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Rollers of the Realm Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Rollers of the Realm is the perfect marriage of role-playing game and pinball. As goofy as it sounds, this is a surprisingly deep adventure game full of unique characters, magic spells and massive boss fights. Although incredibly creative, the game is marred by gameplay and difficulty concerns. Complaints aside, you simply won't play another game like this all year. Rating: 78%
Rollers of the Realm
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  • Review Score:

  • B+
If Puzzle Quest taught me anything, it's that you can turn just about any genre into a thrilling role-playing experience. There's something about leveling up a character and fighting through a high-fantasy world that mixes well with other types of games, no matter how outlandish the pairing sounds. A good example of this is Rollers of the Realm by Phantom Compass, an outrageously fun mash-up that combines pinball and the tropes found in traditional role-playing games.

As goofy a premise as it sounds, Rollers of the Realm never feels like a gimmick. The Ontario-based developer has reworked traditional pinball rules to create a compelling experience with all your favorite adventure game cliches. Players will amass an army of unique characters, level up the party and buy new accessories, all while fighting enemy knights, skeletons, witches and demons. It's a fun combination that manages to honor the spirit of classic RPGs and electronic pinball.

Rollers of the Realm (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Players start out with only one character, a thief that is traveling the countryside with her pet dog looking for food and gold. It doesn't take long for our hero to get herself into trouble and team up with a number of unlikely allies. And in true role-playing fashion, this brand new fellowship sets off on an adventure that will take them through the woods, into the castle and to the darkest corner of the mountain.

Each character is represented by a colored pinball. Although it's not obvious at first, each ball has a specific feel and set of attributes. For example, the Knight's ball is significantly larger than that of the Rogue, who is able to manipulate the direction the ball is rolling. Beyond size, the Alchemist throws bombs as his ball nears enemies. There are ten characters in all, ranging from a Swordsman to the Farm Boy to the local Barmaid.

The game is split into a number of single-screen stages, each with their own obstacles and rules for victory. No matter how many characters have teamed up with our likeable hero, we can take all of their balls into every battle. This allows the player to use strategy to defeat the waves of enemies, relying on each character's special skills to set the team up for victory.

Rollers of the Realm (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Beyond giving players more options, there's another reason to roll with a large posse. Much like regular pinball, having your ball fall beyond the flippers means certain death for that hero. Once a character is dead, it's time to bring in another character, who will continue fighting off the waves of enemies. But watch out; it's game over if everybody dies.

The good news is that the dead can be resurrected. As the ball bounces around the environment, it will collect mana, which can be used to return a fallen warrior back to perfect health. But this comes at a high price. Resurrecting a character will eat up your entire mana supply, making it hard to pull off the character-specific special attacks. Sometimes you'll have to choose between unleashing powerful attacks or bringing a ball back to life. This is not always an easy decision.

To make matters more stressful, certain enemies will target the vulnerable flippers. This will slowly chip away at the only thing keeping you from falling to your death. Thankfully, the Healer joins the party early on and is able to repair the destroyed flippers. However, she is weak and a battle will immediately take a turn for the worse if she dies. Knowing when to swap characters is the key to victory in Rollers of the Realm.

Rollers of the Realm (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Because each character handles so differently, I found myself sticking with a few key players and running many of the same strategies level after level. But you can't simply rely on repeating tactics in every battle, because the game is constantly throwing new obstacles in your way. The stage designs do a good job of encouraging diverse approaches with characters you may not normally choose. And once leveled up, everybody has an important role to fill.

As great as the concept is, there are a couple problems that keep this from reaching its full potential. The most glaring issue involves the flippers, which are slightly slower than what we normally see in pinball games. I couldn't tell if it was lag on my television or a slight delay with the controller, but I found the flippers weren't always as responsive as I would have liked. I did eventually get used to the timing, but it's one of the few things holding Rollers of the Realm back.

It's also worth noting that there's a big spike in difficulty in the final battle, which requires players to defeat four incredibly tough bosses in a single run. Much like the rest of the game, this final fight has no checkpoints. Normally this isn't a problem, since most stages only last a few minutes. But when a boss can take more than a half hour to beat, it's frustrating having to start the whole thing over after every death. This grueling conclusion brings down an otherwise fun journey.

Rollers of the Realm (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Rollers of the Realm isn't an especially good looking game, but certainly gets the job done. The cinemas are simplistic and many of the stages will repeat objects and textures. That said, it looks a lot better on the PlayStation 4 than the PS Vita. It also plays better on the next-generation console. I ran into some significant performance issues while playing the portable version, including slowdowns when the action heats up. Although noticeable, none of these problems made the game unplayable on the Vita.

As simplistic as some of the mechanics sound, I found myself sucked into leveling up my party and making sure everybody has the best equipment. I fell in love with the role-playing elements, which are handled incredibly well for a pinball game. I knew this was something special when I found myself looking forward to replaying old levels to grind for experience and gold. Rollers of the Realm may actually be the year's best role-playing game.

It would be easy to write-off Rollers of the Realm as yet another weird mash-up, but the pinball RPG offers enough depth and originality to stand on its own. Some of its greatness is marred by gameplay concerns and a steep difficulty spike, but anybody able to look past those issues will discover one of the year's most unique games.
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