Rollerdrome is a high-octane experience distilled into perfected if slightly limited fundamentals. For those unaware, the best summary I could give of Rollerdrome would be ‘What if Tony Hawk and Max Payne had a baby?’
I’m talking about the games, of course. Rollerdrome has you control a participant in the Rollerdrome competition, in 2030. It’s a contest that sees contestants look to score as many points as possible by performing tricks and chaining kills of ‘house enemies’. Win, and it’s off to the next round. Lose and, well, you die.
Controlled in third-person, you hit forward to move and then you’re concentrating on the tricks and kills. In that respect, Rollerdrome feels like a bit of an odd experience – you’re never worrying about forward momentum, you’re only ever moving at a standard pace and then turning as appropriate. Whilst basic, this lets you focus on the real game here.
Shooting dudes gets you points and recovers health. Doing tricks awards you with ammo to replenish your guns. Tricks are either grabs (Square, and a direction), flips (hit R1) or grinds (Triangle). Unlike Tony Hawk, you don’t need to worry about balance, or even landing – just keep holding the trick or flip until you hit the floor, and then you just carry on. Whilst simplified like the forward motion, it lets you concentrate on the shooting, and chaining together moves to boost your score.
Shooting has a lock on which makes life easier, but a bullet-time by holding the left trigger. Here’s where the game shines. Very quickly, you’ll be jumping, flipping and shooting folks all at the same time, before going into another flip to replenish ammo, into a grind backwards whilst you shoot rockets out of the sky that are coming towards you. It’s immensely cool and very easy to execute some impressive moves.
There are a number of mechanics which add to the challenge and help increase scores too. Snipers and laser beam enemies will attack you from away, with a red line targeted at you. Dodging gives you a break and they’ll miss. Dodge at the right moment (as the line turns white) and you get a Perfect Dodge. This allows you to get a higher scoring bullet time – you get the drift. Rockets, mines, shield bashing riot enemies – all have the same mechanics with the attacks and dodges.
What this means, is that very quickly, you learn the simplicity and the complexity of the game. And another way of perceiving Rollerdrome becomes evident, as it morphs into almost a rhythm-action score-attack game. As you’re moving, you’ll jump, flip, grab, reload, bullet-time, shoot, grind, dodge, flip, dodge, shoot, reload, dodge… it’s a fantastic experience.
While doing all this, a pumping soundtrack adds to the immersion, and Roll7’s creation shines. The visuals are cell-shaded, bright and crisp with clean lines in either barren environments like a desert valley or slightly more interesting ones like a rooftop office at the top of a ski lift.
Surprisingly, the plot shines too. Between shooting sections, you’re in the shoes of your character backstage, in first-person mode, waiting to enter the contest. You can do some minor interactions, but the horrid fragility of contestants’ lives exploited for ratings begins to shine through, and you realise the backstage politics of the ‘Running Man’ gameshow you’re in.
A fantastic package then, which slightly stutters a bit after 3 to 4 levels when you’ve seen all of the enemies in the game, and you’re really just fighting variations and volumes. Still, the core gameplay loop is fantastic, and as ‘short burst’ games go, it’s up there. See you on the leaderboards…
Reviewed on PS5
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