There’s an underlying sense of theatre to Rollerdrome. The first moments of each level explode into life, with your player character skating silently down into each arena before leaping into the middle of the action, guns raised, surrounded by enemies.
From this bombastic start to each level – which gives me a little dopamine hit every time it happens – the game then scatters moments and elements that highlight developer Roll7’s showmanship, with this parts coming together to create some of the most memorable emergent firefights in recent memory. It’s a superlative experience. There’s always a rocket to explode, a rifle shot to dodge or a pane of glass to crash through. When you get it right, you’ll chain several of these things together.
The tricky thing about a game with two opposing elements like this is that it needs to succeed twice, both as a roller skating game and as a shooter. Roll7 has a little experience with both, finding success with both the OlliOlli series and Not a Hero. Here, the two elements fuse together to make something altogether more than the parts that it’s composed of. Shooting is surprisingly tight, with some generous auto-aim to make it easier to blast people while you’re pulling off tricks and rocketing around the place. It’s impressive because very few games ask you to shoot bad guys while inverted, or spinning through the air.
This feeling of movement is incredible. There’s a high skill ceiling but a very low barrier of entry to just cruise around and have fun, meaning in just a few minutes you’ll be wall-riding, grinding and pulling off cool flips. This has to become second nature because as the difficulty of the shootouts ramps up, you’ll want to be doing these tricks – which alone would be the meat of a bunch of other games.
It’s fun to just cruise around on your skates in Rollerdrome, which is the best indicator that a skating game has landed. However, it’s rare you’ll get a moment to yourself as enemies spawn in throughout the level and high scores are handed out for getting through the level as fast as possible. Progression comes both by surviving levels but also by completing challenges while you do it, promoting replayability. The challenges aren’t too onerous, and often involve killing people or performing tricks in certain situations. Generally if you go in with a goal in mind, you’ll get it done.
The ’70s aesthetic channels Rollerball – obviously – but it feels like a low budget sci-fi, with cel-shaded enemies wearing hockey pads and looking more than a little scruffy. If this is the future, it’s one in desperate need of a trip to an outlet store to get some new clothes. The look is fantastic, and it ensures that when you see a short gifs of the game post release – and you will, because the gunfights are so engaging – you’re going to recognise it instantly.
It’s hard not to be excited about the game’s full release next month. Rollerdrome may not have been on your radar before, but it’s time for that to change.