Rollerdrome Review

Richard Walker

Rollerdrome is what you'd get if you laced Max Payne up in rollerskates, or if you outfitted Tony Hawk and his fellow Pro Skaters with ballistic weaponry. It's a deadly roller disco in which you enter as a plucky competitor, and either leave in a victorious blaze of glory, or yield to the bullets and missiles of violent 'House Players', as the crowd bays for blood. There are few, if any, games quite like Rollerdrome, and it's ludicrously good fun.


INCOMING!!!!

You play as Kara Hassan, a Rollerdrome rookie who longs to follow in the footsteps of her idol, Morgan Fray, by taking part in the titular futuristic bloodsport. What follows is a succession of increasingly challenging arenas, brimming with an array of threats, none of which have rollerskates of their own. Kara has only her skates, her guns, and some extraordinary acrobatic abilities, to help her stay alive and roll out of the colosseum alive. Each foot strapped to four wheels, Kara is able to zip around at speed, hitting ramps, quarter pipes, and kickers in order to gain air and pop some freewheeling, daredevil tricks, which is every bit as enjoyable as it sounds.

Performing tricks in Rollerdrome isn't just for show: every grab, grind, flip, and spin replenishes your ammo pool, shared between all four of Kara's guns. If you want to keep your dual pistols, shotgun, grenade launcher, and cutting-edge Z-11 railgun primed and ready, finding windows of relative calm amid the carnage to pull tricks – or, better still, mastering the ability to mix in some stunts with your gunplay – proves to be essential. OlliOlli developer Roll7 carries out another of its signature 'flow-state' masterstrokes here, providing hypnotic, endlessly playable action that’s easy to pick up and play, but almost impossible to put down.

When you’re evading an attack at exactly the right moment to execute a Perfect Dodge, then hitting L2 to activate Reflex Mode, slowing down time for a precious few moments to line up shots and plan your next manoeuvre, there are few things that come close to the pure gratification you’ll get from Rollerdrome. A quick dodge swiftly followed by Reflex Mode executes ‘Super Reflex’, granting even more time to let loose a volley of shots, while dealing greater damage. Once you’ve learned how to use these abilities to your advantage, you’ll be revelling in the slow-motion destruction, all beautifully rendered in a jaw-dropping, cel-shaded comic book style. It’s sensational stuff.

Only the most rudimentary of tutorials is needed to teach you the basics, then Rollerdrome wastes no time in thrusting you right into the thick of the action. Combining gunplay and tricks proves surprisingly straightforward, but there are layers of complexity in the multitude of available trick combos and myriad enemy types you're pitted against. Initially, you'll be dealing with snipers, whose laser sights lock on to you until you execute a timely dodge; baseball bat-swinging goons, who provide easy health drops and combo-chaining opportunities; and rocket launcher-toting grunts, whose missiles slavishly home in on you, unless you shoot them out of the air.


Before long, however, Kara will come up against mechs bristling with missiles and flamethrowers; teleporting foes armed with continuous laser beams that scorch the ground with trails of blue fire; mine-spewing enemies wielding riot shields; and fearsome armoured troops that relentlessly track you down, before attempting to stomp on you in a burst of noxious green acid. During the game's latter stages, Roll7 isn't shy about piling on the pressure, gleefully heaping enemies into the arena to keep you constantly on your rollerskate-encased toes.

By the time you've scraped your way through the 2030 Rollerdrome season, to the semi-finals, at the behest of nefarious mega-corporation Matterhorn, merely making it out alive counts as something of an achievement, before you even consider the ten challenges that come with each stage, and the demanding grand final. Challenges include beating score records set by the legendary Fray, and your closest rival, Caspar Ickx, performing specific tricks close to floating 'Trick Tokens', collecting all five Combo Tokens peppered across the arena, finishing the stage in a single combo, and numerous other objectives. And you'll happily play each stage again and again, pushing your personal best in a bid for online leaderboard supremacy.

Once you've bested your rivals and survived the 2030 finals, you'll unlock the 'Out For Blood' campaign, which takes Kara into the 2031 season, which is even more unforgivingly brutal and frenetic than the main Rollerdrome campaign. Here, you'll face a horde of advanced enemies right from the off – it's something for only the most skilled and dedicated of Rollerdromers, but managing to eke your way through an Out For Blood stage is a hard-fought and uniquely rewarding thing. Be warned, though: it’s bloody difficult. Like, really, really hard. And an occasionally skittish camera when things are getting exceptionally heated can be a bugbear, at times.


These teleporting enemies are a pain in the arse.

The real intrinsic beauty of Rollerdrome is in the simplicity of its concept - it’s easy to pick up, but gaining mastery over its mechanics is anything but. Pirouetting through the air while lining up a Slug Shot with your shotgun, arcing a grenade into a cluster of enemies, or perfectly charging up a devastating bolt from your Z-11 rifle and letting rip, is among the greatest joys to be had in the game (or any game, for that matter). An evolution of the compulsive gameplay that made the OlliOlli games such a delight, Rollerdrome plays like a dream, while its 1970s vision of a dystopian future, all chunky analogue computer keyboards and cartridges, slide projectors, bold logos and typefaces, will appeal to anyone raised on a diet of Blade Runner, Rollerball, The Warriors, Alien, Escape From New York, and their ilk. The deliciously brooding dark synth soundtrack is just the icing on the cake – Rollerdrome is a masterpiece.

Rollerdrome

After the brilliance of OlliOlli World, Roll7 has outdone itself with Rollerdrome, delivering one of the most mechanically accomplished, beautifully executed, and unique arcade-style experiences around.

Form widget
90%
Audio
85%

Arena announcers add colour during the narrative interludes, while the evocative synth soundtrack, by Electric Dragon, nails the apocalyptic future vibes perfectly.

Visuals
85%

A colourful and eye-catching cel-shaded comic book art style that’s endlessly appealing, even when you’re busy being killed in spectacular fashion.

Playability
90%

Easy to pick up and play, tough to really get to grips with, Rollerdrome proves immensely rewarding if you stick with it. The camera can sometimes go awry, but it’s rare enough that it doesn’t mar the experience.

Delivery
90%

Despite the odd nasty difficulty spike, Rollerdrome is stupidly enjoyable, its blend of trick combos and ultra-violent gunplay proving constantly compelling. There are two very challenging campaigns to complete, too.

Trophies
80%

A near-perfect spread that covers early milestones, while offering a longer tail for completing challenges and tackling the unlockable, hard-as-nails Out For Blood campaign.

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