Unlike its console counterparts, Thrillville: Off the Rails for the Nintendo DS isn't really a theme park management simulation. Instead, it's more of a role-playing game with park design aspects, minigames, and some story all mixed together. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, the lack of in-depth features may limit how much time you actually invest in the game, especially when you discover that no skill is required to keep a park running.
The DS version retains the basic structure of its console cousins. You play the part of a theme park chain operator and go around managing six different parks. Each park starts out bare, with only a couple of basic attractions. Your task is to make each park successful by placing food stalls and attractions on the building plots within the park, taking care to talk to guests, as well as use their desires to guide your building efforts. Every park has a number of goals to fulfill that unlock additional rides and upgrades. There's also an underlying story that constantly has you talking to evil clowns and competing against them in minigames.
Once you place a ride, you can climb aboard and go for a spin.
Park layout, coaster design, and money management are major aspects in the console versions of the Thrillville series. Here, the parks are prefabricated and contain a limited number of building plots. There's a diverse assortment of rides, stalls, and coasters to pick from; however, you have very little control over what your coasters look like, apart from the ability to place different loops in certain hot spots. Money management has been eliminated almost entirely. It costs money to build rides and hire staff, but your earning rate never goes down. If you don't have enough cash to build the coaster of your dreams, just wait and your money count will be ample enough in a minute or two.
Laying out a park is a straightforward process. Using the touch screen, you just tap the plot you want to build on, select the build option, and select the ride you want to place there. Once the ride is built, you can tap it again to bring up a menu that allows you to upgrade it or make repairs.