Rollerdrome is a game that has concepts and mechanics that seemingly don’t pair well together. A skating game with guns and Bullet Time? A Tony Hawk and Max Payne mash-up? The more comparisons you try to make, the more it sounds like a combination of two extreme sides of the spectrum.
Roll7 is crazy (or creative) like that, and here we are with a definite 2022 sleeper hit that is original and equally exhilarating.
The developers have turned OlliOlli World upside down and added 100% more guns to the formula, resulting in a fast-paced flow state title that hits the ground running within minutes of booting up the game and immerses players in a competitive loop that’s tough to put down.
Rollerdrome is utterly fantastic.
Skate or Die
The premise of the game is simple—you are Kara Hassan, a rookie at Rollerdrome, a brutal bloodsport that’s being used to hide megacorporation Matterhorn’s greedy ways. The game is very light on story, and save for a few first-person sequences in between matches that feed you tidbits about the world, you’ll be spending most of your time on the run, blasting everyone in sight.
On the surface, the game is deceptively simple, with Kara needing only to eliminate the Rollerdrome House Players in the arena while racking up a high score to climb up the leaderboards and move to the next level. You have a weapon, you shoot everything that moves, you win.
It won’t take long to realize that there are multiple layers of game systems working perfectly in sync with each other, fueling the adrenaline-pumping action.
Rollerdrome employs smart gameplay design through an intoxicating blend of skating and shooting mechanics that gives the players control of Kara across multiple arenas, pulling off tricks and eliminating the house players in a satisfying loop.
Ammo is limited, but that’s where the tricks come into play. Similar to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, players are encouraged to pull off grabs and grinds to not only rack up points but also to refill their ammo reserves.
Thankfully, tricks aren’t tricky (heh) to pull off at all, and are less complex than dedicated skating games that require an insane amount of dexterity. The developers have even removed the need to land tricks properly, ensuring that players don’t need to worry about tripping over themselves, allowing them to place their full focus on the core gameplay loop thanks to flawless controls.
Another layer that works well is how health pickups can only be obtained by killing the house players, a mechanic that keeps the action flowing if you want to keep your combo meter up. A combination of all of these results in a highly competitive leaderboard that feeds the urge to run the level over and over again.
The ensuing result, as you can imagine, is an addictive rain of tricks and death that feels equal parts satisfying and fulfilling, and in some sense, a form of resource management that the player gets better at with practice.
A Virtual Playground
And practice is exactly what you need in Rollerdrome, because the game is not a walk in the park at all. The challenge lies in tying up all of these mechanics together, all while dodging bullet fire, sniper rifles, and the occasional ring out. Things can get intense very fast.
Casual enjoyers of Rollerdrome may find that the later levels can get a bit too hectic, especially when the new enemy types abound, which the game has in good amounts. Each new enemy type will require a new approach – Riot Guards have shields you’ll have to crack to stagger them while Polybeams teleport after getting hit, shooting some sort of Kamehame wave that torches the ground.
Kara isn’t left with pistols for long, with new weapons like shotguns and grenade launchers offering up more ways to skin these House Players. Each weapon will suit specific needs, leaving the door open for some creative maneuvers that rely on switching up your equipped item when the situation calls for it.
Thankfully, Kara has a trick up her sleeve that can be used liberally to take stock of the situation.
This tool is called Reflex Time, a bullet time-like mechanic that slows down time that players can use to regain control of a sticky situation or just to take a quick breather after an intense encounter. Activating Reflex Time right after a perfect dodge results in Super Reflex, which increases your damage for a short time, allowing for quicker kills and higher scores.
Rollerdrome also offers challenges per level that players will need to conquer to advance further in the game. Some of these challenges will be obtained naturally during the course of a run, while others will rely on repeating the level just to tick them off the list.
It’s not hard to imagine that this might cause friction for some players wanting to just make their way through Rollerdrome, as it essentially locks players out of progression unless they hit a certain challenge quota. This is an indirect invitation to get better at the game, and while other titles technically present you with a “wall” at a certain point, Rollerdrome really puts a premium on skill.
One way Rollerdrome counters this problem is through its numerous assist toggles that lighten the load. Players can choose to turn off challenge quotas or even set invincibility, infinite ammo, infinite reflex time, and much more for the sake of just having fun and putting up ridiculous highlight reels. Of course, switching any of these toggles will prevent you from submitting your score to the leaderboards, but it feels like a fair exchange.
Thankfully, that game has some top-notch level design that allows players to find a good rhythm while finding a balance between exploring and combat, easing the pain of having to repeat a level because the actual gameplay makes it a fun experience.
All of this is set against the backdrop of cel-shaded comic book visuals that really pop off the screen, and when paired with the old-school synth-heavy soundtrack, you’ll get a game that’s absolutely worth playing over and over again.
What We Liked:
- Stylishly slick gameplay
- Smart gameplay mechanics to keep the action flowing
- Flawless controls
- Tons of replayability
- Easy to pick up but very high skill ceiling
What We Didn’t Like:
- The action can get overwhelming in the later levels
- New missions are unlocked by ticking off challenges
Verdict: Buy It!
Rollerdrome is made up of a smart mix of mechanics that gel together effortlessly, creating a game that’s a blast to play while looking stylish to boot. With a boppin’ soundtrack, slick visuals, and flawless controls, there’s something here for the curious as well as the hardcore.
While the difficulty spikes up in some of the later levels, which could be a source of frustration to some, the game offers flexibility in approach that can prioritize effectiveness over style but also appeal to those skilled enough to take on a challenge.
Overall, Rollerdrome is another gem from Roll7 that will surely be a sleeper hit on many 2022 lists. There’s very little that this title does wrong, all while creating a unique experience that makes it a must-play in between the big AAA offerings.
*Rollerdrome was reviewed on PC and PS5 via a review code provided by the publisher.