editor Chris Holt remains a frequent contributor to Macworld.]