Rollers of the Realm
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2015-01-20 PC Arcade E (Everyone) Atlus U.S.A. Inc. / Phantom Compass

One of the games that kept me entertained through the holiday season was Rollers of the Realm. What initially seemed like an odd combination - pinball and RPG - turned out to be a really good recipe for an interesting and challenging game.

Rollers of the Realm is exactly that, a pinball RPG. The balls are your party members and each has unique abilities, stats and special attacks. The size and weight of the balls affect their physics, and so does their stats. Of course, like in any RPG, you don't begin with a full party but will add members as you progress through your quest. The characters are of the traditional RPG fare, such as healer, rogue, tank and more. You can also hire mercenaries to fight with you, which are fairly pricy.

Your party levels up as you accumulate experience. As you earn gold, you can purchase equipment and upgrades to increase their stats and improve their skills. It's quite handy when it doesn't take as long to earn mana to unleash a skill, or when they cost a lot less to use. Especially handy for being able to revive fallen party members!

The boards have interesting designs and require you to make use of the different party members' abilities for progression purposes. For example, your knight may be very heavy to move and that reflects on the physics, but he can break down obstacles easily. A character with higher agility will be able to bounce higher and reach other spots. The healer's health recovery will restore your flippers once they start taking damage.

So as you can imagine, some strategy is involved as far as who you use and how or where, and this is particularly important for boss fights. If you find that you're not getting anywhere, try swapping characters.

But the stages are more dynamic that just trying to find the exit. There are enemies to kill, boss fights, stages where all you need to do is navigate the ball to reach certain spots or find the exit... yes, because you can move left and right as well with the unique ability to nudge in the direction of your choosing. There are also bonus treasure chests, gold and sometimes even loot that can be equipped.

There are some difficulty spikes every now and again, usually right after acquiring a new character. I found myself going back to replay easier stages just to earn extra gold to purchase equipment for the newcomers every time I got someone new. It definitely comes down to the damage you can deal but also to how coordinated you are in controlling the flippers. I also found myself stuck for long periods of time because I couldn't aim properly to launch myself in the direction I wanted to go. Even though I knew I had to go a certain way, getting there was the hard part!

Pinball is a lot about luck, since the physics are always in play, thus each game is always different. Sometimes it's a quick stage, sometimes the same stage will take me forever to finish. And sometimes I will lose all my characters and die, which means no gold or experience are added to your party then. I found that pretty frustrating, especially after seeing the riches piling up, only to lose them all...

Aside from the campaign, you can try your luck in the Arena, where a number of challenges await, with the advantage of having leaderboards to see how your score compares to other players. The Arena challenges are the only stages that reward you with gold even if you don't clear them. Although small sums, it at least gives you a little bit. And every little bit helps getting you closer to that next upgrade.

If there is something that I have to complain about it would be the navigation, since when going back to the main menu you are forced to look at the start screen again until it loads up and tells you to "press any key". It was pretty awkward, not to mention annoying.

I was quite fond of the music and definitely enjoyed the voice acting, as it gave the characters their personalities, brings in little bits of their background stories, and it definitely gives the plot a little extra something. We should be able to skip the dialogues entirely though, once restarting a stage. Having to press space to skip everyone's lines each time could have been easily fixed by having the option to just skip the scene. But that is a minor issue.

Overall, Rollers of the Realm is a fun, unique and entertaining game that anyone can play. Mastering it is a different story and it will take some time. Hopefully, we will see more pinball RPGs in the future, as the idea definitely works!