ice rink review
need to know
what is it? A third shot them with skates.
expect to pay $30/£25
release date August 16, 2022
developer Volume 7
Publisher private sector
audit date Nvidia GeForce GTX-970, Intel i7-4790K, 16GB RAM
multiplayer game? Do not
association Official website
Rollerdrome is a game about performance. There are battles, but it’s not about winning. It’s about style. The attitude you bring. Put on a show. Efficiency is a byproduct of mastering its violent dance—really, you’re here to look good.
This is probably my favorite action game since Devil’s Dagger. A single-minded, stylish and evocative beast that will pull you for a ride and be hard to let go. Suppose I’ve played more than one game at Rollerdrome after midnight, chasing those high scores.
The protagonist, Kara Hassan, finds herself involved in a roller-skating gladiatorial match. Think running man on wheels, you’re basically there. Essentially, the game is very simple: you skate and shoot. The fun of it is that while it builds on that foundation, it’s still fun even if you’ve only learned the basics. Coming from Roll7, the folks behind the joyful skateboard series OlliOlli, it’s no surprise. Skating is easy – you just channel and build momentum – but it feels great. No matter how much you master, there is a real sense of speed that can be added to all your movements.
With Max Payne-esque bullet time, landing shots are more of a matter of timing than aiming, which makes combat feel like part of the overall rhythm of the game rather than interrupting your flips and tricks. You can restore health by killing enemies, but you can only get ammo through tricks like grinding or perfect dodge. There is always a balance between moving and attacking. Nailing this combo is the sweet spot where Rollerdrome gets exciting, pushing you to go faster and faster. What weapon combinations allow you to knock down a shielded enemy in seconds? Can you trick that enemy into firing mines at their allies? I want to see social media flooded with clips of people’s best runs. It’s a game that looks almost as fun as it is to play.
The visuals certainly don’t hurt in this regard. It has a sketchy, vibrant look reminiscent of last year’s Sable, with a retro-futuristic and ’70s-inspired design. All of this was clearly influenced by the work of the artist Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius. (No, not a double-box-bomb vampire.) It’s compelling in screenshots or in motion, and it’s very readable. Intense colors, high contrast. Even the bold words introducing new levels show that their goals are clear.
(Image credit: Roll7)
The game can withstand incredible chaos and explosiveness (especially in its late stages) because it sends such a clear message to the player. For example, a sniper beam or charging laser will turn white to indicate a perfect dodge. Even the sound is great, with the screeching wheel roll on concrete pulling you into it before unleashing a symphony of explosions, rockets and shotgun blasts. The soundtrack itself seems to mimic the increasing rhythm of each level, letting you know when the timer starts. All of these combine to ensure that you know what’s going on at any given moment without really thinking about it. It just happens to look and sound good.
rise and grind
This is probably my favorite action game since Devil’s Dagger.
Complexity increases rapidly as you progress. Enemy types pile up, each requiring new tactics from the player (check out the challenges for hints) as well as the player’s abilities. Skating is complemented by wall runs, and your starting pistol is quickly accompanied by shotguns, grenade launchers and railguns. Each offers a new dimension or playstyle, allowing you to take on enemies with specific combinations until you have a routine that makes even your first run wildly successful. I love going into crazy new spaces with confidence. In fact, the game’s difficulty curve feels perfect from start to finish. Things definitely got tougher at the end, but I never felt my depth. New enemies never feel frustrating, just exciting new puzzles to solve.
No matter how much it stacks on top, the core of the game is always performance. It’s not about destroying your enemies, it’s about acting in style. Dash through an enemy so you can spin and shoot him in the back looks cool – the game is quick to admit that. Doing a flip before firing a grenade at the walking mech is what gets the audience excited about this ridiculous death campaign. There’s also a whole bunch of tricks to master (there’s a handy “tricks” listing them all), and incorporating them into your run is essential if you want those high-scoring or game-completing challenges.
(Image credit: Roll7)
The progression of the game’s campaign (about a dozen levels, plus unlockable modes upon completion) ties into these challenges, which encourage players to try out daring moves or chase impossible score multipliers. You don’t have to take these challenges seriously — even if you meet them before you fail, it’s still important, so you can tackle each challenge yourself if you want. Then again, if you want to take it easy, the game allows that. In fact, there are a number of modifiers that can make the game easier, including invulnerability, ensuring the experience is as accessible as possible. Using them will get you off the leaderboards, but you can enjoy the game your way.
If you’re like me, you’ll want those high scores. Tie some challenges and high multipliers together? Let’s get to work. A few practice sessions before accomplishing some insane feat is a thrill that only the best action games can provide, but I don’t know I’ve played any score-centric game like this that made me feel so…relaxed. I rarely get frustrated with failed or screwed up stunts. There’s a feeling that it’s all just practice, and next time try to do it well, not fail. It just adds to the joy because not only are you starting to do well, but you’re also throwing in a little trick. Spin before the shotgun explodes, somersault before taking the sniper out from above.
This bravado is also part of Kara Hassan’s identity. She’s actually a silent protagonist, but who she is is revealed through the game’s encouragement of stunts and a small amount of narrative. You’ll take a little breather at the start of each new level of the Champion, and she’ll get a small piece of her life in the Champion’s shoes as she explores the space behind the scenes to flesh out the world. She’ll comment on some indifferent competitor, or play an action figure in a way that outlines someone who’s competitive but humble enough to understand the stakes outside of the sport she’s in.
(Image credit: Roll7)
I don’t know I’ve played any score-centric game that made me feel so…relaxed.
You also find signs of protests and revolutions on the sidelines as you play, but in a way, you know…you love this scary thing. You are very good at it. When did you go from reluctant combatant to complicit champion of this world? It’s a slippery slope, especially when you’re on skates.
All of these are a complementary story, applied lightly. Enough to take your breath away and wonder where it all goes. As bad as Carla, I want to see the ending. Partly because of the attractions, each new level elevates the spectacle from stadium battles to full-scale battlefields. Then there’s a truly spectacular Spider Tank battle that effortlessly blends into the game’s over-the-top emotion. If you could see the opponent you’re up against at the end of the game from the start, you’d think it’s impossible, but when you get there, the overwhelming odds just put a smile on your face. bring it on.
slide out ten
Mastering escalating chaos is a key survival skill, but you can’t let things get too quiet or it’s impossible to tie these score multipliers together. Enemies almost become dance partners, and you have to plan some careful choreography to achieve those high scores, not just kill everything in sight. Instead of killing them, you might hit an enemy to keep the multiplier going and leave it for the next time you go around the map. Once you start thinking about the Rollerdrome in these ways, you’ll be amazed at the ludicrous heights you can reach.
(Image credit: Roll7)
Not that speed isn’t important. You’ll be rewarded based on how many times you beat it within the time limit, and you’ll be penalized for anything beyond that. Just don’t overlook what’s important. Games certainly don’t.
Because Rollerdome is a game of squinting, aiming and firing lasers at the bullseye. It’s all about delivering that kind of fast-paced action loop, the kind of thing you can play over and over again because each individual beat is so violent and flows effortlessly into the next.
No skill tree, no unlockable abilities or experience points. There is no barrier between you and the excitement on offer. It’s a game that knows exactly what it wants to be and doesn’t let anything get in the way of it. Karahassan certainly won’t stop until she conquers the sport. After dozens of hours at Rollerdome, I’m starting to think I won’t either.
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