Rollercoaster Rush puts you in the shoes of a roller coaster brakeman trying to balance your need for speed with a mandate to keep your passengers from careening off the track. The game is a fun way to the pass the time on the iPhone or iPod touch, but its sequel, 3D Rollercoaster Rush, takes the fun to another dimension.
The roller coaster games, both developed by Digital Chocolate, don’t give you any input in the design of the tracks. Here, your only concern is velocity—making sure you’re going fast enough to thrill your passengers, but not so fast that you hurl them into the stratosphere. Once you successfully complete one rollercoaster, you move on to the next—there are 70 tracks to get through in the original Rollercoaster Rush and 40 in the 3D version. (Both the regular and 3D editions of Rollercoaster Rush also have their own free versions, which limit you to the first 10 tracks from each game.)
As you coast your way from one track to another, the game starts becoming increasingly difficult. Stepping on the gas and never applying the break may work for the first few levels. But soon, you’ll find you have to be more cautious about how fast you go and which jumps you power through.
Still, riding the brake is no alternative: you score points for spectacular stunts and excited riders. Reach a hyper-speed level, for example, or make a particularly impressive long jump, and the crowd shouts its approval, gaining you more stars. (You can win three stars on a single ride in 3D Rollercoaster Rush and five stars in the original version.)
3D Rollercoaster Rush offers a bonus. You can race the best time of the game’s creator for every track that you successfully finish; beating it gets you a bonus star. If you’ve already earned three stars on the track to begin with, though, the race mode is usually pretty tame. There’s also a single bonus track in each version of the game that is apparently the best time of the CEO of the company; it isn’t very difficult to beat, either.
Both Rollercoaster Rush games are based on a really simple concept. As a result, the learning curve is pretty much non-existent; once you launch either game, you can jump right in, without having to worry about studying the instructions. You’ll be at ease by the time you finish the first track.
So what separates 3D Rollercoaster Rush from the original? Graphics and gameplay. 3D Rollercoaster Rush handily beats its two-dimensional sibling when it comes to the look of the game: Neatly-rendered scenes convey a sense of speed and exhilaration. Even the in-game audio and sound effects are measurably better in the 3D version.
All that aside, 3D Rollercoaster Rush really steals the show when it comes to gameplay. Whether it’s the arc-shaped controller on the bottom left corner of the screen or the accelerometer-based navigation, 3D Rollercoaster Rush just feels that you’re in control of the carts far more than in Rollercoaster Rush (which, I should add, has fairly good controls in its own right).
The game’s three-dimensional design allows the developer to create tunnels and loop-the-loops that make you feel like you’re in charge of an actual roller coaster—so much so, in fact, that I now sorely miss the fact that there isn’t a first-person replay mode where you get to be one of the riders of the roller coaster and experience it from that perspective.
One other significant gameplay advantage the $5 3D Rollercoaster Rush enjoys over the $3 original is that you can actually see what the track just ahead of you is like, giving you a little time to slow down or speed up accordingly. Rollercoaster Rush requires you to adopt more of a trial-and-error approach, where you play a track once, memorize which parts would have required you to slow down the carts, and then have another go.
Should you buy Rollercoaster Rush? Absolutely. Though, in my opinion, 3D Rollercoaster Rush is worth the extra couple of bucks, as its gameplay, graphics, performance, price, and entertainment value are simply unparalleled.
Rollercoaster Rush is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.2 software update. 3D Rollercoaster Rush runs on iPhone 2.1 and later.
[Aayush Arya blogs about the Mac at MacUser.]