I like visual novels and I while I haven't watched a ton of of the sport, I do like Roller Derby so I hopped on the chance to play this visual novel called Roller Drama. I really liked the art style of the game and liked how actual Roller Derby competitions would be part of the game as well. While I don't regret my time with Roller Drama, the game really left a lot to be desired.
You play as Joan, who becomes the den mother for a women's Roller Derby team in their apartment. Right from the get go, the game lets you know that it's gonna be a little weird. Right in the opening of the game, before you even meet the team, you meet the ghost of Shakespeare and have to deal with the landlord's cat dying, who one of the team members decided to have embalmed. Yeah. On top of that the game is set against the backdrop of a dystopian world in which AI runs everything.
The game starts innocently enough as one of your first missions is to meet your team. Being that this is a visual novel, you can respond to your teammates in various ways such as being a serious, no-nonsense coach, or in a more friendly manner. Doing so will raise or lower your level with that specific teammate. When you first meet your team members, you can ask them to tell you about themselves and you get a quick synopsis of the character and her goals. And that short snippet of info you get is pretty much it, which is one of the issues I have with this title. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like we really get to spend much time with these characters at all. You can visit each of the teammates' rooms periodically and you can ask them to tell you about themselves, but all you really get is just a brief paragraph like "I made a bet with my sister" and that's pretty much it. You do get to learn a little more about them as the story progresses as the characters get involved in the main story, but I wish there was more.
The roller derby matches make up the meat of the game. Roller Drama gives you a pretty decent rundown of the rules. Both teams will move counter-clockwise around the map while the lone jammer from each team attempts to lap the other players. For each player they pass your team earns a point. The gameplay here is pretty easy, as you mostly just press a button to control what you want the players to do. While going around the track, it's best to just keep spamming the run button to have your jammer speed-move as quickly as possible. When the opposing Jammer gets close to your teammates, just swap to the other teammates and choose what kind of formation you want them to make like creating a wall to block the other player. It's pretty easy to do, but man, sometimes it gets frustrating. No matter how much you try to dodge and attack, your jammer will just get blocked constantly by the other team allowing their jammer to rack up points while you get stuck.
There is actually another mechanic which I assume was added to try and fix this, which are bombs that you can use which will knock down every player except the jammer. You only get 3 of these and you need to use them carefully. By knocking out your own teammates you can allow the opposing jammer to easily pass them for points. You also need to manage the stamina of all the teammates, which you can easily do with a simple button press that brings up a menu to adjust accordingly. The other problem is that it doesn't really capture the feel of actual Roller Derby matches. While the jammers will go around the track as they should, the rest of the teams kind of just stand there bunched up together and don't really move around the track like I imagine they were supposed to or like you see in actual Roller Derby matches.
In between matches, your time will be spent at the house doing quests that usually involve going around the house and finding or hiding items before others can catch you. This is also where the main story progresses. Since it's in the name of the game itself, the drama starts coming right after you have your first match. Boyfriends, girlfriends, fights between the girls in the house, authoritarian overlords, the drama with the cat etc... Some of these missions can be failed but luckily if you do game over, the game will let you replay from the beginning of the chapter. Sometimes this gets tedious as there is no way to skip text like most visual novels have. The quests aren't that long but it would have been nice if a skip text button was included.
Roller Drama has some really cool characters, an interesting story, and some cool mechanics for a visual novel, but they all don't seem to come together as they should have. The game shows a lot of promise but nothing is fleshed out enough to get you fully invested. You don't get to know enough about the characters to truly care about them, the missions in the house get tedious fast, the story goes off the rails pretty quick, and the roller derby matches leave a lot of be desired.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember. My earliest gaming memories come from playing Lady Bug and Snafu on my fathers Colecovision and Intellivision respectively. It wasnt until I was 6 years old and played a Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine in a game room at a hotel that I truly fell in love with a videogame. I have so many wonderful memories of my dad and I playing Mortal Kombat on SNES every night after dinner. Throughout my childhood NES, SNES, Gameboy and Sega Genesis were the loves of my life. Here I am 35 years old and still as much in love with videogames as I ever was.View Profile