After being launched to an altitude of 83 miles aboard a V-2 rocket a few years after the end of WW2, the monkey was presumed dead after remains were recovered from the wreckage formed when the parachute failed to open on re-entry. But little did the investigators know that the remains were not those of Albert II. In fact, he was still somewhere up there in space, planning on tormenting humanity many decades later by sending an endless stream of marbles down a ramp and defying us humans to match 3 like-coloured spheres and thus make them vanish - time after time until we could take it no more. So the story on the website goes, and so it is that I find myself reviewing yet another marble popper, within just a couple of weeks of my last.
And it does not work in Rollerdex's favour to come on the heels of a game presented as brilliantly as StoneLoops! of Jurassica. For although the background story is compelling enough, the game struggles to keep me interested for more than a few levels or so at a time.
Albert II rolls in randomly coloured balls from the top of the level and the player must arrange these by using trap doors in the maze that forms the main portion of the screen. When 3 or more same coloured balls are adjacent to each other they disappear, and the surrounding balls close in around the now empty space. Clever players will be able to plan ahead somewhat and chain combinations together. As the chain of balls becomes shorter, the end of it may pass a pre-defined point in the level marked with a green line and the level is won. If the chain becomes too long, it will eventually eclipse the point marked with a red line and the level is lost.
Some power-ups are available, and these are detonated by having them adjacent to a block of 3 or more balls when they disappear. Some zap balls in the same row, others may remove all balls of the same colour as the matched balls. To add even more mayhem, there is a timer on each level, and when that reaches zero, Albert II screams an annoying monkey scream, and the red line will start to move through the maze toward the long chain of balls. The player starts with 3 lives but the level of difficulty is reasonably high after a few easier starting levels.
If you have a friend nearby, there is a split screen multiplayer mode that sees player one using the default point and click control scheme with the mouse, and player two on the keyboard using the arrow keys and enter buttons. Family members were commandeered for some quick testing of the feature and it does seem to work quite well. As bigger combos are made and higher numbers of balls are cleared, Albert II rolls in more balls on your opponents puzzle making for some heated competition. Probably the best mode of play, in my opinion.
In addition to the challenge mode described above, there is also a puzzle mode where a predetermined pattern of balls needs to be cleared within only a certain amount of moves. There is no time limit applied to the puzzle mode and the player can retry as many times as desired. A good feature which does add appeal to the title.
Visually uninspiring, Rollerdex’s animations are choppy and there is no sign of lighting or particle effects. The screen is clear and colourful though, with more difficult levels bringing different coloured balls to the puzzle. The sound is however, reasonably good and includes some cute comments at the start and finish of levels as well as decent sound effects for most on-screen action. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the music which is both low quality (think 16-bit console style) and repetitive.
Often confused as to which way the balls would roll when one was sent down a trapdoor, I found myself in the heat of the moment simply just mindlessly spinning sets of balls around and around until I got lucky and a combo detonated (a strategy I often employed in the ‘80s wrestling with my Rubik’s Cube, and with similar results). Perhaps this is a design flaw or perhaps this just illustrates my impatience with this style of game, but regardless, I noticed both my wife and my daughter have enjoyed Rollerdex significantly more than I have over the past couple of weeks.
In summary, I would think that most non-puzzle game nuts could definitely get through life quite happily without Rollerdex. If you were a big fan of games like Nintendo’s Dr Mario, then there may be some merit to a purchase. After all, the game’s low price is a drawcard, but without a doubt check out the demo before you whip out your credit card.
It's also worth noting here that I could not even run this game under Vista. In fairness, the fact that Vista is not supported is present on the website. You may or may not have better luck.
Keywords: rollerdex review, firstborn interactive reviews, firstborn interactive games, rollerdex scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.