Sick Roller Skate Tricks Meet Lethal Shooting Action

Sick Roller Skate Tricks Meet Lethal Shooting Action

I was given the chance to preview rollerdrome from Roll7, the team behind the delightfully skillful 2D skateboarding game OlliOlli World. In a similar fashion to their last title, you’re tasked with pulling off sick tricks, linking combos, and racking up high scores — but this time on roller skates, in full 3D arenas and with guns blazing.

The game puts you in the skates of Kara Hassan, a newbie contestant in the rollerdrome championship series, a bloodsport that pits competitors against house players in a kill-or-be-killed death match. Your standing is based on completing specific challenges, your overall time, and most importantly your survival. You only get secondhand information on your rivals from first-person story sections that allow you the chance to walk around the back rooms of the various arenas. In these sections you can soak up environmental storytelling from things like promotional materials, open lockers, or eavesdropped conversations.

I was surprised to find that, despite the bizarre concept of a sport based around shooting folk while on roller skates, rollerdrome actually has a distinctly serious tone. The championship series has tons of rules and regulations; you’ll find documents that specify strict competitor attire and detail the insurance payouts to house players and their families should they die during matches. It all lends an ominous and dystopian air to the proceedings that similar games buck in favor of wacky irreverence. However, that doesn’t stop gameplay from being boisterous and over the top.

There are three gameplay pillars to rollerdrome you’re constantly juggling while in matches. The first is just general navigation of the arenas on your skates. Once you push in a certain direction, you’ll automatically keep going, freeing you to look around and aim as you please. The ability to acid drop down into ramps or leap out of bowls with jumps will help you position Kara exactly where you need her while house players try to take her out of her.

Gunplay is the second pillar, and it is tremendously generous when it comes to aiming. You’ll auto-lock onto nearby enemies but can free-aim in slow motion while holding the left trigger, which is essential for handling threats in the most tactical way possible.

The final pillar is a trick system. Kara can grind on rails and ride on walls, as well as do flip and grab tricks while airborne, which aside from netting you combos and high scores is the only way to refill your weapons’ ammo. In combat, switching your focus from one of these pillars to the next feels natural and can easily send you into a flow state where you’re causing awesome slow-motion carnage.

I could only check out the first six stages of rollerdrome for preview, but the game wastes no time by introducing a variety of challenging enemy types that encourage players to stay alert. You’ll have to contend with bat-wielding grunts, snipers, mines, rockets, and more, many of which require specific tactics or weapons in your arsenal to deal with.

As snipers tracked me around the arena, I’d dodge and aim at the last second to trigger “super reflex,” an even slower focus state, to deal with other enemies in range while being sure to avoid falling out of bounds or running into walls. Responding to threats properly becomes a meta game that’s not just essential to success but also incredibly rewarding.

At first glance, the aesthetic of rollerdrome seems like it will be a high point. But the novelty of its incredible cel shading effect kind of wears off after noticing the similarities in some of its arenas. I also have minor flus with Kara’s awkward animation of her during some movements, particularly the robotic way she spins. Although, there are environmental high points in just the small sampling I’ve seen, like a ski resort and shopping mall.

I had been excited to try rollerdrome after seeing it showcased at PlayStation’s State of Play back in June, and after getting some time with it for preview, I’m confident that it’s got what it takes to surpass other easily GIFable yet ultimately shallow titles like My Friend Pedro. With its bleak yet intriguing setting and high-skill-ceiling gameplay, rollerdrome is a title to watch. The game will be out August 16 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.

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