Rollerdrome is the type of game that completely sneaks up on you out of nowhere and ends up being a surprisingly fun experience. This game combines many exciting elements we’ve seen in recent games. That includes push-forward combat, slick animations, jaw-dropping kills, and much more.
On top of all that, it tries to merge two of my favorite games: Tony Hawk and Max Payne. That sounds like a lot, and it certainly is when you’re trying to rack up high scores inside the “Rollerdrome.”
I’ll explain the game in-depth during this review, but if you’re not already familiar with it, a quick look at the trailer should give you an idea of what we have on our hands with Rollerdrome.
The developers, Roll7, have a very entertaining title on display here, thanks to its slick presentation and addicting gameplay. Let’s look at what Rollerdrome is all about.
Rollerdrome Is A Blood Sport, For Better Or Worse
In Rollerdrome, players take on the role of Kara Hassan. She’s a rookie new to this sport, and it’s your job to help her succeed. Players don’t get to know much about her as a person, as the developers did not feel the need to give her much of a personality. This is a game that focuses on gameplay, after all.
So, what is the core loop here? Well, you’re thrust into an arena called the Rollerdrome with a pair of, you guessed it, roller skates. You also get dual pistols to start with since you’ll be defending yourself from the house players that are out to annihilate you.
Yes, this is a very gruesome blood sport.
The premise is simple at first glance, but the core gameplay loop gets astonishingly addicting very fast. Once you get the hang of the controls, you’ll be grinding rails, doing flips from half pipes, and all sorts of other tricks. All the while shooting any house players in the path.
The objective of Rollerdrome is to survive, but this is also an event watched by hundreds of thousands of people. So, the goal quickly becomes surviving in style.
A tutorial will explain the mechanics and controls before you are eligible for the competition. Apart from the controls, these are the fundamentals.
- Your guns have limited ammo, and you can only reload by doing tricks
- Dodging at the perfect time slows down everything around you, like bullet time in Max Payne
- Immediately aiming after dodging will kick in Super Reflex, allowing you to do more damage and kill enemies quicker.
- Last but not least, you can do rail grinds, wall grinds, backflips, and shoot simultaneously to rack up combos.
I know what you’re thinking; that is quite a lot. Well, that could not be true. The icing on the cake is that the game gets fast-paced, and as the difficulty racks up, so does your skill level. It’s quite a challenge, but one that is fair and satisfying. Rollerdrome completely nails its core gameplay loop.
Slick Skating Meets Stylish Shooting
Now, let’s dive deeper into what makes the gameplay loop utterly captivating. Well, I’ve already told you about the game’s basic mechanics and how it works. However, you need to be in the thick of it to realize what the gameplay has to offer here truly.
First, the movement is similar to a game like Tony Hawk but a bit different. You steer with the left analog stick, and since you’re on rollerblades, the feel is slightly different from a skateboard.
It’s a bit hard to put into words, but essentially you’re steering the character herself, not necessarily the skates. Once you get used to that, it’s smooth sailing from there, for the most part.
You can dodge incoming enemy fire with the circle or B button, and doing so just at the right time triggers a perfect dodge. This slows down time similarly to Max Payne and allows you to shoot more accurately.
Once you pick up speed and start getting the hang of the perfect dodge, the gameplay clicks, there’s more than that, though. If you immediately press LT or L2 after a perfect dodge, that will put you into “Super Reflex.” The time slowdown is more effective here since your shots do more damage.
Last but certainly not least, another main mechanic involves tricks. Reloading while skating would be a big ask from the player, so Rollerdrome tackles this ingeniously. You can reload by doing tricks.
If your magazine is empty, you can reload a 180 backflip, a sick coffin trick, or even a 900, Tony Hawk style. This means you must pick your shots wisely and attack at the right time.
All of this comes together quite well, making the core gameplay loop so addicting. However, I have a few critiques of the gameplay, which I’ll address later.
The Enemies Vs. Your Arsenal
As I mentioned earlier, Rollerdrome is a blood sport. You thrust into the arena like a gladiator, so you either skate and shoot or die trying. The question then becomes, who or what are you fighting exactly?
Matterhorn is the organization between this sport, more on that later. They decided that you would be fighting “house players,” people also thrust into the arena to mow you down and prevent you from winning.
House players include grunts which are an easy way to get health points. They stay stationary for the most part and attack when you get close, Grunts are pretty easy to dodge. The Rollerdrome is littered with snipers too, and they have laser sights that turn white just before they are about to shoot.
This allows you to trigger perfect dodges easily, but Snipers can be deadly if you ignore them. There are also rocket launching maniacs, and these guys have a shield that triggers if you don’t kill them quickly.
The most annoying of all is the Polybeam enemies. These deadly foes can fire a ray of blue fire at you from incredibly long distances and follow you along the map. The worst part is that they’ll teleport to a different part of the map if you don’t kill them quickly.
There are other enemies, such as a grenade launching mech and a stomper that can drop on you from above. Last but not least, there are guards with riot shields, and they can launch landmines.
All of that is extremely deadly, so how do you take them on?
Well, here’s where it gets interesting. Rollerdrome quickly turns into something like Doom Eternal. You have to pick the right weapons for the right enemies. For example, the dual pistols are great for snipers and grunts, but a grenade shot at a riot guard will break his shield.
