What’s that you say? Final Fantasy XIII-2 was out on Friday? Why we hadn’t noticed, we were too busy grinding along the streets with our baseball caps on. Of course, rather than being outside getting some nice fresh air and exercise, we were hunched over our computers playing Roller Plankin’, the first flash-based game by indie developers Pixycade.
The aim of the game is simple, and one well known by any skaters around the world; spray some words on a wall, Ollie the hell out of everything and try to escape the police. Simple enough. So maybe that’s not the full story. In Roller Plankin’, you must avoid obstacles in your way such as bins and fire hydrants by jumping over them and pulling some sweet moves while you’re airborne, all while trying to build up speed to escape the ‘pig’ running after you, probably because all police dislike children being happy. To gain speed, you must tag walls with the word ‘yo’ as you rush by and successfully grind on any poles you see ahead. Fail to do this and you’ll soon be tackled and taken down to the station where you’ll probably get your ass kicked by the men in blue.
In order to keep you entertained, the game keeps a running track of your high-score within three categories: Longest Distance, Highest Score and Biggest Combo, allowing you to keep checking back and setting yourself new targets to beat. These are simple enough to check up on from the main menu just with the press of a button and so barely take up any valuable play time whatsoever; however, they feel like something is missing. In most modern games, you’re able to compare your scores with that of a friend or the rest of the world and so far, Roller Plankin’ doesn’t offer that to the player. Whether it’s not possible to do so on such a simple game or the developers are just unsure how to, it would create more healthy competition if this were possible and it wouldn’t even have to be in this new-fangled way. Many players would probably be content with the option of sending their friend an email, taunting them about how amazing at skateboarding they are and how they should totally try and catch them up, before realising that maybe their friend has a life outside of videogames. Wait, who am I kidding? Your friend doesn’t.
Along with the simple high-scores, you can look through your unlockables in the ‘Stats’ screen which are just like trophies or achievements, there to add replayablility to the game. Unlockables achieve this too, you’ll constantly flick through the ones you have yet to complete and play the game over and over again until you finally get thousands of meters or thrash your combo score, or perhaps just until your eyes burn out from staring at your screen for so long. Whatever takes your fancy really. There’s just one small problem with this feature and that’s finding it. It took us about 5 minutes of menu exploration to discover them as we didn’t really class them as a statistic on their own. Though we’re naturally picky people. They’d just be much easier to access if they were on their own in the menu as there’s enough there to justify having their own title and it would be easier to check up on them in between your rides.
Because most people are much more sensible than us, the first place you’re probably going to visit when you visit the game is the instructions page and so it’s an incredibly important part of the development on one that requires a lot of thought and pondering over. Luckily for you, the instructions are extremely simple to understand and even come with screenshots from the game in case you’re not really sure what the funny letters at the top mean (of course, we know gamers aren’t illiterate, maybe just a bit… slow sometimes.). When explaining how to play the game though, you’re told to press ‘the button’ rather than being told what that button really is or what each button specifically does. Of course you figure it out soon enough, but it’d be quite beneficial to maybe just have a page at the start or the end of the instructions that lists the buttons used in the game. However, once again, we’re just being picky and expecting perfection. A ‘really wicked’ feature of the instructions though is the ability to go straight from the last instruction into your first game by pressing any key (“Where’s the any key?” No. Lame joke. I’m terribly sorry.), rather that having to travel back to the main menu which save valuable seconds of your life that you can put right back into beating this game.
So your game has started up, you’re approaching a wall and you bash your finger down on the button to add your permanent marking to the city but instead ollie straight past it and miss your priceless opportunity before getting pushed to the floor by the copper. Oops. This seems to be a continuous problem within the game and if this happens during a crucial time, it’s game over. Maybe it’s just a problem with our reactions but it seems like you have to be spot on with the tagging and although this creates a challenge, it’s a bit too much of a challenge, with danger of rage quitting. You’d be much less likely to rage quit if the hit box was extended just a tiny bit, though this will probably be fixed before release and even if not, won’t pose much of a problem when playing. Other than that, the controls are as quick to get the hang of as Sonic the Hedgehog climbing a rope and respond extremely quickly, which is exceedingly useful when you’re reaching the kinds of speeds required to escape the grasp of the fat party-pooper on your tail.
Any type of skating requires some music that you can rave along to in order to raise your street cred through the roof, or maybe down a lot, depending on where you decide to hop on your virtual skateboard. Fortunately, the music provided in Roller Plankin’ is perfect for the situation you’re put into; you seem to get a flow of energy and excitement as soon as you start playing which is great when you’re playing a game that’s basically a big middle finger to the police and society. The loop keeps playing long after you’ve stopped and soon you’ll just give in and set it as your ringtone so that you can tell everyone how cool you are as you walk down the street. Simple sound effects are also included, such as the sound of your wheels speeding along the concrete and the grinding noise of your board along metal. As they sound so realistic, they quickly and easily add a real sense of immersion to the game, allowing you to pretend you’re actually cool for a while, even the sound of being caught is exceptionally effective as it adds a sense of disappointment and determination in your heart, willing you to try again.
Retro is back in fashion when it comes to the graphics and these are reminiscent of the very first games you ever played, giving you the feeling of undying love from the word ‘go’. Despite being simple, Pixycade have added large amounts of detail into items such as the rocks and the policemen, making it easier to see exactly what you’re doing while not being in your face about it. The background buildings move along with you too which really gives a sense of speed, although maybe a bit too much speed as they quickly whiz past, making you feel as if you’re superman on an average day out. Other than that, everything has a smooth movement, allowing you to admire the scenery in a realistic way. Okay, so as realistic as old-school graphics can look to a person, but that’s not the point, the point is that they’re pretty and very well done.
Roller Plankin’ is definitely a game to visit when you’re bored at school or at work, but beware; you’ll enjoy yourself so much that you won’t notice your boss creeping up behind you, possibly resulting in you being fired or gaining a new skating friend (depending on how nice your boss is.). The game has few problems and to say that it hasn’t even been released yet (but is looking to be very soon!), it’s shaping up to be a very strong game in the online world. Well done little rebel dude, you skate into a strong 6/10.
P.S. I don’t really hate the police, I think they’re totally rad dude.