by Adam Nix
previewed on PC
A Funky Dystopia
Megacorps rule the world, rebel groups are fighting back for more freedoms and rights, and you’re competing in a highly popular, highly-stakes bloodsport called Rollerdrome. It’s you, your roller skates, and some dual pistols against the world, all drawn out in flashy, comic-book style art. The road ahead might be dangerous and you might die, but you’ll look so cool that it just won’t matter.
Rollerdrome is an upcoming "skater-shooter" from the team that brought you OlliOlli World, Roll7. You take on the role of a rookie roller skater named Kara Hassan and your goal is to win a Rollerdrome competition. Through a set of levels, you will fight your way through an army of rollerdrome baddies. From guys with bats, guns, sniper rifles, and heat seeking missiles, you’ll be taking down goons left and right in between sweet skate tricks and combos across a set of roller-skating arenas.
Skate and Shoot
There are two major game functions that a player needs to alternate between. The skating and the shooting. On the skating side, you skate around the map, hitting jumps and rails sprinkled across it. During any of these actions, you can hit specific tricks on your controller to rack up more points and ammo for your weapons. Once you’ve gotten enough ammo for whatever weapon you are using, you can fire on enemies with an autolock feature or slowdown time to be more precise.
Every time you take someone out, your combo score will increase by one. By alternating between tricks and shooting enemies, you can keep increasing your combos throughout the run. This will increase your final score and help you achieve certain objects.
On that note, each level has a set of 10 objectives you’re asked to complete. If you don’t mark off a certain amount of objectives, you will be blocked from moving to the next act in the game. These objectives can range from getting a specific score to doing a specific trick near a "token" you are supposed to collect on the map. These goals do a great job of providing replayability for each level and push you to better understand the game and its mechanics.
Unwrapping the Chaos
The enemies themselves don’t actually skate around at all and generally stand in specific areas, so it’s very arcade-like in the fact that you can really plan out your actions. That being said, there are a ton of enemies. Half-way through most levels I was playing, I was getting hit with bullets, rockets, and lasers from every direction. I haven’t played a game this chaotic in a long time, and I loved every minute of it.
One of the most satisfying things with Rollerdrome is unwrapping that madness. Things will get chaotic on a first run and it is easy to get overwhelmed and die. But once you’ve replayed it a few times, it is easier to understand and unwrap what is happening. I’d find myself taking note of which enemies I should be taking out at the beginning and late part of a level, focusing on the people wielding sniper rifles before I hit anybody with heat-seeking missiles. I’d then end up saving low level enemies to kill when I needed to keep a given combo going.
It takes some time to figure out how to plan out a given run. Understanding where you’ll hit certain people and when you need to plan to get more ammo are extremely important to keeping your combos going and staying alive. What makes this all a little more manageable is the slo-mo mode the game offers. Whenever you press the left trigger, you will enter this slo-mo mode and easily be able to focus in on a given enemy or incoming bullet to dodge. Not only does it help you keep your combos and manage the chaos, but it just feels so cool to slow down and fire on a given enemy lingering just in range of you amidst a high scoring combo.
A New Skater
Although I don’t think it is fully fair to compare this game to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise, it is a hard thing to ignore. It has been years since I’ve revisited those games, but a lot of skating and arena structure reminded me of it. I do think there is more variety and nuance to the arenas and tricks provided in Tony Hawk Pro Skater, but it is easy to see why Roll7 simplified this. Even with relatively simple tricks and moves in this game, the combat adds so much chaos and action to the game, that it just wouldn’t be fun to make it more complicated. Rollerdrome ditches some complexity to push for fluidity and fun. Walking the line of providing good combat while not losing the flowy nature of a good skating game must be extremely challenging, and Rollerdrome pulls it off well.
One example I'll give is falling. At first, I was disappointed that a failed trick wasn't punished. You can be halfway through a flip when you hit the ground and Kara will basically roll right out of it. But with everything going on in this game, one fall would basically ruin the entire run. By just having her roll and losing whatever points or ammo you would have gotten, the flow of the game isn't damaged.
A Promising Start
The preview code we received only covered the first 6 levels of Rollerdrome, but I couldn't be more excited for what they have in store next. I'm still going back to previous levels to try and better my score and constantly see myself improving and comparing myself to the top contenders. There will be a lot of tight and interesting competition in this game once it comes out and I can’t wait to see where people go with it.
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