Is it possible to quantify cool? Rollerdrome is the newest addition to the Roll7 Skatemasters, and certainly thinks so. Skating always has points and always has that light-hearted indifference in their hearts, but Rollerdrome feels like the first to really make the coolness so clear. In this game, you’ll be locked into a series of retro Colosseum, chaining together elaborate roller skate skills while dodging rockets, dodging batons and slamming shotgun rounds into riot shields in super slow motion . Calmness is something that evaporates as soon as you say it, so of course it’s never mentioned, but the end-of-round score is probably nothing else.
Mark me square, though, because I’m pretty bad at Rollerdrome, despite its efforts to convince me not to. As rookie Kara Hassan, your job is to be a rookie outsider in a niche bloody sport taking off in the worryingly near 2030, sweeping the tournament and having an evil opponent take their place. Here are some great frameworks. Between stages, Rollerdrome becomes a miniature narrative game. You’ll have a little time here and there to wander around a small area (locker room, radio station, etc.) – poking and pulling threads of an overarching story. It’s simple, if not subtle: in a near-future, UK-like place where corruption infiltrates with privatisation, it’s a short, delightful gallows parable with your goal of winning this grim tournament It fits perfectly, but more importantly, adds anti-fascism’s biting bite to an already style-laden game.
Ultimately, this style is everything Rollerdrome is. At times, it feels like a playable coffee table magazine, full of brilliant full-screen colors about victory and death—colors, like rich mustard yolks and rich blood orange reds, that designers you know made to do This, he spent hours tinkering with—animated in immaculate Mobius-esque comic art, Hassan wore an Eddie-the-Eagle jumpsuit and a vintage double stripe Moped helmet. I think I’ve seen Rollerdrome before – it’s probably somewhere near Carnaby Street, sandwiched between a graphic design firm and a ’70s converted boutique.
I mean, though, in the friendliest way possible. Rollerdrome is very attractive. One level above – it blends beautifully with the way you actually play. The goal of Roll7 – as the studio has made clear before – is to get your game into a state of flow, and the fun of OlliOlli has evolved into a sort of magical murder zen mode in Rollerdrome. You have four weapons here, starting with just a pair of twin pistols, then as you progress into shotguns, grenade launchers, and a luxurious long-range laser crossbow that bounces bolts off walls. They’re an example of Rollerdrome’s generally impeccable design.
For example, each of them is built around time—or not time but rhythm. Aiming is smart and automatic, using the lock-on system to target any enemy closest to and within range of your reticle, while the left trigger slows down time and plays with the weapon’s rhythmic element. Shotguns, for example, do extra damage when you set the firing time in a narrow window, like the old “active reload” of Gears of War, but you’re actively killing. Crossbows can be recharged to one of two levels. At the same time, dual pistols seem to fire faster when you manually strike the trigger instead of holding it.
These loops, along with a beautifully simple ammo and health system, borrow from 2016’s Doom and many of its predecessors. Killing enemies will drop them candy green health shards, while performing tricks will reload your very limited single-shot ammo. You can already see the flow state, but Rollerdrome layers it with some simple but cleverly handled enemies: simple melee grunts with batons, riot police with shields you need staggered, mechs for strategic targets, each Kinds of grenade and mine dodge – and active dodge also quickly became essential. More than one sniper will target you with a beam of crimson soaring before it briefly flashes white.
Soon, you’ll be in the professional realm (talking about my own games here, so to speak, but bear with me), and these types of combo survival challenge games elevate themselves: moments and transformations when enemies are no longer an obstacle for opportunity. Grunts are free when surrounded by stronger mechs and late-game snipers. A mine fired from a defeated riot cop is a free attack that you can dodge – if you believe yourself – prepare for a more powerful shot, say, that Thunderbolt sniper can now kill someone with one shot enemy.
Plus another layer for better measure – a big, brilliant layer on which the entire skating game of this fight is built. Grunts aren’t just free health, they’re a free blow that lets your combo safely top up when it’s gone. Predictable attacks – they’re quickly predictable to you – not only a chance to dodge more damage, but a chance to speed up your kills of slower, more heavily armored enemies, making you faster Clear the stage and hit higher scores.
If you ultimately want to advance the Rollerdrome campaign, you will not only need to accumulate these points, but also clear up to 10 objectives in each stage. You’re going to want to do this regardless of the campaign, really. It’s just short – there are four levels, from a deadly half-pipe Olympic speedway to Sable’s Desert Bowl, a bizarre dystopian mall and a glorious Bond villain ski resort – with about three variations each. But you can, and I will, play these stages indefinitely. I’m not for leaderboards, but I’m for fun.
So sad and so funny. Few games will sing to you like this. Few systems have complimented and combined so gracefully and relentlessly, from the tiny tinkle that reloads and restores health (straight from Grand Theft Auto – Rollerdrome’s ultimate video game sound) to Lara Croft’s booming pistol. Never before has a game been so cool.