GAME NAME: Rollers of the Realm
DEVELOPER(S): Phantom Compass
PLATFORM(S): PS4, Vita
RELEASE DATE(S): November 18, 2014
I’m always interested when game developers mix genres together that usually have no business hanging out. So when I heard Atlus was publishing new pinball/RPG hybrid Rollers of the Realm from Phantom Compass, I was excited. I was probably one of the eight people that enjoyed Sonic Spinball back in the day, so this seemed right up my alley.
In Rollers of the Realm, you control a merry band of adventurers that are represented by pinballs. Each has their own special abilities and strengths and weaknesses. Weapons and spells can be upgraded with collected gold. Certain members can repair damage. Your basic RPG stuff. The story starts out with you having a single ball just trying to make her way in the kingdom with her faithful dog. Soon you start meeting other citizens of the kingdom that decided to join you on your journey, and eventually an evil plot is revealed. There are a total of five different areas to travel to, each containing a multitude of tables to play. Except they’re not really tables, and are instead set pieces around the kingdom. Like any good RPG, there are puzzles to navigate as you progress through the maps. The puzzles aren’t terribly hard, because again, it’s pinball. But there are some tricky passages where you have to have one flipper one way while shooting with another in order to access an off limits area. There are also treasure chests with matching keys hidden throughout that contain gold and special items to increase ball stats. The gameplay physics feel good and bounces seem to occur at the correct angles. There are not a whole lot of ramps like in traditional pinball games, but lots of sinkholes to take you to different sections of the board. Another new mechanic is that instead of nudging the table to alter the path of your pall, you can use the left stick to slightly control your ball. You’re not going to be able to move it wherever you want, but you can help nudge it towards an enemy or help slow it down to catch on a flipper, in essence replicating an actual table nudge. This comes in handy when you need to switch to another one of the 10 available balls, which can be done at anytime while the ball is held on the main flippers. Flipper control is perfect with the shoulder buttons. They responded right when I needed them to and there was no lag that I could see. My ball got stuck inside a flipper a time or two, causing me to reset my level and lose progress, but it was a rare occurrence.
Another way to play besides the main campaign is the Arena mode. Here, you play boards you played in the main game, but with new goals and restrictions, like how much gold can you collect in two minutes or how many waves of enemies can you defeat with five lives. There are five different challenges available and your best scores get added to leaderboards so you can compare with your friends. These levels provide a good challenge and offer just enough differences from their main level counterparts that you won’t mind playing them over again to better your scores. You can earn gold for your main campaign party here, though it’s not a 1:1 conversion. Unfortunately, XP isn’t earned in this mode, so you’ll have to grind for levels on already completed boards of the main game. You will be doing some grinding too. I reached the final boss around level 7, and he was awfully tough. I had to level up a bit more before I could truly give him a run for his money. The regular levels are all replayable, but with a drop in XP & gold available to earn, which makes getting up to those higher levels a bit of a chore. At least you can earn a trophy for putting 10 hours into the game.
The game has a nice fantasy art style with dark dungeons and bright grassy fields. Since most of the enemies are pretty small, it’s hard to make out a lot of detail in them. All the environments look nice (and there are a good variety of them), as do the individual portraits representing your various pinballs. It can be a bit hard to see who you are reviving when the darkened portrait is covered with the big bright revive text. Flipper damage is easy to see and fire and spell effects are nicely done. Sometimes the frame rate dips and the game chugs slowly when a lot of enemies and pinballs show up on the screen. It’s not too often, but it is noticeable. A typical fantasy soundtrack is here and the voice acting is all really well done. Some of the catchphrases can get a smidge annoying when hearing them over and over, but it’s like any other pinball game hearing the same lines repeated, so it’s not a big deal in the long run.
This is a fun game for pinball fans and RPG fans alike. I would say that the former would probably get more out of it than the latter, but there is enough here to please both crowds. While the main quest content might go fast (outside of level grinding), the high score Arena mode can add many more hours of gameplay. A great twist on two popular genres, Rollers of the Realm is definitely one to check out.