So I heard about Rollerdrome mostly through word-of-mouth after it came freestylin’ in, guns in hand. It boasts a unique combination of gameplay mechanics with a visual style special enough to go along with it. Full of style and substantial gameplay, Rollerdrome was a surprise hit that I’m still playing more than a month after release.
Rollerdrome is a third person skating game with trick mechanics and gunplay. It’s not so much a peanut butter meets chocolate situation as it is peanut butter and pickles: I didn’t expect it to taste great—and it does—but I can see how others might not like it. Food analogies aside, Rollerdrome is an action packed skating game where you play as Kara Hassan, a competitor in a fight to the death arena with roller derby aspirations. I saw one publication describe it as “Tony Hawk’s Pro Shooter” and that’s probably more apt than anything I can come up with.
In Rollerdrome, your objective is to get a high score, perform tricks, and kill the jerks in the arena whose job it is to kill you. To do this you’ll have to shoot and move because death can come quickly to Kara, and from a multitude of locations. Kara can shoot back with four different weapons that are acquired as you make your way through Rollerdrome’s eleven arenas, each filled with Rollerdrome’s enemy ‘house players.’ Each arena also has a selection of challenges to meet, like tricks to perform and items to collect. These challenges, while also weapon-based, will be familiar to anyone that’s played a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game.
Rollerdrome’s story is told in a minimal way as you progress through each of the sets of the 2030 championship. There is an amazing amount of backstory produced in each of the first person perspective scenes that give you a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the 2030 championship, with references to past championships, current competitors, etc. It’s also cool as hell when it switches from first person to third person as Kara enters the arena.
I really appreciate the graphical choices used in Rollerdrome. It uses a shading technique that reminds me of Sable, but it is used so much better here, giving Rollerdrome an almost comic book look. While I’d probably get tired of these type of graphics if they were more prevalent, Rollerdrome really owns the style.
While I enjoy the world and look of Rollerdrome, I did have some frustrations while playing it, but all of those stemmed from the skating gameplay. Changing directions can be annoyingly difficult, and has caused me to roll off of obstacles and “out of bounds” making me take fall damage. Health is regenerated as you roll over enemies after you defeat them, making it potentially scarce if you’re dealing with a single enemy with lots of health. Ammo is replenished while performing tricks, and while I appreciate the concept and how it supports the gunning and skating gameplay, it always felt like a chore to perform the next trick to get some ammo. Despite my frustrations, however, I still had a great time with Rollerdrome.
I never played a game quite like Rollerdrome before, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we started to see imitations popping up. Also, it runs great on the Steam Deck—which is definitely a litmus test for all games releasing on Steam in the future as this hardware becomes even more popular. If you have any curiosity about this murderous roller derby whatsoever, you should definitely check it out.
A Steam key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.