As a kid in the 1980s, some of my favorite movies were those that meshed futuristic SCI-FI with over-the-top action accompanied by a heavily synthesized soundtrack. One, in particular, was The Running Man which I’m sure everyone has seen, and if not just know it’s about a futuristic game show in which the goal for the contestant is to make it out alive.
After playing only 10 minutes of Rollerdrome on my Steam Deck, I had to put it down, lean my head back and look up at the night sky in utter disbelief. The year is 2022 and I have just played a game that I have been unknowingly wanting since 1987!
The year is 2030 and like The Running Man, Rollerdrome is a fight-to-the-death blood-sport controlled by the Matterhorn corporation. You play as Kara Hassan, a virtually unknown in the sport and has a distinct goal to achieve which I won’t spoil but let’s just say she has a hit list and all will be answered as you progress through the campaign.
Rollerdrome presentation blends a comic book style with beautifully cel-shaded textures. Each location has a unique look and feel with new obstacles, challenges, and enemies. Another stand-out in the presentation is the original soundtrack. Each track incorporates 80s-style synth-tech beats laced over modern rhythmic beats similar to the group Powerglove. The art style, story, and soundtrack connect perfectly like Legos.
If you ever wondered what Max Payne would have played like if he was a badass aggressive inline skater then you’re in luck. Kara Hassan is a no-nonsense speed demon of a skater with incredible acrobatic skills and a deadly marksman with any type of gun. Developer Roll7, best known for creating OlliOlli World said their goal with Rollerdrome was to create an addictive pick-up and play game. They undoubtedly achieved this goal.
Within the first minute, you will be flipping, rail grinding, and shooting as if you’ve played this game before. The simple explanation is the familiar control layout. If you played a THPS or the 2002 Aggressive inline game then you’ll feel right at home. Use the left stick to move, no need to pump, Kara will be in constant motion in whichever direction you are pointing.
(X) along with the left stick in various directions will perform grabs. (A) will jump and when timed right on launch boxes and halfpipe lips send you flying in the air. (B) will dodge while skating or in mid-flight while doing a flip by pressing (RB). Pressing (Y) while jumping on a rail will perform a grind and wall ride when next to the wall. Don’t worry about your balance. Kara Hassan will never fall off a rail or crash land from a jump. This means that you can just focus on taking down your enemies with style which in turn earns you score points.
The gunplay performs as you would expect with any modern shooter but with a twist. Press (RT) to shoot, use the right stick to aim, and (LT) to focus your shot but also perform reflex time similar to Max Payne bullet time. The beauty of this effect is that it can be used at any time in any position. So, you could be upside down performing a McTwist type move, and quickly pressing (LT) will activate it and give added time to locate a target and fire off a few rounds.
While in reflex time, you will see a bar below in the center of the screen. It will deplete the longer you hold (LT) and begin to regenerate once you release (LT). The only items you need to look out for are health and ammo. Health can be obtained from killed enemies and ammo is earned by doing tricks and performing insane combos. The combo possibilities feel virtually endless. I recall doing a 360 to rail grind, reflex time to point my gun behind me, one shot my foe then released reflex time to perform a front flip off the rail. So not only did I pull off a sick kill but I also obtained more ammo and combo points.
Each location has a set list of objectives that need to be completed in order to progress to the next. This entails performing certain moves in particular areas of the arena, reaching the goal score, collecting items, and beating other NPC story-based scores. Like in a THPS game, each challenge will get marked off once completed so you don’t have to worry about completing all of the objectives in one run. There are multiple gun types that you will get as you progress along with grenades. The enemy types will also change and some with have you screaming WTH is THAT? There are also explosive barrels and hidden areas which typically can be discovered by smashing through a window or launching off a high ramp.
Playing Rollerdrome is like eating your favorite flavor of ice cream with all the toppings. It’s a beautiful, fast-paced, incredibly addictive extreme sports shooter that I didn’t know I wanted and now know I could never live without.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Rollerdrome for Steam provided by Private Division and Roll7.