Rollerdome on PS5
If the rise of Battle Royales and cultural love for movies like The Running Man have proven anything, it’s that people love a good bloodsport. Rollerdrome combines the bloodsport aspect and the skate game expertise of developer Roll7 (the OlliOlli games) into something unique.
Rollerdrome takes place in the year 2030 as “a violent bloodsport is watched across the globe.” The International Rollerdrome Federation is under new management that has an increased desire for the upcoming Championship to be its biggest yet.
The Rollerdrome Championship involves one competitor facing off against a horde of “House Players” who comprise the opposition. Players control Kara Hassan, a faceless protagonist, who is a new competitor in the Rollerdrome Championship. As both Kara and the player are new to this, it provides a kind of meta connection of watching someone learn the ropes.
The controls are where most of my complaints were hurled at the TV. It’s kind of a steep learning curve with the camera as it operates independently of Kara, who absolutely handles like a tank. Getting Kara’s movement out of sync with the camera is one of the worst things that can happen and feels like losing control of a flying drone, as you don’t know which direction it’s going in.
I had to somewhat unlearn my instinct to aim and shoot as Kara moved, instead relying on the game’s terrific lock-on to deal with the enemies. I don’t think I would call the controls perfect, but they become manageable with practice. Though, I will still admit I am still just as bad at timing jumps which never ceases to be frustrating.
One of my favorite things about Rollerdrome is that there is a rather deep story to the game, but it’s by no means handed to you. Before each new tier of the Championship of matches, you get to roam an area in first-person. At the beginning of the game, after the tutorial, you get to walk around a locker room and discover bits of story context. In each of these areas, you can find little notes or read Kara’s emails about what exactly it took for her to enter the games. There are also hidden documents that give insight into upcoming threats.
In matches, it’s pure chaos. Kara is given dual pistols from the start of the Rollerdrome, but they aren’t infinite. However, in place of an ammo cache and manual reloads, you must perform tricks to earn ammunition. As other weapons have different ammo stocks and different enemies have a weakness to certain weapons, you need to figure out what easy tricks give the biggest reward. While there are the constant combo gauge and score to increase, the latter truly only matters in a couple of challenges per match.
Tricks are interesting because there’s no wrong way to perform a trick. Upon getting sufficient air, you can press any combination of the trick buttons and execute said trick properly. There is no wiping out in Rollerdrome; you merely break the score and must perform a different trick or face noticeably diminishing returns. From grinds to flips to grabs, there is always a new trick to perform to rack up the score. The combo mechanic is entirely separate. The only way to maintain the combo level is to damage House Players and kill them to raise it one level at a time.
For the first run through the levels, I honestly didn’t put much thought into the score because it’s not fully important. Each match of the Championship has 10 related challenges, from using a weapon in a specific way to doing a particular type of trick. These challenges are what unlock the next tier of the Championship. They are also the biggest motivator to get good at the game.
Unlocking the final tier of the Rollerdrome Championship requires a sizeable number of challenges completed. Some are relatively simple, but the score ones need plenty of trial and error. Due to this, I often only went for those if I really had to scrape to find the challenges I felt possible for my skill level.
At the end of the game, I couldn’t help but feel that there should have been more to it. I had fully bought into the gameplay loop of learning a new area and enemy spawns that it was tough just to accept the Championship was over. As every match sets a par time before the score penalties begin, and all are under seven minutes, it’s like Roll7 fully expects you to blow through the game in only a few hours of dedication.
Rollerdrome is undoubtedly a challenging game. Between running out of ammo at the wrong time or taking a big hit, there are many ways things can go horrifically wrong. Thankfully for this, Roll7 has seen fit to give Rollerdrome a set of assists so that people having a harder time can still progress the game and have a great time.
These are things like giving Kara infinite ammo or incrementally lowering the percentage of damage taken. You can definitely just turn on God Mode and go to town, but the ability to fine-tune things to how you want them is nice. Using assists does of course turn off the ability to upload scores to the leaderboards, but considering it means anyone can enjoy what Rollerdrome has to offer, it’s a great addition.
All of this combat takes place in matches of the most vibrant, clean, comic book-like visuals. The cel-shading was a brilliant idea for Rollerdrome because it gives this visceral, deadly bloodsport an arcade feel. The visuals sell the story that Kara is here to win, not get bogged down by killing House Players (a note in the game lays out why the House Players would ever volunteer to be cannon fodder. Find it!)
Rollerdrome combines the skate game feeling of satisfaction from landing the perfect trick, with the pulse-pounding adrenaline of fighting for your very life. Between the story that you must find for yourself and the varied arenas that throw new ways to move and do tricks, there’s never a dull moment to be found. Rollerdrome is by no means a long game, but it is one that is just so easy to pick up and play.
- Enjoyable shooter combat.
- Learning more to the story is completely optional, but has a nice depth.
- Varied amount of tricks to keep your score rising.
- Each new weapon changes the previous strategy in an exciting way.
- Excellent assists to help anyone play and enjoy the game.
- Slightly steep learning curve for controls.
- Campaign shorter than expected.
August 16, 2022
PS5, PS4, PC
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