Name: Rollers of the Realm
Platform: PC, PS4, PSVita
Release Date: 18/11/2014
Developer: Phantom Compass
Publisher: Atlus USA
Price: $9.99 (Steam)
Themes: Medieval, Fantasy
In the games industry, you’ll find many ways to take a risk. One of those might be as a publisher, choosing to put your financial and marketing clout behind a studio’s project. Another risk might be as a developer. You’ve been successful with the FPS genre, but now you want to make a sports title. The risk that developers Phantom Compass (Dionysian Dream, Guardians Evolution, Prank Party) have taken is to try and successfully merge two very different game genres in the form of a pinball game, and an RPG. Have they managed this with Rollers of the Realm? Well I’d say it’s certainly a valiant attempt, but not entirely. In the following paragraphs, I will explain why I feel it’s a case of close, but no cigar.
The story that drives the game is a typical tale of good versus evil. This is demonstrated through the stereotypical band of varied and dysfunctional heroes on their way to right wrongs, and dish out the peoples’ justice. And it’s dished out in the rather unique form of your playable characters being pinballs of varying shapes and sizes. You’ll find yourself being eased into the action with easy to understand tutorial pointers telling you where to go to advance the ‘story’. For me, this is the first issue. As someone who has played several RPGs over the years, the story attached to Rollers of the Realm is very generic and probably aimed at the kids who will be playing this game. For the adults, I feel the story is very throw away and in essence makes this game no more than a slightly above average pinball game with some very colourful graphics.
With the biggest negative out of the way, let’s move on to the more positive aspects of this title. The graphics, as I mentioned are very colourful. From the shiny silvers to the vibrant greens, this is a very pretty game indeed. But you can’t have lots of different colours without some clean lines to distinguish character from background, and the Rollers artists have accomplished this very well. This also goes for the character portraits which show during the cut-scene conversations. The dishevelled appearance of the drunken Knight is looks excellent. Those character images are well complemented with the presence of some very fine voice acting. Maya Woloszyn and Darren Street excel in the roles of The Rogue and The Knight respectively. I’ve played games in the past that have contained some utterly lifeless voice overs, but you’ll find emotion and plenty of life in these characters and the rest of the cast too. It’s just a shame that with these great voices and character art, that we don’t have a engrossing story worthy of that talent.
The music of this title, like the storyline, is also very average. It doesn’t get in the way of playing the game, but it’s not exactly an inspiring soundtrack either. You could get as much enjoyment from the game with it switched off. It’s not annoying, merely forgettable. On the flip side, the sound effects are a good combination of arcade pinball flipper and bumper sounds, and amusing little comments from your pinball avatars when they hit an enemy or collide with a piece of interactive scenery.
Speaking of interaction with the scenery, your characters/pinballs will have a bit of assistance in the form of numerous power-ups that can be purchased using coins collected in the level. These can include strength enhanced objects to improve your attack damage on the enemy or items to improve the movement of your ball. The movement being your ability to nudge your ball left or right while playing. This could enable you to get another hit on a particular bad guy or help you reach a previously unreachable location. It’s like the equivalent of nudging a pinball table, but with no punishment for it. Each character/ball also has a standard signature ability which is explained to you each time you unlock a character on your journey. The Rogue you’ll start off with has the ability to launch an extra ball to give you two simultaneously on the field of play. The second ball is in fact her pet pooch. To enable these signature moves, you would need to direct you character on to the bumpers and other parts of the scenery to collect mana points. Once you’ve collected enough, you’ll be able to initiate this signature move. These purchasable power- ups and signature moves are a great variation to the standard pinball game, but for me this can cause some indirect frustration. While collecting mana for your signature move is relatively simple, collecting enough coin to purchase the power-ups is a bit of a grind that requires re-visiting previous levels to boost your coffers. I feel in this case, a little more tweaking is required on the balancing front.
There are several positives on the technical side as we look under the bonnet of Rollers. The game offers keyboard and controller support, both of which are very easy to pick up and learn, although it would be nice to have an option to switch off the vibration on the controller. Something else that impresses me is that during my play through, I experienced no bugs, glitches, freezes, or crashes. Considering your characters are constantly colliding with other objects throughout the game, there’s a lot of potential for collision detection issues (balls disappearing into the scenery etc), but it all runs very smoothly. You also have a game that has no desire to use up every last byte of memory on your machine, but will still look good and produce a steady frame rate all the way through. It’s playable on high or quite low-spec PCs.
As far as how long it will take to finish will depend on whether you want to speed through as quickly as possible, or try to collect everything on the way. I’m by no means an expert gamer. I’ve just played a lot of games over the years, but you’ll probably be looking at around seven to ten hours of standard play time with more if you’re a completionist. In all fairness though, despite the rich variety of levels that I experienced, I feel that once is enough for me and there’s nothing that suggests a second play through is necessary. At the same time, you certainly get a fair amount of content for your money. The Steam store has Rollers of the Realm listed at a very reasonable $9.99 and let’s be honest, that’s not a bad price at all. Difficulty wise, it’s not overly challenging, unless you count the difficulty in maintaining your interest in playing for more than half an hour in a single session. I don’t believe it’s realistic to play a pinball game for longer than that. This also creates a bit of a contradiction for me which makes it difficult to accept that a cross pinball/RPG title could ever be a resounding success. As I just mentioned, I would never play a pinball game for an extended period, but a decent RPG could keep me engrossed for several hours. Pinball is a casual game, but an RPG requires several hours of your time to invest.
So what we have at the end is a game that tries to bring two genres together, but doesn’t quite make it. It’s technically sound, but the story side of things will only appeal to the youngsters. For the rest of us, it may as well not be there. We do have some fantastic voice acting which tries so hard to inject some interest into the very generic story, so all is not lost, and along with some very solid pinball mechanics, we have a title which is certainly worth trying out for the budget price. There’s plenty of content for you to get your teeth into, just don’t expect an instant classic.
- Easy to pick up and play
- Graphics and animations very clear and colourful
- Excellent voice acting
- Plenty of levels to get your teeth into
- Good value for money
- Generic throwaway story renders the RPG aspect of the game almost totally irrelevant
- Casual short term play of the pinball side makes it an RPG you don’t want to play for more than half an hour at a time.
- Music is uninspiring
- Collecting money for power ups becomes a tedious grind.