I’ve got a confession to make. When I previewed Rollerdrome last month, I was under strict instructions to only talk about the first six levels. I did just that, but I’d played more than the first six levels.
Just a few days after getting access, I beat Rollerdrome. I couldn’t put it down. I tried to stop myself, to no avail - I just wanted to keep playing to try to complete all of the challenges and hit the top of the leaderboards.
As a follow-up to the already excellent OlliOlli World, utilising similar trick-based gameplay, Rollerdrome is better than I could ever have hoped.
It feels incredible
Swapping a skateboard for some rollerskates, the action in Rollerdrome is arguably more hectic than trying to flick the right thumbstick in 18 different directions in a few seconds to get through OlliOlli levels.
Not only do you need to pull off tricks to boost your score, but there’s a whole third-person shooter aspect to the game. Defeating enemies with one of your four unique weapons in quick succession increases your combo and you need to pull off tricks to replenish your very limited ammo.
You also need to quickly switch between your shotgun, pistols, grenade launcher, and laser rifle on the fly, sometimes mid-trick. It’s a lot to manage, but thankfully there’s a cinematic bullet-time mechanic that makes combat a little bit easier. It also makes the combat immensely satisfying. Dodging attacks, replenishing ammo, and selecting the right weapon for each enemy type is tough, but in the same way as completing levels in OlliOlli is.
Rollerdrome perfectly skates the difficulty line, creating levels that require intense focus and quick reactions, without ever feeling overwhelming. The beautiful art style really comes to the fore when slow-motion explosions are happening all around you, but not once did I get lost in it all.
As you progress, you learn that success isn’t just about getting through the level. You begin to learn attack patterns, how to prioritise particular enemies, or when the perfect time to grab the bonus combo tokens is. The way Rollerdrome introduces new enemy types and weapons slowly to help you learn is brilliant.
It also helps you get a real understanding of how to maximise your score. You’re not just aimlessly skating about shooting anything you see, Rollerdrome teaches you to be organised and patient, which makes the perfect run so satisfying.
The action becomes lightning fast and intense, your heart rate increasing as you can sense a great run coming together. Rollerdrome is one of the most finely tuned action games I’ve played.
Loads of replayability
After my first few levels, I was concerned that the final levels would ramp up the difficulty too much. However, the way you learn to manage your skills through challenges and score chasing ensures you’re always learning to cope better with the barrage of enemy attacks coming at you. The latter levels are tough, but the game prepares you for them. Managing to complete the final level in a single combo is the biggest gaming thrill I’ve had in years.
That focus on challenges and score chasing is the best thing about Rollerdrome, too. I haven't found myself score-chasing like I am in Rollerdrome for a long time. I’ve been fighting for the top spot on some levels’ worldwide leaderboards, but I’m sure to be embarrassed by the masses once the game releases. The fact I’m even tempted to try and beat other players’ scores is a testament to how great Rollerdrome feels.
That also gives Rollerdrome a huge amount of replayability. There are only two levels that I avoid replaying too much: the two boss levels. While they start as standard levels, the boss sections that end them aren’t nearly as fun. Set in more expansive open arenas, they’re not as fast-paced, losing the challenge of balancing tricks, combos, and combat somewhat.
Elsewhere, I was drawn to jump into every level to try and maximise my score and beat each of the ten challenges. Bringing skills you’ve learned and weapons you’ve unlocked into the earlier levels makes you feel immensely powerful, smashing through the level in a fraction of the time it took on your first attempt.
Some of the challenges are really tough too, requiring precise tricks to be performed or really high scores to be reached. The challenges also aren’t designed to be completed in one run. Jumping into a level with completing one single challenge as your aim adds variety to re-runs. You’re not just playing over and over again to get a higher score, you’re replaying with specific targets in mind.
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 aspect, all while trying to beat your best score.
New Game Plus for even more challenge
Rollerdrome’s new game plus mode - called Out For Blood and unlocked once you complete the main campaign - only adds further replayability and challenge. There are only a few challenges to complete in each one, but enemy variety is increased and they all do 1.5x damage. It’s the perfect mode for those obsessed with Rollerdrome’s score-chasing, albeit really, really hard.
I would have liked to see how an upgrade system worked in Rollerdrome, though. Maybe the ability to unlock higher max health, faster ammo replenishment, or more damage. The difficulty is already well balanced, but it may have been another interesting way to gauge improvement as you beat levels.
Otherwise, there isn’t anything that Rollerdrome is missing. It’s a meticulously designed and balanced game with a core premise I can’t believe hasn’t been concocted before. Roll7 has made yet another game that is challenging, fun, bursting with style, and perfect for the score-chasing competitor in all of us. I’ll be playing it for a long time to come; those number one spots are mine!
Rollerdrome was reviewed on PS5 with code provided by publisher.