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Rollerdrome review
Jordan Helsley


Rolling in the Deep

Welcome to the Rollerdrome

It's hard to pretend you're a superman when you're rollerskating with a couple of guns, but you'll almost surely hear hints of the classic Goldfinger song anyway. Rollerdrome wears that inspiration on its sleeve, in a similar but distinct way that their previous series, Olli Olli, did. The comparison is both obvious and appropriate.

It is 2030 and you've entered a blood sport. Ahead of the rookie you embody, Kara, is a tournament of sorts. You'll be facing off against house players, the employed opponents you'll find in anything from American Gladiators to Running Man. You’re equipped with a pair of roller skates, guns, and pure skill to complete this gauntlet of arena battles on your quest for victory while ignoring any consequence of your actions.

As you might have guessed, the behind-the-scenes workings of this violent sport are less than friendly. You're free to get background on this event in between "stages” of the tournament as you wander around environments collecting information. I won’t give it all away, but you’re already prepared for the commentary if you’ve experienced any similar dystopian bloodsport content. Prison labour, the military industrial complex, the morality of the sport, and the executives attempting to increase viewership. It’s all there. The story of Kara has a few surprises, but the reason to experience the bloodshed is the act of shedding said blood.

Visual delight

The amount of craft placed into the look and feel of this sport is impressive even at first glance. The cel-shaded presentation, along with the setting, gives off the feel of an early 2000s anime you'd find on Toonami. It’s not a one-to-one comparison, but I got as many Akira feelings as I did Mad Max. The animations are equally beautiful, despite a gameplay mechanic that surely could have doomed them. It's true, Rollerdrome is a game at least partially about skating, jumping, grinding, flipping, and accumulating score through combos. The difference here is your combos are based on kills, with your tricks returning ammo to your guns, and in all the chaos they give you a clever handicap: you cannot "bail". Coming down off a quarter pipe upside-down leads Kara to gracefully roll out of the situation with an animation that looks believable more often than not. It constantly impressed me with the number of situations I could get my body into, only to find the game beautifully undoing my mistakes and keeping my momentum moving in the right direction. This is the key to the entire experience. I only wish they’d upped the ante on the playgrounds at your disposal.

You'll end up juggling flaming chainsaws on each level, one of which is that very fluid movement, and another is contending with enemies attacking you constantly in a variety of ways. Your movement, and a handy dodge, help you avoid damage, which gets more plentiful as the game goes on, but it's only part of the equation. Another part is, of course, shooting back at those jerks. Use your skating skills, tricks, and flips to keep your magazines stocked with ammo, because you'll be shooting a lot. Fortunately, in another act of great game design, this is more about movie star badass moves than it is about tight shots. Aiming allows you to enter a bullet time mode to shift the focus away from rapid murder avoidance. In addition, your reticule is going to lock on to nearby targets, making free aim shots nearly non-existent. Because of this, the combat is more akin to a bullet hell than to a third-person shooter. Keep your focus on avoiding damage, solving the puzzle of which enemies are vulnerable to which weapons, and fire until they're dead. As the difficulty ramps up, and the enemies increase in variety and numbers, the challenge of keeping things rolling smoothly becomes more important, especially if you want to keep your kill combo going for maximum score.


The score is optional to progress through the game. As are the challenges that populate for you to complete each level. Many of these challenges are easy enough to complete that you won't run into too many of the gates to your progression, but they are there to ensure your skills are up to par to move to the next round of the contest. Beating a level, though, means you simply survived and killed all the enemies. It can be clumsy at first, but as you get your feet set you'll enter that "flow state" much more often. It's a cool feeling. Cool enough, in fact, that you might want to replay levels to grab those challenges or chase a high score. It really can accommodate your desired play style quite well.

Difficulty increases by demanding more of your ability to juggle all the aspects of the gameplay. Dodging, jumping, tricking, killing, collecting health from fallen enemies, and the more optional combos and challenges. (It really is no wonder why they kept crashing/falling out, for fear of a complete overload.) It can get very hard but it’s fulfilling when you overcome what they’ve thrown at you. You’re also allowed a set of assists you can turn on to help your progression, should you choose. If a challenge is what you’re looking for, Rollerdrome can deliver. There’s even an unlockable second mode that provides a story-relevant reason to play even deeper.

Roller derby to the death

Rollerdrome is beautiful to watch and satisfying to play. I would easily consider it to be an encapsulation of what makes games special. It has gameplay that is challenging but rewarding. There is an adequate level of assists to turn on for those not looking to be beaten down too much. And there's a level of replayability that can satisfy the perfectionists and score hunters. If it came packed with a story that took a few more chances it could have reached a near-perfect state. I'm still left feeling that this will lead to further adaptations of the action sports formula, but at the very least it's a game that knows what it wants to be and delivers exactly that.

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fun score


Beautiful, Tight gameplay, Fun challenge


Not enough level variety, Replayable only for score chasers and challenge seekers, Story lags behind the gameplay