Rollerdrome Review – Brilliant Brawls Built on Broken Balancing

Rollerdrome should be one of the year’s best games. It isn’t, but it really should be. I’m genuinely frustrated that I cannot give it top marks because it’s brilliant, from presentation to concept. Max Payne on rollerskates in a retro-dystopian future battle royal derby. And not a multiplayer battle royale, but a truly classic style Running Man fight to the death across eleven single-player maps.

Rollerdrome’s gameplay is a mix of a lock-on third-person shooter and Tony Hawk. You perform tricks to generate additional ammo, with your variety rewarded by a larger restock to your clip. All four guns share one ammo pool. That ammo pool is only one clip deep. So you’re constantly alternating between popping tricks and shots – until you’re not.

Level 3

ROLLING HEADLONG INTO PAIN

Rollerdrome's clincher. Half its systems become less important as you progress. Dodging opponent strikes earns as much ammo as tricks. If you aim correctly, you'll do extra damage. This is rare until Roll7, when a dozen rockets, three snipers, and a cryo-beam lancer make it tough to pull off tricks.

Blue Rings
Multiple Blue Rings

Rollerdrome's controls and mechanics are sloppy. Some parts operate perfectly, but others don't. I never want it to end when it works. You dash between adversaries, inflicting damage while being tactical. Kara sometimes forgets that rollerskates can spin and takes a long route, but you suppose it's a balanced compromise. Nope. That's half the initial five-hour campaign.

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Multiple Blue Rings

DROMING ON

The remaining half of Rollerdrome is an annoying montage of getting damage because Kara won't do what you want, being slammed by so many adversaries that three perfect dodges won't cut it, and trick inputs firing erroneously. Rollerdrome's steep curve requires precision, yet it's lacking.

In Arkham, 25% of the time you dodge, you toss a Batarang that breaks your combo. Despite the varied moveset, you play more conservatively because you don't know when the controls may turn against you. It contradicts Rollerdrome's emphasis on pushing yourself. I stopped being creative when I should've flourished.

There’s also a lack of consideration for how to pace combat waves. Where Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight would throw in easier waves amid harder ones to give you breathing room, Rollerdrome regularly heaps in tougher foes. Space to think only comes from enemies spawning out of range. This can be particularly frustrating in its own right. Hunting that last foe can throw off your combo score and time bonus.

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Multiple Blue Rings

SEND IN THE HORDE

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Blue Rings

Given how intense yet sloppy the latter stages get – particularly the Alpine region – you essentially have to play with two completely different mindsets. Either you’re trying for challenge objectives to unlock the next stage, or you’re going in to get a decent score. That these are often mutually exclusive doesn’t feel like replay value but a clear dissonance in priorities.

The unanticipated silver lining is a dystopian sports narrative about a corporate police state. It won't change anyone's political ideas, but it's well-told and well-written. Excellent sound design and synth soundtrack. The shader and texture work is stunning. Rollerdrome's art direction is eye-catching.

Multiple Blue Rings

I ADMIRE ITS PURITY

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