Private Division and, OllieOlli World developer, Roll7’s Rollerdrome is a unique cell-shaded mash-up of roller-skating stunt game and arena shooter, served up wrapped in 1970s aesthetic.
Set in the near future, Rollerdrome is a violent no-holds-barred arena blood sport where participants, armed to the teeth and wearing rollers skates, face off against a host of opponents in a battle to the death. The game clearly takes inspiration from classic violent 70s movies like Rollerball and Death Race 2000.
The game’s visuals take the cel-shaded design style up a notch looking more like comic book pages than an animated cartoon. The limited colour palette and intricate linework give the game a look as unique as its gameplay.
Players take the role of Rollerdrome tournament participant Kara Hassan. Armed and on skates, players must fight, in arenas ranging from shopping malls to snowy mountain settings, the contest’s “house players”. The protagonists come in a variety of flavours that spawn with increasing difficulty, armed with studded bats, riot shields, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and laser beams.
The game has an extensive tutorial system that teaches players all the moves that Kara can perform. There are enough jumps, flips, grabs and grinds in the game to make Tony Hawks envious. Then you add in the guns, with a cool Matrix-style slowdown as you aim and lock on to opponents, turning everything up to eleven. Add in cool dynamics like griding to restock ammo, and dodging to avoid sniper fire, mines and rockets, and you’ve got one rather unique game.
At first, I was pretty chuffed at just surviving a round. Then I realised that it’s not just about surviving. In order to unlock each new tournament round and their arenas, there’s a laundry list of challenges that need to be achieved whilst avoiding certain death.
What started with me just tentatively avoiding getting shot, beaten or finding a rocket up my arse slowly morphed into an intense acrobatic display of flips, rolls and bullets. Leaping over the enemy to deliver a shotgun full of lead to an enemy’s face, or a quick switch to dual pistols for a bit of rapid-firing into a rocket-toting brute became second nature. Then there was firing a grenade up to an unsuspecting sniper or taking out an explosive barrel for a stylish twofer.
Very similar to the Tony Hawks skateboarding games, Rollerdrome is all about keeping up momentum, but with added sniper bullets and rockets bearing down on you. Catching grinds to replenish ammo, timing jumps and flips, and, of course, taking out the enemy (which also replenishes health) all require thinking ahead and careful planning on the go.
You also need to think about how to accomplish the challenges. This means incorporating the stated tricks, collectables and point scoring into your actions.
Once you’ve cleared the main campaign game, you get access to the “Out for Blood” campaign. This mode is more like a game + mode in that all weapons are unlocked from the start and the full range of house players are your opponents across all the Out for Blood arenas.
The game is breathtaking to play and very hard to put down. It’s such a unique bit of gameplay, and the mechanics are so very well honed that Roll7 deserves full marks and then some.
I’m nit-picking here, but I did think that there were a couple of things that would make the game even better. The house players remain stationary, rather than running or skating around. This would, understandably, require a lot more work for the developers, and something that I could see in a sequel. The lack of multiplayer is something else that would be good to see in a sequel. The matrix-style slow-motion gunplay is one of the things that makes the game feel so cool to play, makes multiplayer a bit difficult, but not impossible.
I found Rollerdrome quite the surprise. It’s a frantic over-the-top blend of skating, stunts and shooting. The comic-book-style graphics add to the peerless gameplay. If you are after something a bit different, you should really check out Rollerdrome.