Developed By: Roll7
Published By: Private Division & Take-Two Interactive
Platforms: PS4, PS5 & PC
Reviewed On: PS5
Review Copy Provided By Private Division
In a dystopian future where people need to be entertained, where else would they look except in roller skates? That is the basis of Rollardrome where in the year 2030, people are pitted against hordes of enemies in an arena for entertainment. The game feels like a speedrun shooter mixed with Tony Hawk Skater but does the mixture work?
Behind The Curtains of Rollerdrome
I was actually not expecting any story in Rollardrome but to my surprise, there are some story elements before you start each championship. You start out as a newcomer Kara Hassan, who just entered the world of Rollerdrome but will slowly get to know what happens behind the scene in this futuristic sport.
The story in this game is slowly told by items like newspapers or sticky notes which you can read as you explore around the locker room, office building and even a train as you transition to the next league. There will also be dialogues which can be heard by eavesdropping on conversations behind closed doors which may sound a little muffled but luckily there are subtitles for you to read.
I feel like having a story in this game is already a bonus but it does help me get more interested in the world of Rollerdrome no matter how little or cliché the story might sound. It is just sad that you actually do not get to see any of the other characters physically and just explore the areas with them being empty.
The game uses a cell-shaded art style which suits how the game is trying to portray the 80s vibes like Tron and Mad Max. On the other hand, having a cell-shaded style does help to keep gameplay smooth and the visuals are clean enough that you can notice all the bullets and missiles flying your way.
Not to forget the amazing electronic music from the group Electric Dragon which totally fits the atmosphere of the game. I found myself sometimes bobbing my head to the soundtrack as I skate around. The soundtrack does get repetitive at times as you replay the same stages again trying to complete the challenges but at this point, I was too engrossed in the gameplay to even care.
Skate or Die
Speaking about gameplay, Rollerdrome has one of the most simple but brilliant gameplay designs. I was initially worried about how complicated the game might be since you basically have to skate while shooting but the game has quite an excellent tutorial to ease the transition. I got to slowly learn the controls, then the weapons, and slowly the enemies as they were slowly added as you progress in the game.
Now as I got further into the game, I realize that the game has an excellent flow not only as a skating game but also as a shooter game. You are given 4 guns which basically share the ammo count with each gun taxing the ammo count differently. You gain ammo back by doing tricks as you skate around. You kill the enemy using your guns. It is a gameplay loop that is simple but all depended on each other that kind of forces you to do all the gameplay activities without any wasted action.
Ending the round is also not the only reason to kill enemies as they also drop green drops which replenish your health when they die. I found myself in clutch moments where I have to refill my ammo by doing tricks, then finding an enemy and trying to kill them to heal up all while dodging bullets left and right. I swear those were some of the most heart-racing moments especially if you are near the end of the stage trying to avoid having to redo the whole thing.
Master Your Enemy…
Rollerdrome pit you against some kind of rugby armoured enemies called “House Players”. In total there are 7 types of “House Players” with 1 Boss in this game. Yes, that is not a lot but for this time, I would like to say that in this game’s case quality is better than quantity.
You are first introduced to Grunts which basically try to hit you when skate by and are usually cannon fodders which you can use to heal up since they are basically the easiest to kill. Then we have a sniper which takes time to aim and take a shot at you from a distance. The game slowly introduces more and more enemies as you progress but each enemy is unique and different in its own way.
As I play more, I slowly learned how to handle each type of enemy from the best weapon to use, their attack pattern and timings. With every new enemy introduction, I was forced to learn about them again since as I mention, every enemy is unique. The Warhead and Polybeam, for example, threw me a left curve when I found out that you have to keep shooting them rapidly if not they will use their defensive ability.
Warhead will trigger a shield as soon as it is shot but you can use the fast-firing pistol to stun lock him before that. Once the shield I activated, you have to wait for a certain time before it powers down. So you have a choice to take him down now with the pistol but might end up with an empty magazine or take a big chunk of its health with one shot first and return later to finish the job. These kinds of decision-making give this simple-looking game a layer of complexity which is refreshing.
Now, you are not a sitting duck also in this game as you are given abilities to dodge and to slow down time. Mastering these two skills alone can change the tide of the battle and might mean life or death in certain situations.
