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Rollerdrome Review

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Rollerdrome seamlessly blends arcade-style roller skating with bullet-time third-person shooting mechanics. Tricks reload weapons, and taking down enemies restores health, ensuring the action is always moving. Score-multiplying combos turn each level into a chess match, requiring strategy but also leaving room to improvise on the fly thanks to constantly being under fire from enemies.

In a dystopian 2030, players control Kara Hassan, a newcomer to the popular bloodsport known as Rollerdrome. Combining high-flying roller skating tricks with a gladiatorial shooter, Rollerdrome is a violent game where the last player left standing wins.

rollerdrome review 1
Rollerdrome – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater with guns

Rollerdrome can accurately be described as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater with guns, but with a narrative backdrop about a society glued to ultra-violent sports and the dubious corporate conspiracy behind it all. Player rivalries and Kara’s backstory play a role, but the story is largely told environmentally between notes scattered throughout the waiting areas before matches. As most of the narrative is entirely skippable, however, the story itself feels like it takes a back seat to the addictively fun skating and shooting mechanics. And luckily, the mechanics are truly that fun and addictive. 

The end goal of each map is to eliminate all of the other players on the map, but that’s just the beginning of what Rollerdrome has to offer. Each run is scored based on a wide variety of factors, such as tricks performed and the amount of time it takes to complete, among a myriad of other components. However, the combo mechanic is perhaps the most important aspect when trying to earn leaderboard-level high scores. It’s here where Rollerdrome’s brilliance shines most brightly.

Players can achieve combos by eliminating opponents in succession without taking too much damage or time in between. Keeping combos going is where the game adds a new wrinkle of difficulty, as players need to be strategic to eliminate enemies in a timely matter, all while dodging incoming attacks. Each enemy type (from sniper to flying mech) has their own set of quirks and weaknesses, requiring players to switch between the four weapons fairly often during playthroughs for more efficient runs and higher scores.

Still, while there is a bit of strategy required to quickly neutralize threats and build up impressive combos, the frantic pace of Rollerdrome doesn’t allow players too much time to plan out their next move. Not to mention, the unique mechanics continuously force players back into the action.

rollerdrome review 2
Get ready to neutralize those threats

What sets Rollerdrome apart while keeping it frantically fast-paced is the fact that tricks replenish ammunition while eliminating enemies restores health. There is no ducking and hiding behind cover; Rollerdrome asks players to get in the action and stay there. The more enemies you take down, the more health you have at your disposal, but you can’t forget to refill ammo by performing various grabs and grinds either.

Because of these mechanics, there is always something to be doing. Of course, these actions need to be balanced with the fact that enemies are firing at you virtually at all times. There is some refuge for players, however, as bullet-time slow-downs are available for short stints. This not only looks stylish, but it also helps slow the game down and allows for more on-target shots as well as gravity-defying tricks.

As you might imagine, Rollerdrome is a largely difficult game, particularly in the later stages. But for those who are particularly gluttons for punishment, a post-campaign mode, titled “Out For Blood,” ups opponent damage by 1.5 times. The mode acts as a sort of New Game Plus, where players can keep the weapons they unlocked during the main campaign, but the difficulty ratchets up considerably with increased damage received and more difficult opponents on even the earlier stages.

Still, the game is difficult without feeling frustrating or unfair. After each run, I felt as though I was getting better and better. Just as I mastered one level of difficulty, however, the game quickly rose to the challenge and gave me something new to struggle with. That said, I rarely played the same stage two or three times before beating it, as I felt Rollerdrome was constantly guiding me to improve. Completing the initial challenges in the earlier stages helped a lot with that.

Each stage coincides with ten unique challenges that range from hitting a high score to collecting tokens and even nailing certain tricks. The challenges add replayability to each stage while also serving to up the difficulty even more. Completing a set amount of challenges is even required to move on to later stages.

rollerdrome review 3
Rollerdrome is pretty unique

The cel-shaded art style and syncopated synth-driven soundtrack work in tandem to set up a heart-pounding atmosphere and add to the competitive nature of the sport. Unfortunately, the admittedly stunning art style doesn’t inspire greater level design. After completing the campaign, none of the eleven maps stand out to me in any meaningful way. While the topography of each map is admittedly different, none of the stages feel as though it carves out a distinct style to differentiate itself from the pack. Rather, the stages feel like reskinned versions of the same idea. Still, the game is enjoyable enough to overcome these relatively minor shortcomings.

Rollerdrome is a unique idea that is, for the most part, executed brilliantly. Aside from a few ultra-specific quirks, traversal feels intuitive and looks ripped out of a stylish action movie. Challenges and high scores give the game ample replayability, and the campaign is addicting enough to complete in just one or two sittings.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Fluid movement and intuitive combat controls
  • Striking art style and score
  • Plenty of challenge without feeling unfair or frustrating
Cons:
  • Indistinct level design
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Private
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 28 November 2023 | £24.99
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Bobby Anhalt
Bobby Anhalt
Bobby has been an avid fan of video games since the '90s. While Bobby has a real soft spot for Metroidvanias and JRPGs, he is a true genre-agnostic gamer who will give just about any title a chance. The only thing he spends more time doing than playing games is writing and talking about them. He has been covering the gaming industry for several major online publications since 2015.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Fluid movement and intuitive combat controls</li> <li>Striking art style and score</li> <li>Plenty of challenge without feeling unfair or frustrating</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Indistinct level design</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Private</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 28 November 2023 | £24.99</li> </ul>Rollerdrome Review
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