Rollerdrome is a cross between Tony Hawk, a first-person shooter and Running Man. It’s a new kind of sport where players skate for their lives while mowing down bad guys at the same time. This one is a console exclusive to PlayStation 5 and may be one of the best under-the-radar indies this year.
While we’d like to think this is set in a dystopian future, actually it’s only 8 years away in 2030. You play as Kara Hassan, a skater who wants to take on the Rollerdrome, which is a futuristic bloodsport where you have to skate and shoot for your life against “house players”. These are a range of enemies that include melee combatants and also missle-wielding mechs. Much of the games will be taken up chasing high scores via the various challenges, but there’s also a dark mystery to unravel with the story too.
There are the skating and action sections of Rollerdrome, which will take up most of your time, but there are also the story-mode first-person sections too. Here you’ll go into the locker room and office, before heading out into the main arena. These story sections aren’t mandatory if you don’t want to go through them, you can rush through to get to the action, although the story is pretty interesting, so personally I don’t mind going through a few scenes. This isn’t like Neon White, which seemed to go on forever, this is much more manageable in smaller sections of the narrative.
The main objective of Rollerdrome is the action and the game seriously delivers on the vision of a Tony Hawk Shooter mashup. Both the skating and the gunplay are happening at the same time, which could be overly complex, however, Roll7 have found a way to keep it manageable, easy to pick up, and tricky to master. It’s a good balance of being able to get up and running quickly, then if you want to get deeper into the mechanics then you can. As you are skating along you don’t have to worry too much about speed, plus the aiming is quite forgiving, meaning managing both mechanics at the same time is relatively straightforward.
While the game is easy to pick up and play quickly, that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging by any means. Enemies get more difficult as the levels go by, as do the challenges, which are reminiscent of the original Tony Hawk games. You’ll be tasked with shooting down enemies, and then combining that with various tricks and skills to chain together, which will improve your time and flow through a level with each flourish. Levels are predictable with their enemy placement, so you can learn them thoroughly, practice and run them quickly as you get better.
The arenas are varied, plus the design of the game makes them pop out of the screen. The art style is similar to Sable, and you have desert-style arenas, or you have American style malls. The soundtrack complements the game’s design with Electric Dragon’s soundtrack, which emulates 70s disco and 80s synth. Given this is on the PS5, then the DualSense features have been worked in too with the controller providing haptic feedback when you are grinding rails and also shooting the various weaponry. You get the sound of you skating coming through the speakers on the controller which is a nice touch. The adaptive triggers are utilised for the weapons too, making the DualSense a useful addition to the game.
As you make your way around the arena the visuals and audio get more intense in parallel to the action. Each kill adds a score multiplier, plus shooting enemies also help you keep your combos rolling. Ammo didn’t seem to be an issue in Rollerdrome, I did have to be slightly careful, but ammo refills always seemed to be within my grasp. Performing tricks help refill weapons, plus all your guns share collective ammo, meaning you can be skating past enemies while charging your refills through various tricks, so you can jump in with a pistol or shotgun, unload a few shots, rush away and charge again to repeat and keep those combos rolling.
The gameplay loop is all about speed, movement, shooting and reloading, plus you can improvise as well. New enemies with new abilities are constantly thrown in your way throughout the campaign, but ROllerdrome does a good job of not overwhelming you. Enemies include Riot Shield-wearing, gun-wielding enemies, or you have enemies with Bats to keep things fresh and mix up the combat variety. There’s also a decent slo-mo mechanic where you press in the left trigger and aim. Rollerdrome does slo-mo very well, there’s something about the skating and shooting that works really well with the slow-down mechanic.
There is a Super Reflex mode in which you can dodge snipers, missiles and mines while slowing down time and boosting up the power of your shots too. Rollerdrome does a great job of making you feel powerful, without going too overboard. At first, there is a lot going on when you enter the arena, but after a few tries and replays you’ll feel comfortable.
Rollerdrome’s campaign is roughly 5-6 hours or so, plus there’s a good post-campaign game mode that opens up for some replayability. Given the nature of the game, you’ll want to go back and play levels over and over again, as that’s the nature of this skating and shooting game. Similar to Neon White you’ll want to go back and beat your times, as the action and tricks make you want to come back for more.
Rollerdrome is an admirable indie game, which is decent fun, albeit one that gets slightly repetitive in later levels. The game is gorgeous, more often than not screenshot and share-worthy action sequences, plus the story development is interesting, in this very near future dystopian world. Roll7 has had a great year so far with OlliOlli World and now Rollerdrome. It’s another great indie game that’s fun to play, quick to pick up, and difficult to master. Well worth playing.
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive, Private Division
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Release Date: 16th August 2022