A narrative game with a few bruises.
$21.95 | PC, PS5,/4, XB1, Switch | open-lab.com/games/rollerdrama
When it’s not getting tackled by its own UI shortcomings, Roller Drama skates on its characters, art style, and the near unbearable responsibility of being a team coach. You take on the role of Joan ‘Jeanne D’Arc’ Galliano, a coach for a women’s roller derby team. The game is split between the hijinks of keeping your team, plus their personal lives, in order and winning matches. It’s part management game, part visual novel, though if there are branching paths in the story it was hard for me to notice.
Matches themselves are where you get to flex your head for strategy. You watch the game play out in real time from above, giving direct inputs to your jammer while giving instructions to the rest of your team, who have to balance breaking up the enemy defence, protecting their own jammer and slowing down the enemy team’s jammer. It seems simple at a glance but timing and tactics really are difficult to get right, plus you have to manage your team’s energy levels so they don’t get exhausted before the match is over.
Unfortunately the game’s puzzles are sometimes inscrutable. Almost every time a new quest was given for me to solve, I was immediately lost, failing to grasp the specific order of actions that had to be taken for things to be resolved.
Roller Drama is nice to look at while you struggle, at least. The character designs are fun but it’s the big cross section of their house that I especially love, watching all the characters battle for use of the elevator. Despite the charming visuals, the UI is often unreadable, if not outright broken.
Issues like this are a shame, because when Roller Drama got out of its own way I became really invested in looking after my little team of lovable misfits. Like them, Roller Drama has a lot of flaws, but its heart and raw enthusiasm shines through.
Roller Drama from Open Lab Games is charming, but undermined by technical issues and obtuse puzzles. Samantha Greer
"It seems simple at a glance but timing and tactics really are difficult to get right, plus you have to manage your team’s energy levels so they don’t get exhausted before the match is over."