Monday, Feb 26, 2024

Review: Rollerdrome

This was not meant to be a video game.

Rollerdrome is set in a dystopian future, straight out of the 1970s cocaine haze. It takes two of gaming’s most beloved pastimes, pulling off sick combos or murder, and mashes them together into an outrageous spectacle that is certainly not Norman Jewison’s Rollerball. You'll be taking control of Kara Hassan, a mysterious rookie. It's skate or death for players. You'll need to grab, grind and flip your way to high score combos, while battling enemies determined to stop you. Kara has all the skills she needs to become a Rollerdrome champion. But, the corporation behind Rollerdrome is plotting against her so she will have to use every trick to survive.

This isn't Norman Jewison Rollerball. It's more John McTiernan's Rollerball. With the majority of social commentary being pushed to the background for the sweet, deadly arena action it's almost like John Jewison's Rollerball. But, you know, enjoyable.

Rollerdrome (PC and PS4, PS5, [reviewed]). Developer: Roll7 Publisher. Private Division. Released August 16, 2022 MSRP $29.99

Roll7, a developer, got its start in the skating industry with its OlliOlli franchise. Rollerdrome is the result of all the hard work that studio OlliOlli put into this series. It's a smooth, user-friendly skate experience that is easy to learn and teaches you how to do crazy tricks. Kara is agile and quick, and it comes with an extensive range of grinds and grabs that players can easily pull off using its intuitive control system. While there are some simple tricks that everyone can do, those who want to reach the top of the online leaderboards will need more advanced techniques.

There are plenty of opportunities to score points with grind rails and halfpipes on each stage. The arena layout is great. I also love the minimalist, cell-shaded design. It's a wonderful expression of the stark, dystopian design aesthetics of the '70s. Roll7 chose a few themes for these arenas, which is a shame. It would have been more interesting if each stage had its own setting and design, rather than reusing the desert, mountaintop or hardwood rink concepts.

It's Tricky... it is Tricky (Tricky), Tricky (Tricky).

Despite the lack of variety in arena settings, I was happy to return to each arena to sharpen my skills and push myself towards that two-comma club. I learned how to combine my stunt skating skills and my bullet-time kills through repeated runs. Rollerdrome has a kill chain system. This ties your combo multiplier to how quickly you can get rid of the house players in each arena. Your score at the end will increase the more you can get kills while performing stunts and chaining together. This is possible in the initial stages. Grunts are very few and are easy to dodge. You will encounter more enemies types as you progress through the tournament. This can create chaos that can become overwhelming.

Rollerdrome unleashes a few goons on its players, but they are limited in number. While some can be found anywhere on the map, they can also be shot at you. Others have defenses that you must defeat before you can kill them. New guns can be used to aid in the process but they are limited. As I got to the end of the game and was faced with mech suits, blue laser beam-wielding guys, and other enemies types, I discovered that I preferred to dodge attacks than anything else. It was almost impossible for me to combine kills together for a large multiplier, so I wasn't really doing any stunts. To stay alive, I had to spam the circle button to take as little damage as I could.

It pays if you are willing to put in the effort.

If I was younger, and not having to divide my time between multiple responsibilities, I would simply have taken the time to get gud at the game. In the early 2000s, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was my best friend. In those days I could spend hours on a single game, and even weekends. I can't do that today. Roll7 added the assist menu to the options.

Rollerdrome offers a variety of assistive options that you can activate if you've hit a wall or are tired of being bullied by your enemies. These assist can be extremely useful, like unlimited ammo, or they can help level the playing field by reducing damage and slowing down the pace of play. While activating any of these assists will lower your scores on the online leaderboards it does not affect anything else. The amount of damage Kara suffered made it possible for me to complete the game. Assists are great for those who struggle with skating or need help with Rollerdrome's more difficult challenges.

It was almost like a game like this was inevitable, given the popularity of skateboarding and the appeal of competitive shooters. It's just too good a combination not to work. Roll7 was the first to realize this with Rollerdrome. This game is a welcoming and exceptional experience. It combines the best of both genres into an unabashedly cool and sophisticated experience.

[This review is based upon a retail version of the game that was provided by the publisher.]

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