In a game like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, the idea is to rack up as high a score as possible by showing off some dazzling tricks and stringing together amazing combos. In Rollerdrome, that's still largely the idea. There's just one minor difference: Everyone in the arena is trying to kill you. The team at Roll7 has put together a combination of an extreme sports game and an action title and the result is a fun mixture of genres, albeit one that ends far too quickly.
Rollerdrome takes place in the future world of 2030 and centers on a daredevil roller skater named Kara Hassan. She's taking part in a deadly bloodsport, where she must impress with various flips and tricks, but also survive an arena filled with enemies that are all armed to the teeth. On the surface, it looks like any other arcade skater, encouraging players to perform various flips off of ramps and half-pipes while performing grinds and wall rides to extend combos.
However, the other key to Rollerdrome is to clear out every enemy in each stage. Over time, players will switch back-and-forth from dual pistols, to shotguns, to grenade launchers. Which weapon proves the most effective depends on the enemy type, whether it's a grunt with a bat or a soldier riding a jetpack. Aiming can be a brutal endeavor when skating at full speed, which is why Rollerdrome thankfully offers a bullet time mechanic called Reflex Time. This not only allows players to shoot down enemies or dodge incoming fire, but also line up their next tricks carefully.
Roll7 capably combines these two core gameplay pillars by having tricks refill ammo. Kara will run out of ammo frequently, especially as later enemies become pesky bullet sponges. Performing different tricks or grinds will refill the ammo meter while keeping Kara on the move. Later stages become a beautiful and deadly ballet dance, as players mentally draw out which paths to take, how much weaponry to use, which spots on the course are best to help refill ammo, and how to do it all in a relatively fast time. After all, survival may be the name of the game, but so is picking up a high score.
Roll7 does try and inject story elements into Rollerdrome and the concept ultimately feels half-baked. It's a dystopian future where mega corporation Matterhorn is sponsoring the savage bloodsport in order to rack up cash while entertaining a docile populace. At the start of every chapter, players can walk around the locker room and read through various pieces of lore that tie the story together, but none of it comes across as particularly interesting. It's the sort of story that feels like it's been done better in other games and pieces of pop culture.
Players will often want to dive into the chaos and that is certainly one word to describe Rollerdrome. The start of the game, which features a few different enemy types and ample space to work out tricks, helps illustrate the fun that comes with mixing two genres together. However, as the campaign goes on, it starts to feel like a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. As Kara gets more firearms and newer, more durable enemy types are introduced, there isn't much room for fancy tricks anymore. Players will inevitably become too focused on the survival component to the point that the skating aspect is less fun and more of a nuisance. You'll go from wanting to pull off some sick 720 flips to just wanting to do whatever will quickly refill your ammo clip.
Players will often have to get fancy in order to complete each stage's dozen or so challenges. These can't really be neglected, either, since challenges are the main way to progress through the story and unlock levels. However, there are some accessibility options that do allow players to forego that particular requirement so that they can experience the full story. Likewise, if the combat element is getting too much in the way of the skating aspect of the game, it's possible to enable invincibility options in exchange for not being able to submit scores to the Rollerdrome leaderboards. It's a good option for younger players or story-focused players to have, simply allowing them to focus on the fun of skating.
What's less fun is the lack of stage variety. It was novel to see Kara skate through an indoor skate park, a mall, and an outdoor ski resort. Then I watched her skate through an indoor skate park, a mall, and an outdoor ski resort. From there, it was time to skate through an indoor skate park, a mall, and an outdoor ski resort. It would have been nice to have more environments in place. Given how imaginative Rollerdrome's central premise is, I would have liked to see that same level of creativity applied to the game's stages.
Rollerdrome is a fun way to kill an afternoon, but after a while, there isn't a lot to do other than keep challenging the leaderboards. There's no co-op or multiplayer component of any kind and once the story ends, it's pretty much finished. It doesn't take too long for Rollerdrome to hit a wall.
Despite its limitations, Roll7 should be lauded for putting out such an interesting idea. Rollerdrome feels like a seed that can flourish into something greater. Extreme sports games with this kind of gimmick don't come along often and it's worth strapping on some skates to experience.
This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. Rollerdrome will be available today on PC and PlayStation for $29.99 USD. The game is rated M.
- Clever premise
- Sleek art style
- Accessibility options relieve pressure
- Genre mashup loses its charm slightly by the end
- Repetitive environments
- Mediocre story
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Rollerdrome review: Trick shots