Rollerdrome, developed by Roll7 and published by Private Division, is a roller skating, third-person arcade shooter. Skating tricks, slow-mo gunslinging, and a dystopian gladiator sport aesthetic stood well individually but didn’t quite manage to mesh in a way that resonated with me.
The retro animation and story, reminiscent of Rollerball, Death Race, and The Running Man, reproduced the gritty grounded presentation of comic books and films from the ‘70s and ‘80s. In-between chapters, I could partake in a small interactive scene that provided more details about the shady corporate overlords profiting off of televised violence during the failing times of 2030. While the plot tied my character, Kara Hassan, into the story, it really wasn’t treated as more than garnish for the gameplay.
All four weapons felt reliable with each having notable strengths. If I was close enough to an enemy and pointing in their general direction, my shots were guaranteed to hit if I was using the dual pistols or the shotgun. The shotgun and rifle had an added timing mechanic to maximize the damage, and the grenade launcher was the only free-aiming projectile tool in my loadout. Wrapping it all together, the slow-motion bullet time aided precision and enhanced moment-to-moment intensity. I believe the accessible approach to both the shooting and the skating was incredibly thoughtful.
Falling off of certain maps was a possibility, but aside from that I was in no danger of rendering myself useless from improper footwork. The dodge turned me with seamless control and, if used in tandem with bullet time immediately after an enemy attack, would temporarily enhance my weapon damage. Traditional reloading was a thing of the past. Landing a multitude of grabs, spins, and grinds was the only way to acquire ammunition, and health could only be regained through successful kills.
Uninspired skatepark arenas were the stages on which I competed to clear out snipers, laser snipers, stompers, two melee types, and two robotic weapons of war. My overall score would be tallied based on tricks, dodges, and successful shots, while the combo score only took into account consecutive kills. Challenges required me to do tricks in specific locations, perform specific tricks during kills, or clear enemies consecutively to keep my combo meter up. A clock counted up, but the only way to fail was for me to lose all of my health. I felt as if the grounded, albeit far-fetched, theme stopped the game from getting too exciting, but the arcade elements took away all the gravitas and tension. It felt as if all the novelty wore off after the first arena, it was reignited at the first boss fight, and then it was back to business as usual.
Personally, I don’t think the two core gameplay mechanics got along well. Skating was joyfully fluid, but it led me to resent the pesky foes doing little more than ruining my momentum. Shooting was deathly smooth, but the indirect nature of skating and tricking to reload felt cumbersome even if I was performing with flying colors. The game advertised itself as the sort of radical debauchery that could only come from giving Elissa Steamer a gun in Tony Hawk’s Pro Shooter. What I experienced was closer to the diminished lethality of Max Payne if he had rollerblades glued to his feet.
Rollerdrome is available August 16 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC via Steam for an introductory price of $19.79 and will increase to $29.99 after two weeks.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Rollerdrome.