Similarly, taking down those pesky Polybeam enemies is easier if you fire a grenade shot, trigger a perfect dodge, then shoot at them with the pistols or before they disappear. The pistols are also a good choice for the rocket launching enemies, but you’ll have to empty your magazine if you don’t want their shield to trigger.
A Fight With Its Mechanics
All of the above sounds incredibly fun, and it truly is once you get into the flow. You’ll quickly kill a grunt with the pistols for a quick health boost, go on a ramp and do a flip to reload, and maybe even shoot a sniper on the way down.
Afterward, you pick your next target. If it’s a riot guard, you fire a grenade shot to break his shield, or maybe quickly empty your magazine into the burly rocket launching enemies. It kind of becomes like a chess game, where every move counts, and you need to pick the right piece (or weapon, in our case).
It’s just like bullet chess.
This strategy shines when you combine it with forwarding momentum. I mean that you have to progress by rapidly mowing down enemies just like the recent Doom games. Both of these gameplay mechanics are something that I’ve come to appreciate in the past few years.
I’m aware that most people won’t immediately draw a comparison to Doom, but it describes Rollerdrome quite well. Another obvious comparison for Rollerdrome is with Tony Hawk. In Tony Hawk, you’re doing tricks to land awesome combos, rack up the score, and scratch challenges off the list.
In Rollerdrome, you’re doing this to survive. This is where it becomes interesting. Unfortunately, during the game’s later stages, this is also where it feels a bit frustrating.
The problem is that doing tricks, dodging enemy fire, and shooting is all hard on their own. All of that once is complete sensory overload.
Doing tricks is the most frustrating of all. You see, the D-pad is reserved for switching weapons rather than for doing tricks like in Tony Hawk.
This is where the trouble begins. You need to sort of flick the analog stick to do tricks. This is not intuitive, and it’s pretty hard when you are trying to dodge simultaneously. This wouldn’t matter much to most people if this game did not include a scoring system at the end of each stage.
You are ranked by that score and given a grade based on the many challenges you complete, unique tricks, and the time it took to complete the level. The challenges include doing certain tricks near a “trick token.”
If you care about landing cool tricks, you’ll often find yourself returning to level a few times. This is where the controls start to get annoying.
Rollerdrome’s Presentation And Story
It turns out that not only is Rollerdrome an entertaining game to sit down and play and has a striking appearance. Rollerdrome’s presentation is quite interesting in terms of the story, the setting, and the aesthetics. Let’s talk about the art style first.
This game has a captivating look to it. It’s high contrast, very saturated, and the colors pop pretty well. Some of the backgrounds are a bit muted, and that works very well with the high-contrast look of Kara Hassan and even the house players. This deserves more praise than I’m giving here since I don’t think this game would have worked so well if it weren’t for this style.
Of course, the team at Roll7 is no stranger to striking visuals, as is evident with titles such as Olli Olli World. Quick note, this art style is inspired by the works of Jean Giraud, a famous French artist named Moebius.
Now, onto the story. You uncover most of the narrative in between stages. You’ll flick through magazines and newspapers, listen to phone conversations, and uncover secrets during your commute to the next stage.
As you can imagine, this game takes place in a Dystopian world, where a corrupt organization is trying to hide the chaos from the world by making everyone focus on this bloodthirsty sport. We know people love adrenaline-pumping action, so this works well for Matterhorn, the organization behind Rollerdrome.
That’s about it for the story, there’s no beginning or end. Instead, I’d call it more of a setting than a story. You’ll discover atrocities that are going on in the outside world, and it’s apparent that Matterhorn is entirely corrupt. Apart from that, there’s not much to it.
I understand that adding a unique narrative would be too much for a game with a lot going on. Still, the setting feels a bit underutilized. I don’t mind the lack of cutscenes, however.
A Soundtrack Befitting Of The Rollerdrome
I’ve gotten used to games that are set in the feature to have this synth-heavy, electric, and ultramodern sound to them. While I fully knew what to expect with the soundtrack going in, I still came out enjoying it a lot. Some games overdo it with the bass or synth-heavy tracks in many futuristic/dystopian titles.
Rollerdrome’s soundtrack fits the game perfectly. Straight from the get-go, you are thrown into this track that sounds futuristic, yes, but also cinematic and grand. It fits the overall theme and setting of the game well.
Of course, some of these beats are like rapid, thumping vibrations in your ears. I knew going in that most of the tracks were going to be like this since they wanted to emphasize the speed and urgency of the game.
Even if it’s predictable, the soundtrack works, especially when it sounds grand at moments. When it hits, it hits hard.
Is Rollerdrome Worth A Buy?
The short answer is yes. This is undoubtedly a game that everyone can appreciate, even if it is not your thing. Often, I like talking and showing new games to my friends that would otherwise slip under the radar.
This is one of those games. I can imagine showing this to a friend, talking all day about it with them, and just sitting back to enjoy watching them play.
A game that is fun to watch someone else play is certainly one that you cannot help but enjoy in your leisure time. This is one that I will be coming back to when we eventually hit a draught of big game releases. I highly recommend you give it a shot.
- Very entrancing presentation
- Addicting core gameplay
- An exhilarating soundtrack
- Combines ideas from several great games
- Satisfying mechanics
- Underutilized narrative
- Controls take some getting used to