Review – Rollerdrome

Developer Roll7 is known for being one of the very few studios out there keeping the flame of extreme sports video games alive. They are mostly known for their widely acclaimed OlliOlli titles, one of the few skateboarding franchises to maintain a steady release of games during the long absence of the Tony Hawk franchise, as well as Laser League, a flawed but innovative attempt at creating a combat-sport hybrid. So what would happen if you tried to mix the Tony Hawk vibe with Roll7’s penchant for creating new and crazy combat sports? You end up getting Rollerdrome, one of the most unique games of the year thus far.

Rollerdrome Grinding

The same control scheme seen in Tony Hawk, but with guns. And no ska. This game needs more ska.

Rollerdrome is a wild beast. Imagine mixing two completely different gameplay styles (and, as a result, control schemes) into one title: the skating vibe, level design, objective list and trick system from the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games, and the shooting mechanics, violence, John Wu tricks, and bullet time from Max Payne. Despite the seemingly antagonistic gameplay philosophies, these elements work wonderfully next to each other, in a way I surely wasn’t expecting.

In this game, you play as Kara Hassan, a participant in this new Hunger Games-esque bloodsport called “Rollerdrome”. In order to reach further levels (and rounds) in this worldwide championship, you need to kill every single enemy inside a small arena, all while completing Tony Hawk-like objectives inside of them, in the smallest amount of time possible. When I say that these objectives are taken straight out of Tony Hawk, I mean it. Doing a special trick on a specific ledge, collecting five MacGuffins, reaching a high score, finding hidden areas… all of them are featured in this game, with the added element of having to shoot your way through hordes of enemies.

Rollerdrome Flips

Admit it, this does look cool as hell.

At first, I thought that these two gameplay loops wouldn’t work. I thought it would basically be an overload of information for me to handle in such a fast-paced game. Thankfully, Roll7 did simplify the combat a LOT in order to make it bearable at first, further increasing its pace and difficulty in later stages.

For the most part, your character automatically aims towards the closest enemy, so it’s basically a matter of being close to a foe in order to shoot them. In order to ease things up, you can hold down the L2 trigger to slow down time for a bit, just like in Max Payne. Not only does this help out a lot when dealing with enemies in front of you, but it also results in making the game exponentially cooler. There’s nothing like doing some crazy rollerskating tricks while shooting enemies from afar with dual pistols, like a cartoonish Neo from The Matrix.

Rollerdrome Visuals

Rollerdrome looks amazing, but its animations are a bit stiff.

Speaking of cartoonish, Rollerdrome‘s graphics are easily one of the most notable elements about it, at least at first glance. I loved the cel-shaded textures, completely devoid of lighting effects, giving a fake impression of “flattening” out every polygonal asset, making them resemble a cartoon. I also loved the excellent framerate. No matter how busy the screen is, with missiles and explosion effects filling the stage, it’s a constant 60fps. I wasn’t a big fan of its clunky animations, though. They did feel a bit robotic. They needed to be a bit looser in order to fit with the game’s insane premise.

The only really weak element in Rollerdrome, at least for me, was its sound design. No, it’s not outright bad, but it just felt okay at best. The sound effects and occasional bits of voice acting also felt okay at best. In any other game, I wouldn’t have minded “okay at best”, but Rollerdrome wants to feel like the craziest sports title released in years, so a bunch of mid-tempo synthwave bits just aren’t enough to fit in with its premise. This is a game that would have benefited from having a punk rock soundtrack, not unlike its main source of inspiration, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise. That being said, it doesn’t make Rollerdrome any less enjoyable. The pros MASSIVELY outweigh its cons.

Rollerdrome Mall

It wouldn’t have been a proper Tony Hawk-inspired game without a mall level.

As a whole, I can’t stress enough how impressed I was with Rollerdrome. Roll7 perfectly picked up two completely different gameplay loops and mixed them together in a cohesive and addictive title with a shockingly intuitive control scheme. It’s fast-paced, it makes you feel cool as hell while playing it, and it’s ridiculously addictive. It’s one of the perfect examples of creativity still looming in today’s seemingly tired and creatively bankrupt industry. Can you believe this was a mere side project from one of Roll7’s designers? Please, come up with more of those if this is what looming behind the scenes in your office, guys!


Graphics: 8.0

I absolutely love the cartoonish textures and particle effects featured in Rollerdrome, but I wasn’t a big fan of its clunky animations. They needed to be a bit looser in order to fit with the game’s insane premise.

Gameplay: 9.5

The fact that Roll7 has managed to perfectly synthesize the gameplay styles from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Max Payne in one cohesive and responsive control scheme is commendable.

Sound: 6.5

For a game so bonkers as this one, I can’t say I was impressed with its decent-at-best soundtrack and merely average sound effects.

Fun Factor: 9.5

More than a really addictive sports/shooter hybrid, it’s a game that feels fresh. Rollerdrome is one of the most unique games I’ve played in a while.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Rollerdrome is available now on PS4, PS5, and PC.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of Rollerdrome was provided by the publisher.