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Rollerdrome Review - Sadistic And Satisfying Roller Disco

Rollerdrome is an innovative, upbeat, often sadistic, and utterly satisfying shooter-skater that had me completely immersed in its 10 hours long single-player campaign.
Rollerdrome Review - Sadistic And Satisfying Roller Disco

Imagine living in a politically deranged cyberpunk world as a person of color with unprecedented debt on your shoulders, with only one way out of this mess; participate and win in a high-octane skating-shooting sports tournament. This is Rollerdrome in a nutshell. 

Developed by Roll7, Rollerdrome feels like an alter-ego of the studio's past skateboarding side-scroller games OlliOlli, and OlliOlli World.

While it retains those games' addictive and challenging gameplay experience and fuses it with an enthralling disco-infused soundtrack, its polarising progression system and uneven difficulty spike in the campaign's latter half rob it from being the studio's magnum opus. 

Rollerdrome Story - Lowkey Cyberpunk 

rollerdrome story
Rollerdrome takes place in a cyberpunk world where corrupt mega corporations control everything. (Picture: Roll7/ Ginx Esports TV)

In Rollerdrome, you play as Kara Hassan, a young woman who's a newcomer to this bloodsport and the politics that surrounds it. International Rollerdrome Federation, aka IRF, is the mega corrupt organization that controls everything surrounding this bizarre sport, including the voice of its participants. 

Despite being a sports game, Rollerdrome puts quite an emphasis on world-building. When you are not vibing and performing tricks on your Rollerskates or shooting House People (the game's nameless enemies), you will spend time exploring the locker rooms, press rooms, and more of the likes in first-person perspective.

These moments of exploration happen between the various stages of the Rollerdrome Championship, where you can read notes, check your email, or spy on a conversation between two journalists responsible for covering the championship to learn more about this retro-futuristic world.

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Rollerdrome delivers its narrative in-between the rounds of the tournament. (Picture: Roll7/Ginx Esports TV)

These snippets of narrative delivered through notes, over-heard conversations, emails, and more, gives an idea of what it's like to live in a world where a mega-corporation controls everything, including the press. 

I enjoyed these little anecdotes not just because they provided a much-needed downtime between those chaotic runs in the arena (more on that later) but because they gave me an incentive to be better in the field. 

The game does a fine job of making you feel inferior amidst the growing tension between the press, the protesters, other competitors, and the IRF.

Kara is neither the star player nor the rebellious one that protests the questionable practices of the IRF. She is easily overshadowed; let her performance do the talking in this barbarous tournament.

Rollerdrome's narrative is a classic case of "us" against the "organization," and the sooner you realize that your competition isn't other competitors but the sport in itself, you strive to be better. Of course, these narrative beats are only here to fuel the overarching gameplay, which is where Rollerdrome truly shines. 

Rollerdrome gameplay - Viscious and visceral disco

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Rollerdrome offers a brutal but satisfying gameplay experience. (Picture: Roll7/ Ginx Esports TV)

The rules are simple - be the last one standing in the arena to be victorious. However, to proceed to the next round of the championship, you must complete a minimum number of challenges, which is where the game gets tricky.

The base campaign is divided into four parts - Opening Stages, Quarters, Semis, and Final. These, as you might have guessed, are different levels of the Rollerdrome Championship. The narrative beats kick off at the end of every round. 

In the beginning, the game provides a tutorial highlighting its various mechanics. It might seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you're not used to memorizing combos and stuff. While there's a lot to keep track of, the game gives you enough opportunities to try and master every maneuver.

It's something you will have to eventually learn since Rollerdrome puts a lot of emphasis on completing challenges. It's also where, I believe, everyone's opinion on the game will start to vary. The challenges are optional objectives that you will have to eventually complete if you want to progress to the next round.

Every round in Rollerdrome requires you to complete a set amount of challenges to progress. It's possible to be victorious in every match but still not progress to the next round if you don't complete enough challenges.

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In Rollerdrome, you progress by completing challenges. (Picture: Roll7/Ginx Esports TV)

Some of these challenges can be a nuisance, which is Rollerdrome's cue to you to get better. It can be a steep learning curve for sure, but the responsive controls and satisfying shooting, together with the '70s-inspired synth-pop music, make understanding, mastering, and executing every rollerskating trick in the arena well worth it. It's disco in its most violent form. 

While completing these challenges is tedious, you only have to do it once. The challenges are marked completed even if you die, so you won't have to worry about losing your progress once you have completed them. 

It's something that I appreciated a lot, especially since it allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and experiment with more maneuvers without the fear of losing my progress.

The way Rollerdrome handles progression is also how it separates itself from other sports games, for better or worse. You're not just aiming to win but aiming to win with style. 

While I welcomed the challenge and loved the moment-to-moment gameplay, the uneven difficulty spikes in some latter sections of the campaign had me incredibly frustrated at times.

Usually, in such cases, an abundance of enemies suddenly appeared on screen, catching me by surprise and leading to a somewhat cheap death that I didn't see coming.

The increased difficulty and the unwelcome hordes of enemies usually appeared at the end of the rounds, making them all the more frustrating, especially when I was aiming to finish the round, not the challenges. 

For a game that boasts a lot of accessibility options and gameplay modifiers, Rollerdrome can be frustratingly difficult. 

As if the game wasn't challenging enough in itself, there's also an increased difficulty mode called "Out for Blood" that is unlocked after completing the base campaign. 

Rollerdrome accessibility options - More than you would think

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Rollerdrome offers general, video, and audio accessibility options. (Picture: Roll7/Ginx Esports TV)

Speaking of accessibility, there's plenty here. From the more basic options like changing the size of subtitles to more advanced visual and audio aids, Rollerdrome packs a surprising amount of accessibility features, something that's always welcoming in a modern indie or AAA game. 

While there are no traditional difficulty options per se, there's an assist section where you can disable certain aspects of the game, like decreasing the damage Kara takes, enabling infinite ammo, and more. However, enabling any assists will prevent you from submitting your scores to the online leaderboards.

Rollerdrome launches on 16th August 2022 for PC, PS4, and PS5 for $29.99/£24.99. Both Steam and PS Plus users can, however, get a $10 discount on the game for the first two weeks after launch.

Since it's a PlayStation console exclusive, I'm surprised it's not a day one PS Plus launch title like the recent hit indie title Stray. Also, sorry, Xbox Game Pass users, you're probably not getting Rollerdrome anytime soon, if at all. 

Verdict - Is Rollerdrome worth buying?

rollerdrome review verdict
Rollerdrome is an innovative, upbeat, often sadistic, and utterly satisfying shooter-skater. (Picture: Roll7/GinxEsportsTV)

Rollerdrome is an innovative, upbeat, often sadistic, and utterly satisfying shooter-skater that had me completely immersed in its 10 hours long single-player campaign. 

Coming off from OlliOlli World, I would have preferred a little more variety in the visual department, not to mention more forgiving combat encounters in the latter half of the campaign, though what's here is substantial.

If you're up for the challenge, Rollerdrome is well worth your money and time.  

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Featured image courtesy of Roll7.