Roll7’s signature mix of fast-paced gameplay, finely tuned difficulty, and combo-based score chasing works perfectly for OlliOlli. When playing the Void Riders expansion, I wondered what the studio would do next and whether a similar gameplay style would work in a completely different game. While Rollerdrome is a third-person shooter rather than a side-scrolling platformer, it’s actually a lot more similar to OlliOlli than I expected.
Having only seen the announcement trailer a few months ago, as well as a few short clips, I didn’t really know how Rollerdrome worked before I had the chance to preview the first six levels recently. I knew I enjoyed the OlliOlli games, so any continuation of that style was likely to be something I’d like.
Thankfully, Rollerdrome is arguably the perfect next step, combining complex trick-based action with satisfying shooting mechanics and a challenge system that’s seen me want to score-chase more than OlliOlli ever has.
Action Packed Skating
Rather than a skateboard, you have a pair of roller skates in Rollerdrome. The premise is simple - you need to kill all the enemies in a level to progress - but the gameplay is complex.
It’s also all wrapped in an art style similar to OlliOlli’s. The hand-drawn animation is less spectacular, which is to be expected when the locations are limited to relatively small battle arenas. There’s no sprawling canvas to draw beautiful worlds on for you to pass, but it works with the dystopian theme of Rollerdrome.
To get ammo, you need to do tricks, and doing complex and varied tricks earns you points. Each enemy you take out adds one to your combo, with the combo bar slowly emptying between attacks. To keep your combo going, you need to stay in the action, but to do that you also need to be doing tricks to keep your limited ammo (12 pistol bullets, 6 shotgun slugs) topped up.
Therefore, you’re constantly having to balance attacking with retreating to get a few tricks off and top up ammo.
Killing enemies is the only way to get health too, so Rollerdrome does all it can to keep you deep in the barrage of explosions and incoming missiles.
The action is hectic in the same way OlliOlli’s tricks are. Switching between weapons while pulling off a trick and shooting enemies in such a way that maximises opportunities for combo building in Rollerdrome might even be more stressful than trying to flick the right thumbstick 18 different ways in a few seconds to get through OlliOlli levels.
Since I’m only six levels into the game, I can’t imagine how hectic it’ll get towards the end. As you’d expect, Rollerdrome is challenging too, thanks to the quick fingers and reactions required, so I just hope it doesn’t get frustrating towards the end.
Either way, Rollerdrome feels phenomenal to play and will leave you breathless at times. Tricks are fun to pull off, you’re given just enough help in shooting to make it satisfying and tactical, and working out the best way to maximise your score adds a huge level of replayability.
I couldn’t put down the first six levels. The challenges aren’t designed to be completed in your first attempt. You’ll chip away at most of them in your second, third, or hundredth try, once you’ve developed a better understanding of Rollerdrome’s prioritisation side, all while trying to beat your best score.
I’ve not found myself score-chasing like I am in Rollerdrome for a long time. Not to brag, but I’m top of the worldwide leaderboards on a few levels and am well on my way to completing all of the challenges in the first six levels.
I’ll inevitably be embarrassed by thousands of players once the game releases, but the fact I’m even tempted to try and beat other players’ scores is a testament to how great Rollerdrome feels to play.
I just hope the later levels keep adding to the tools at your disposal and the challenge remains fair. The levels are already long enough that one mistake can frustratingly ruin a run, much like in OlliOlli, so I’m worried that’ll become even more pronounced as different things are thrown at me.
I also wish there was more in the way of an upgrade system in Rollerdrome. You have access to a shotgun as well as dual pistols in the first six levels, and selecting them with the d-pad suggests more are to come, but there’s nothing in the way of upgrades.
Getting better at timing tricks, dodging attacks, and figuring out the optimal order to take out enemies is all that’ll help you improve. I was left wondering whether ways to increase your health or improve the rate at which you replenish ammo would make Rollerdrome’s replayability more prominent. How the game develops after the first six levels (which seems to be about a third of the game) will go some way toward answering that though.
I’m extremely excited to play more of Rollerdrome. Combining the challenging tricks-based gameplay Roll7 perfected with OlliOlli with a satisfying third-person shooter is a masterstroke. I haven’t wanted to replay levels over and over again to score-chase like this in a long time, which is all down to how great Rollerdrome feels to play. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed it doesn’t lose its finely tuned balance and drown in new weapons and unique bad guys in the later levels.