First Impressions
Roller Drama

Developer: Open Lab S.R.L

Release Date: 26 January, 2023

Platform: Windows, Switch, Playstation 4/5, Linux, Xbox One, MacOS

Genre: Sports

By Chris Picone, 27 January 2023

How sweet does Roller Drama look! I love the colours, the attitude, and the quirky mix between sport game, management sim, and visual novel. I've got a few mates who play roller derby but in honesty I've never actually watched a game and the only thing I really know about the sport is that it looks fun.

The roller derby aspect of the game I found a little clunky. I love the premise; while in this mode, you play as the "jammer," whose job is to race around the ring scoring points as you complete laps while the opposing team try to block you. Same-same for your team trying to prevent the opponent's jammer. The jammer has four special abilities: dash, jump, guard, and hit. Sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately, the way it seems to play out (for me at least), is that all the blockers from both teams bind up in a big blob while both jammers use an ability to get around them and then dash freely around the track.

There's also a management aspect to the derby matches. Before each match you gather your team to talk strategy; you also have to determine how much energy your players put into each phase of the match (energy lets you use more abilities but also adds to fatigue), and you get to put together an inspiring pep talk between each match that might give you bonuses. I think it's a nice addition to the game without being overwhelming although I might have liked to see a touch more strategic decision. Finally, there's the visual novel component. I love the idea of this because it lets you roll into a story and engage with your characters between matches rather than just playing sport over and over. There's even a touch of puzzle- or problem-solving builtin, which is cool. The story itself is very quirky - but although it certainly had my interest, I did find some of the writing and the execution of the story to be a little clunky.

The verdict? A promising game with a quirky story and great art but held back by some clunky gameplay choices and writing. I played the game prior to release so I'm hoping the developers will take feedback on board and do a little tweaking so the game might meet its full potential.