I love the era of weird and charming Sega Dreamcast games, and am constantly pushing for sequels and such to classics such as Space Channel 5 or Jet Set Radio. Luckily for me, the latter is getting a substantial spiritual revolution in Rollerdrome. If Jet Set Radio were turned into a requel repositioned for a slightly older and hopped-up audience, elevated with engaging gunplay while maintaining the importance of masterful skating, you get Rollerdrome. It’s the joy of skating, while also mixing the game with a third-person shooter. Rollerdrome is an exciting game that harkens back to the stylish, cel-shaded world of Jet Set Radio while also taking from the developer’s previous work, OlliOlli.
Rollerdrome is a game that’s smaller in scale, putting all of the emphasis on skating with minimal importance placed on the story. There is a narrative woven throughout the game’s campaign mode, a breezy, surprisingly difficult yet still satisfying foray of numerous levels. However, the narrative isn’t particularly a highlight or impressive. Mostly, it offers insight into the outside, dystopian world in segments where you begin a new set of levels. The game takes place in a capitalistic hellscape, where the extreme sport of Rollerdrome is hugely successful. But you’ll likely ignore the message hidden behind all of the violence.
Shoot them down
It’s the Rollerdroming that should really hook you in. The gameplay stars a sleek system where you can perform a variety of different tricks while gunning down those in your way. Gun fights and roller skating are directly connected with each other in a seamless system. Performing tricks in this game is the only way you’ll get more ammo in your gun, which is an incredibly unique and smart way to force you to engage with roller skating. The gameplay loop of flipping, grinding, wall-riding, and spinning to reload your numerous flashy weapons is highly satisfying, as you skate around and take everyone down.
There’s also an incredibly fun bullet-time system where you can slow down time to focus your aim, which is important in defeating certain enemies. You’ll need to slow time to burst down a foe before he encases himself in a protective bubble or shoot the feet of one type of enemy before they can don a riot shield. A dodging system awards you for performing frame-perfect dodges, earning you some extra points and swag.
Rollerdrome gives you a ton of positive feedback in-game for doing well. Bombastic messages flashing in your face whenever you dodge just at the last second or after performing a series of impressive flips and spins. It’s part of what makes the game deeply satisfying to play.
Such a fun system would perform well in multiplayer, which is one of the more disappointing omissions of the game. The gameplay in Rollerdrome would be absolutely fantastic in a multiplayer setting, but developer Roll7 stated it wanted to distance itself from multiplayer and solely focus on the single-player experience. You can still compete with your friends on the leaderboards, but PvP would have been fun.
The single-player experience is fully fleshed out regardless, with boss fights and unique landscapes that aren’t just confined to certain areas. There’s also an unlockable campaign that ramps up the difficult to more extreme levels, giving the game a good amount of replay value if you’re the type who likes things tough. You’ll find a lot to do in Rollerdrome. There are challenges to complete. And you’ll likely be going back to it to beat high scores or just revel in the satisfaction that is shooting someone dead while doing flips in slow motion.
The game is designed for controllers in mind, but I mostly played with a keyboard and didn’t have any problems with that.
Gun them down
While playing, you constantly move forward at a steady rate. It takes some time getting used to. I kept instinctually pressing the “W” key to move forward during the start of the game, which was unnecessary and probably cluttered some of my gameplay. Systems are explained well, but there’s definitely a slight element of “easy to learn, hard to master” going on here that’s fun to explore.
I think the game could use a bit more of a skill ceiling, however, as some of the tricks feel a bit lacking. Still, there are definitely times when I skated off the map because I didn’t align my camera correctly or understand the movement in the game. Nothing about my experience felt clunky or unintuitive, but you’ll discover that practice truly does make perfect in the world of Rollerdrome.
However, the game has some solid tutorials to help you find the momentum. Though you’ll learn new things during the action, such as shooting explosive barrels or literal rockets out of the air. (Remember, slow motion makes everything cooler.) Roll7 did a good job in preparing you on how to win, even though the odds are constantly stacked against you. Snipers and bat-wielding thugs are only the start.
Skating to victory
Part of Rollerdrome‘s charm is the incredibly stylish, cel-shaded graphics meant to harken back to comic books and graphic novels (but again, I just see Jet Set Radio, which is a good thing). Roll7 nailed the visual feel of the game, with explosions and bullets hypnotically filling the air. The look of Rollerdrome is a big contributor to how engrossing parts of the game feel. The graphics are bolstered by a kinetic and satisfying soundtrack, successfully hyping you up as you participate in this blood sport.
Rollerdrome is an aggressively entertaining game with innovative gameplay. The game nearly perfectly combines a lot of different genres in one tantalizing package. It’s rare nowadays for a game to feel so fresh, but Rollerdrome felt like a heightened and new experience while also banking on some nostalgia. Though I do admit that much of this nostalgia may have been from myself. Overall, Rollerdrome is an exciting experience and is well worth a trip to the skate park.