I’m very excited to bring you my first thoughts on ‘Rollers of the Realm’ as a pre-beta copy hit my email today! A big thank you to Phantom Compass for allowing the community to try the game at this early stage.
First thoughts: I love pinball, I’m a big fan of puzzle games and fantasy worlds are a big yes for me. In theory, this game should be very very enjoyable. Starting up the game, the art style is beautiful. Sounds, voice acting, clarity of the playing field… everything is just so polished. For a Pre-Beta, this looks fantastic. Looks however, are not everything.
The game is setup like a puzzle game, with various objectives you need to complete to pass the puzzle. However, the way you accomplish this is with a variety of characters, each represented as a ball. The starting character is a young thief, and her ball can fit into smaller areas and is lighter than other balls. The second is a drunken knight, who has a big armored ball and deals more damage. This mechanic works wonderfully and the characters have lots of personality in that as the ball strikes various objects in the game, the character replies appropriately. If you’re stealing gold as the thief, when her ball bumps characters in the playing field she has an appropriate “Sorry” or “Excuse me” while the knight beats up foes with a “HAVE AT THEE KNAVE!”.
The puzzles themselves range from performing an action (distracting guards, beating up ruffians) to trying to get to a specific location by using bumpers and paddles. Enemies attack you by attacking your main paddles, which each have health bars on them (an aspect I particularly enjoyed). One note, the demo I was given is only the first chapter, but at no point did I ever feel like I needed to think about how to complete a puzzle. One aspect people enjoy about the first Portal is trying to noodle out the solution, and that’s not the case here. This is more like a Portal 2, where you can clearly see what needs to be done and you just have to figure out HOW to do that.
One last unique mechanic I want to talk about is tilting. In traditional pinball, you can tilt the table to move the ball around. This risks hitting a sensor, usually resulting in the paddles locking so you lose the ball. In this game, tilting is a mechanic used to put the ball where you want it and is important to solving some of the puzzles. This is awesome.
Because it’s a pre-beta, it had three bugs I came across that should be removed by release. One was the ball getting stuck in the level, another was the game not launching (an issue with Unity3d and Windows 8, fixed by running the game as an administrator) and the last one was me not being very good at the game, but that might not be a bug.