Dodging in this game is excellent as it is very responsive and if time correctly, having a perfect dodge can help refill some ammo. This can be easily achieved by how the game displays the attack indicator for every enemy clearly. These indicators are usually red in colour but just before they attack, they will turn white and if you press dodge just in that time frame, you will get a perfect dodge.
The other ability, “Reflex Time”, which helps slows down time also plays an important role. Using it makes you enter a bullet time state where you can take your time to mow down enemies. Seeing as its cooldown for this ability is quite fast, I usually use it a lot not only to get kills but also to get my bearings in order and plan what should and do next.
Combining these two skills and you will enter, “Super Reflex” which will trigger once you successfully execute a perfect dodge and then trigger “Reflex Time”. This state will allow you to deal bonus damage to your enemies which will help you mow them down faster.
Mastering these is essential in trying to survive each stage especially when the game starts to throw more horde of enemies at you in the later part of the game and the difficulty curve ramps up. Entering “Super Reflex” by dodging a bullet from a Sniper to take down a Riot Guard is one of the few things that you can do which gives the game a very deep learning curve and gameplay variety.
An Impactful Arsenal
You might be surprised to hear this but as above mentioned, this game has only 4 non-upgradable weapons which are dual pistols, a shotgun, a grenade launcher and a crossbow which basically shoots a laser. Each weapon has a unique attribute like how the dual pistol is fast firing, the shotgun has a slug shot, the grenade launch deals area damage and the crossbow’s projectile can penetrate and bounce.
You are not given the full arsenal at the beginning but once it was unlocked, I found myself switching between them constantly each weapon to find the most efficient way to take down the various types of enemies. It felt smooth to switch to the weapon I needed using the d-pad to even while during firing.
Once I learn how each weapon works, it was time to mix and match them to make some crazy combo. For example, one trick that I pulled off was shooting a grenade launcher at a Warhead and while the grenade was mid-air, I switch to my dual pistol to deal damage and stun lock the Warhead so that the shield won’t be activated before my grenade reaches him to give him an explosive end. Pulling this combo might sound crazy at first but once you get the hang of it, I started to execute it more frequently the more I played.
Not to forget how each weapon shot feels especially the shotgun where if you fire at a when the crosshair collides during Reflex Time, you will fire a slug shot which deals big impact damage to the enemies. I got to say this is one of the most satisfying shotguns to use in a game close to the likes of Doom’s shotgun.
Interesting Design Choices
There are some interesting game design choices in Rollerdrome for example the ability to basically wipe out skating which only happen once you have basically been killed. I believe this was intentional to help keep the flow of the game and help players concentrate more on shooting and doing tricks to rack up those points.
Removing the ability to wipe out does make certain movement animations feel weird like landing with your back facing where you’re going and having to turn around to go forward but most of these can be solved by dodging. I found out that dodging was one of the most effective ways to change direction as it instantaneously moves you to the direction you want without much delay.
I also needed to get used to the controls to learn when to jump up or air out on the half pipe. This will sometime lead to me jumping off the half-pipe to a deep fall or out of bounds. Luckily, I soon found out you can remap the air out key but it still does not completely solve this problem.
Having the d-pad assigned to switching weapons was also a conflicting design choice because performing the input trick commands using the analogue stick might be a little tricky for some people but I feel it is a small compromise to get the ease of switching weapons on the fly.
What I Liked About Rollerdrome
- Excellent game design
- Clean and clear visuals even when the screen is chaotic
- Retro artistic design that fits the game perfectly
What I Wished Was Better
- The story is there but does not serve any purpose or effect on gameplay
- Gameplay gets a little repetitive
As I played, I was trying to look back if there is any other game out there and yes, there are fast-paced shooters with slow-mo in the market but I am willing to bet there has been never been another game that combines all these elements together as good as Rollerdrome. How the game intertwines every action, enemy and weapon into a seamless flow is something of beauty.
The only thing holding it back is maybe how the end game gets repetitive with you being thrown to the same swarm of enemies but with extra damage modifiers. The game is challenging but maybe only those who are fighting for a top spot on the leaderboard or trying to get a Platinum Trophy are willing to face the continuous mayhem in the Rollerdrome.