Roller derby is sport where two teams of roller-skating athletes attempt to score points by having the point-gaining player, the jammer, pass members of the opposite team while the three defending teammates attempt to block the enemy jammer. A match lasts for ten minutes and is divided into two-minute segments called jams. When a jam begins, the first jammer to pass the six defenders becomes the lead jammer and can end the jam early if they wish. This all is the core of Jam City Rollergirls, the first roller derby video game.
The sport converts into a game well, and feels like a racing game at times. Unlike the actual sport, the player has access to a selection of powerups not unlike those found in a Mario Kart game. A single boost, a trio of boosts, the invincibility-granting fireball, the homing water balloon and the ultimate Pink Reaper are all part of the player’s arsenal.
The main mode of the game is a single-player career mode where one of five real roller derby teams is chosen by the player, who then creates a character to play as the jammer in all matches. Winning matches and performing tricks works up money to be spent in the game’s store. All the items in the store are appearance-changing, and many adjust the player character’s stats.
Beyond that, the game falls flat. It does have quick match and two-player modes, but you will essentially be doing nothing but playing with the same five teams on the same five stages over and over. The matches themselves feel a bit too long at ten minutes and having the ability to either adjust the time or just have them shorter would have been a reprieve. As it stands, this does nothing but pad the length of the modes, especially the career mode wherein once you finish 11 matches and become the champion, the game will infinitely loop seasons under the guise of having you “defend yourself as champion.”
And that’s not the worst of it. The visual presentation of Jam City Rollergirls looks like something out of a late PS1 or early PS2 game. The character models are fluid in their movements, but they and the stages just seem to fall flat and feel devoid of emotion. The audio presentation in its entirety is nothing more than one short song put on repeat throughout the entire game. Menus, matches, everywhere you will hear this short series of guitar riffs and shouts ad nauseum.
While it creates a foundation for future potential roller derby games, Jam City Rollergirls falls far from the $10 asking price. Within two hours, you will accomplish everything the game has to offer and more.
Pros: Controls are user-friendly, gameplay is easy to pick up
Cons: Game is very short, visuals are bland, audio just hurts