Rollerdrome is great and the only time it’s not great is when you’re not playing it. That’s it. That’s the TLDR; of this review. I’d leave it at that but I want to gush about Rollerdrome. The mean reason is I haven’t been able to chat to anyone else about this game until today.
What is Rollerdrome?
Booting up the game and seeing the title screen along with the synth-wave menu music, Rollerdrome just screams late ’70s B-Movie in all the good ways. The cel-shading graphics lend to this aesthetic and the colour palette of each arena makes the said aesthetic pop!
Roll7 has included a list of assists in the settings menu for those who may find the game difficult. These include invulnerability, infinite ammo and challenges that don’t matter in regards to progressing the game. These assists just don’t allow the player to upload their scores to the leaderboard and doesn’t lock them out of any content thankfully.
Each level/arena is very reminiscent of an old Tony Hawk Pro Skater game. Each game has a set number of challenges to complete during your run and once you achieve a challenge it’s completed and marked off your to-do list, no lost progress increases you get eliminated mid-run here.
So what? Is it like Tony Hawk with guns?
If that’s what draws you into playing this, the yup. Let’s just call it that. Rollerdrome is a third-person shooting, roller skating game, in which you will take control of newcomer Kara Hassan. If for some reason the challenges for each level didn’t remind you of THPS, roller skating absolutely will. Grinds and wallrides are mapped to the triangle button and flips are mapped to the square, like riding your roller skates, once you start it all comes back to you quickly.
Rollerdrome doesn’t copy and paste THPS it creates its own unique flair for the genre. Holding R1 and pushing the analogue stick in any direction will cause Kara to flip in that direction while performing a trick in midair.
The circle button is your dodge. Standard stuff but timed dodges can lead to ammo refills and super slo-mo reflex time for Kara to take out tougher enemies.
Tricks are not just in the game for looking fancy, scoring points and showing off (they are for that too though) but they are used to refill your guns when you run out of ammo. The arenas of the Rollerdrome are not littered with pick-ups and powers to plan your route around.
If your guns start clicking, it’s time to go tricking.
Once you push forward on the left analogue, Kara will constantly move forward unless you pull back on the stick, so you just have to focus on steering Kara around the arenas and taking out the ‘House Players’.
Of all the things Kara can do and what the game presents, one of my favourite things in Rollerdrome is something it doesn’t have, Bails.
Kara does not bail. No matter what you do, like a cat, Kara just lands on her feet. The worry of having to land your moves or level yourself out while leaving a half-pipe is done for you. All you need to worry about is keeping the bullets flying and keeping on track for an opportunity to pull off a trick for a reload.
If I have any criticisms it would be the inputs for performing trick moves. The tricks are all done by pushing the left analogue stick in any of four directions (up, down, left, right) and then pressing the square button Diagonal inputs are not implemented here, so if you want to bust out more of the tricksonary, you’ll need to double flick the analogue in the same direction twice or in two separate directions before pressing square.
In the chaos and mayhem of the later levels, I never found myself using these moves because;
- I would get the timing incorrect and end up performing the wrong trick.
- I’m probably just brutal and afraid to admit it.
The mixture of a third-person shooter combined with an extreme sports game sounds like a mess on paper. Thankfully though Roll7 pull it off. The game can get hectic as you reach the final stages. Also, it can look unfair and too hard. I will say that Rollerdrome equips you with the tools and muscle memory to deal with the onslaught. The game doesn’t pull any unavoidable damage moments. This means if you’re fast with your reflexes you can avoid everything. You can even use that momentum to your advantage in the arena.
I cannot state enough just how good it is to hold a combo throughout an entire level.
From the first pull of the trigger to the final, holding a combo through an entire level feels like you’re watching an action movie that is shot entirely in one take, it feels like being in one too!
Grab your skates and get going
Periodicity, you can control Kara backstage before she is to enter the arena and wander the area in first person. Rollerdrome’s story is told to you through environmental storytelling, messages sent to Kara and news broadcasts played on the radio. These moments are few and far between. However, they offer enough each time to keep you intrigued as you progress through the Rollerdrome games.
Words by Lewis Magee.