Genre: Sports game, Third-Person Shooter
Releases: 2022 (PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5)
For this month’s Blaugust community write-up featuring all the games from the Humble Choice of April 2023, we have a rather unusual game to talk about: “Rollerdrome”. Inspired by movies like “Rollerball (1975)” and the massive amounts of videogames taking inspiration from brutal sports games, “Rollerdrome” features a roller-skating female protagonist shooting the opposition in an arena while doing all sorts of “Tony Hawk”-style tricks. I am not kidding when I say that the idea of Future Death Sports was once a huge genre-defining take on the more tame and definitely less lethal sports game genre that was featured so often on consoles because there was not much more possible. For the developer of “OlliOlli World” to revive the genre in 2022 in a cel-shading frenzy to accrue the highest possible score seems insane; but also quite interesting to write an article about, which I am going to attempt here. If you are interested in the other games from Humble Choice April 2023, here is a list linking to all the blogs participating this month:
- Death Stranding: UltrViolet from Endgame Viable/Naithin from Time to Loot
- Aliens Fireteam Elite: Naithin from Time to Loot
- Rollerdrome: The very article you are reading right now.
- Life Is Strange Season 2: Not covered.
- The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante: UltrViolet from Endgame Viable
- Monster Prom 2 – Monster Camp: Paeroka from Nerdy Bookahs
- Revita: Magi from Indiecator
- Founder’s Fortune: Krikket from Nerd Girl Thoughts
And with that being said, let us take a look at “Rollerdrome”:
You play as Kara Hassan, who not just happens to be excellent at rollerskating but also is a certified badass willing to take on the competition of the “Rollerdrome”. In the dystopian future the game takes place, “Rollerdrome” is the most popular form of media, which is convenient since it also doubles as a way to distract the stupid masses from all the real problems going on in the world. It therefore also happens to be insanely lucrative and offers tons of money to the families of those who unfortunately pass in the bloodsport, which is why many people seek to get employeed as “House Players”, as the goons you have to kill. Kara Hassan has taken the route of being a competitor, which means that she either becomes a rich and famous as a gladiator in this new sort of ring, or dies trying.
Before you do anything in “Rollerdrome”, you absolutely have to play the tutorial. I know that there are people out there just winging it and learning by doing, but trust me when I say that you will have absolutely no idea of what is happening if you skip the basic steps of learning how to move, shoot, and do tricks. One thing that seemed rather odd to me when I played the tutorial was the fact that I was unable to screw up any of the tricks I was doing. Any “Tony Hawk” game will teach you to stop performing tricks early enough if you do not want to eat concrete, but Kara simply cannot fumble anything I ask her to do, which makes it seem like the game is going to be a piece of cake. I can ensure you that I simply did not know better, because getting good at “Rollerdrome” needs commitment.
The first thing that causes confusion at first is the fact that you only have a limited magazine to shoot, which is not automatically reloaded when empty. Instead, stunts and tricks will refill your ammunition in order to keep your killing spree going. It does not matter whether you do manuals on a ramp, slide around for a few seconds, or dodge the enemy’s attacks in just the right moment, everything that shows more elaborated movement than simply skatibg around will earn shots with which to defeat the opposition. This also sounds easy enough in the first few stages but as soon as the enemy variety and number increases, so does the difficulty with you trying to stay alive, good on ammo, and also trying to keep the points tally as high as possible. Points are important for some of the challenges and ultimately determine how well you did, which means that you want to keep the multiplier from running out while sequeezing as many point-giving maneuvers into the time until it would tick over. The game soon becomes a frantic, high velocity struggle for survival and sure gets adrenaline pumping.
Kara starts with a pair of pistols, which do little damage but can be fired in high succession and have just enough power to keep certain enemies from retaliating against you. She also unlocks a shotgun, a grenade launcher, and a laser rifle which you can switch to freely during the stages and which have their uses depending on enemies and terrain. If a sniper bothers you from a high place you cannot reach normally or to which the autoaim of the firearms does not reach up to, just lop a grenade up there and clear that space. If you are running out of enemies and the only way to keep the multiplier running is shooting something across the arena, just switch to the laser rifle and snipe its head off. And Kara also has a few defensive tools to make use of: Kara can dodge roll with the press of a button and leap through otherwise dangerous explosions or sniper fire, while she also has access to a time-slowing mode which allows for more accurate manuevers and also unlocks a small mini-game for more powerful shots with the shotgun.
The enemy variety will either make you want to really learn the game or manage to break your enthusiasm. At the start, you only really need to take care of melee goons with baseball bats and snipers. Easy enough: Dodge the red lines, shoot melee dudes in the face before they come too close, then swoop up those ranged annoyances. That changes into a combination of different attacks, patterns, and weak points all being forced onto you in one stage. The shield guys should not simply be approached from the front but they also drop mines on death, which you would then need to dodge but there is the rocket launcher guy right beside him who uses an energy shield when taking damage and therefore becomes temporarily invincible, which is not helpful since the upgraded sniper enemy drags his flaming laser in my direction while the killer bot with flame throwers and mine launchers comes closer. This is really where the question of liking the game comes down to player preference: If you like action and that feeling of living on the edge, this game could be your thing; otherwise, you probably struggle to enjoy “Rollerdrome”.
And while “Rollerdrome” absolutely nails the gameplay part, I honestly have to question if that is enough. What little story there is is most told through the scenario or by wandering through locker rooms before challenges. Kara does not speak, mostly because there is no one who could be spoken to. The idea of working against the big media conglomate to become the people’s champ is only something you can read between the lines since “Rollerdrome” does not bother telling you. The presentation and music are nice, but only exist in combination with the gameplay, which I just said might not be for everybody. There are two boss battles in “Rollerdrome”, but they feature the same spider tank and therefore no memorable personalities to fight against. And there are no different modes either. You can play the tutorials again or you partake in the campaign, which consists of four opening stages, three stages for the quarter finals, three stages for the semi finals, and the final itself for a total of eleven stages.
Also, I have to admit that I did not even unlock all those stages. If you play the game in the normal way it is meant to be played, you need to master a certain amount of challenges in order to unlock the next tier. I could not see myself grinding out tricks for more points or fighting a certain number of enemies with a certain firearm, so I used the option in the menu to unlock them without the need of challenges. So, with only the need of playing through the previous stage successfully, I managed to enter the first stage of the semi finals where things got too much out of control for me. Kudos to Roll7 for allowing players to unlock the other stages ahead of time, but it was not for me. That being said, I feel like “Rollerdrome” is an excellent game for a model like Humble Choice since it gives you cool-looking games to test the waters with for much less than it would normally cost. I feel like Roll7 made a bold step into an old genre, but reimagined it in a good way. For me, paying something like 29.99€ on Steam seems a bit pricey, but if you got it via Humble Choice I can only urge you to give it a try since it is new and interesting at the very least.
Pingback: Blaugust Reviews – Humble Choice April 2023 Edition – Nerd Girl Thoughts