-Very unique variations between each map and location layout
-Character dialogue plays a major role in the game via story and tips
-Controls transition very well between PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4
-Cross-save feature is an added bonus
-Map layouts are somewhat hard to figure out at times
-Noticeable frame rate drops on PS Vita.
-Inability to skip dialogue
Pinball. The first thing you think of when you hear the word is flippers and a giant silver ball. In this case, it’s almost the same. Except when you hear the word pinball you have to think characters, special bonuses, and a unique twist on a classic type of game. This is something we were given a unique feel for both pinball as well as RPG games. This means one thing; this game intends on not being a well-established title or even a subtitle game on there. This game is one that is fully original and I am quite sure that the creatures came out confident in what they came out with, and it’s something that works.
The game itself follows the basic rules of pinball and turning it into an RPG element where players will manage across several characters (ball variants that are launched), which leads them into working their attention pulling the best they can and making sure not to lose their specially granted extra pinball’s (falcons for the ranger, dog for the Thief, and more as you unlock the characters). Each piece of this game takes a note on settings based upon the board that players will take on. This means that ball physics were a big must for a game such as this and they are spot on. The tables as stated to variate, but never leave their medieval-fantasy setting-esque world. In the beginning players will become accustomed to the games seemingly-main character called Thief. Her heralding in this game is something well done as she basically brings out a entourage of characters such as the Knight, Ranger, Healer, Monk, and more (some can be unlocked using in-game gold that is unlocked via completing boards and finding treasure as well as defeating enemies). The uniqueness to this game is not that each character seems particularly useful compared to the other, it’s the constant need that the game has for switching between them.
The prime example is when bumping through each of the layers that some of the maps has that allows the need for the Thief whom can backstab enemies when she hits them from behind, rather her ball, and does an increased amount of damage. This allows for players to quickly grab gold, deal damage, and move on through each of the games stages. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds as enemies will attempt to take out your base flippers, which do have health, and a health bar that can easily degrade if archers focus fire upon the bumpers. This is where the Healer becomes a rather useful character as she will heal the flippers upon gaining mana. Something players will become quite familiar with during boss fights and ambushes that require some tactical uses of each of the characters. However, what’s not to say that switching to the games Knight who seems like a drunken buffoon is never a bad idea? With his ability to smash through barricades such as crates, walls (cover), and even gates, this not-so-agile character becomes a major use as he does quite a bit of damage to enemies up front and allows for players to quickly dispatch enemies as they go. Did we mention that his special ability keeps him from “dying” by blocking the gutter with a shield? This makes him a very useful asset when trying to take on boss-fights, but what’s not to say characters such as the Ranger to call in falcons (multiball incoming, be aware of this) is quite useful when fighting quite a few enemies at once, and is something that players should make themselves quickly accustomed to when fighting their way through the games campaign.
The narrative can be called “mindless banter” by some, but in truth, this is where the game gets most of its story when not managing your characters as well as navigating through the games map designs. Though these are not where the game will send people into a frenzy or becoming a bit frustrated. The micromanaging within the map to unlock treasures, special pick-up’s or even breaking or even falling to reap rewards, can be where this games frustrations can exist. Though this is not something that can necessarily send players into slamming a keyboard or controller. This is redeemed thanks to the games ‘tilt’ feature, which is exposed as using an after touch control that allows guidance either to the left, the right, or backwards (seemingly backwards). This allows for players to change characters by getting to primary bumpers and holding the ball there (they are the ones being depicted by having a health bar), and taking on the tactical vantage needed in order to smash through each of the maps.
Though there is something tricky to this that players will become quickly acquainted with. A gutter that is active and threatening the life of their characters (only when enemies are around for the most part). This will require players to swap to the healer, gain enough mana to fill up a mana bar, and resurrect the characters needed to assure themselves that a game over is not going to be imminent. Though do not be weary when the stress begins to weigh down as players will be forced to feel the heat when it comes up to the games ‘healer is active’ moments, especially with enemies around. This is where players will feel the heat and will feel obligated to continue their battle to continue on, which is something the game seemingly does on purpose.
Though when stepping aside, the game does have a few quirks, some that make this games mechanics smart, creative, and very uniquely done. This is something that players could truly enjoy while trying to blend through the games narrative, which is, as stated, almost mindless banter even though it tells the tale that many would hope to expect. Though there is something that Rollers of the Realm does need; that RPG element. As much as I could say that the game itself is unique in how it works, which it is, the RPG side of it does not feel as forced as one would hope. Instead I found myself equipping items in order to find my characters having more health or more armor, but nothing quite along the lines of what I would’ve hoped. This is where I found the game a bit daunting as I had hoped for a robust balance of RPG versus pinball, but then again, that may just been the RPG fanatic inside of me screaming for more when there isn’t all that much more that could be done without causing a collision of issues to arise. Though there was something that caused a bit of a head scratcher. After meeting each of the characters, the want for a dialogue skip will become apparent and highly wanted for many players. This will lead to players , which is their only option at this time, to smash through their controller buttons or even keyboards (PC) in order to replay a stage if they had to restart. This is something that gets repetitive after a fourth or sixth try on a board if players aren’t used to such games.
This is something that hopefully PHANTOM COMPASS troubleshoots in a future update for this rather well done and enigmatic title that will leave players flapping their flippers for hours. The game itself is rather straight forward game that will follow every bit of the enjoyment out of players as it can, and even manages to weave a rather enjoyable relationship between both our drunken Knight and our quiet and seemingly kind Rogue. Though there are a few moments that players will find themselves a bit daunted at some sketch (at times) voice acting, which was most noticeably done with the Ranger when he is first introduced, but also a few other scenes where he seems a bit flat on his emotional range. With such things put aside though, publisher Atlus U.S.A., inc and developer PHANTOM COMPASS have a lot to look forward to within the game and can find plenty of success in the upcoming days as the game catches on (something that should), and will easily catch any pinball-agnostic players hammering away at their controllers and keyboards in such amusement.
When it comes to pinball games and even RPG’s it’s hard to find a title that can balance multiple genres as this title has done. We can only hope that pinball and RPG enthusiasts can catch onto such a unique title and help it flourish in time.
So what does Rollers of the Realm earn itself? A solid 7 out of 10 possible.
Reviewers Note: Our review is based on a review copy that was given to us by the publisher prior to the games release and is the final release candidate version. Our review is based upon the PlayStation Vita as well as PlayStation 4 versions.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.