Strawberry Game Studios’ Roller lives up to its title by giving players the chance to navigate bright neon landscapes as the spheroid of their choice. Does this casual game have enough to keep you moving, or are you better off hitting the brakes?
Similar games in the space like Super Monkey Ball and Marble Madness capture the rolling aspect quite well, if only because the physics are precise and accurate.
Unfortunately, the engine powering Roller did not have anywhere near as much care put into it. Players navigate narrow rails with the arrow keys and can hit the space button to jump, but it is far too easy to careen to the left or the right with just a touch of a button. Controls are finicky, and are next to impossible to grasp. An analog setup would have alleviated these concerns, but the digital setup present here is simply not fit for the job.
In addition, jumping does not work as it should. Simply pressing the space button isn’t enough – it seemed like a crapshoot whether we’d actually jump or not when the terrain called for it. Conversely, when it did work, the ball would fly high in the air – there is no middle ground to speak of.
These quirks would not be so bad if the game offered more flexibility. However, only one life is offered in each playthrough, and when you’re out, you’re out. In addition, the stages are oftentimes set up to make you fail. There are some sections that required no input from the player for upwards of 30 seconds, and other sections on a slope that needed our constant attention. It’s not like there are difficulty settings to choose from either – it’s a luck of the draw if you get a stage that is mind-numbingly easy or borderline impossible. Some semblance of balance would have gone a long way, but the procedurally generated levels feel like a cop out for the design team to be lazy.
It’s not like the rest of Roller had much effort put into it either. The black menus with basic text do not exude quality, and the ball names like “S_99_AZ” look like somebody mashed a keyboard. Outside of the main “Career” mode, there is also “Looper” (which has you going through loops), “Speed” (which offers speed boosts in certain points), “Squares” (which dots the landscape in squares), and “Cross” (which crosses paths every now and again).
Most players will see everything the game has to offer within 30 minutes, and the only incentive to keep players going is to see how many miles you have gone.
Roller is a rush job that had little thought put into its design. The broken physics, lack of detail, and sloppy controls come together to create a package that is a pain to play.
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