REVIEW: On a Roll 3D

Platformers not starring Mario or promising some never-before-seen mechanic have an uncanny knack for underwhelming (read: just competent), and that’s understandable; there’s a lot of them. At first glance it might seem trivial or unimaginative, though On a Roll 3D (80 MSP) is not just a self-clever title telling you what to expect; it’s essentially Sonic the Hedgehog, with a lot more roadblocks.

On a Roll 3D - Screen

Pictured: Obligatory ‘Snow’ world.

As a sequel to the decidedly un-3D On a Roll, the game makes the transition to a pseudo third dimension (you’re still moving on a flat plane) beautifully. Everything is sharp and richly detailed, and the ‘Sonic‘ mention is more than observational. Your well-rounded protagonist’s hit points are measured in stars instead of rings, checkpoints and stage transitions are clear homages, and the level layouts themselves will channel the blue mascot’s spirit, with spring boards, occasional around-the-world arches, and twisting paths sprinkled in. Dr. Robotnik could move right in and start some trouble, no problem.

Don’t expect to fly past it all in a blur, however. Your ball doesn’t do anything fast, and it’s hard to build momentum or get the ball rolling (pardon the expression), as any burst of speed you attempt will typically result in you hitting a roadblock (column, environmental object) or running directly into a hazard or baddie. The game is also puzzle-heavy, constantly stopping you to turn on switches / levers, or drop a box / roll a log into place in order to open the way forward. Odd, given the game’s inspiration, that you should have to move carefully and deliberately to advance.

Though mascot or generic, quick or slow, there’s a lot be said for pleasant platformers— warm colors, the leisurely stroll, a few clever tricks but otherwise low impact. A handful of hours spent not pulling your hair out over some obstinate sequence, but just collecting, bopping a few heads, and generally moving from left to right. This is where I thought On a Roll 3D was headed. And it does deliver on that, for the first half of the game. Well, for most of the game, really, minus the boss stages.

On a Roll 3D - Screen2

It’s those balled-bastards (and not the stop-and-go gameplay, ironically) that will sap your good times. The game features 24 stages over six themed worlds, with a ball-boss fight at the end of each world. You’re given two hit points to work with on an enemy that takes about ten hits to defeat. The first two fights are fine, but from three onward, the boss develops either an erratic movement set, invulnerability (retractable spikes), or some combination thereof. It’s not impossible, but you can expect profanity and quite a few retries in your future.

If you don’t mind the jarring frustration those fights will bring (or if you’re just laughing at my inadequacy), then the rest of On a Roll 3D shouldn’t spoil your fun. It’s slow-moving in spots, though the bright visuals, soundtrack, and online leaderboards will help keep you motivated and on the path. Quirks and difficulty spikes aside, there aren’t very many indie Sonic-likes that look or play this well.

17 thoughts on “REVIEW: On a Roll 3D”

  1. Thanks for pointing out that thread – hadn’t seen that one! Yes the game was released on Steam last week and is getting a few positive reviews. Like a lot of developers, we aren’t releasing XBLIGs any more.

    1. I don’t blame you for leaving behind XBLIG, and I’m sure the revenue generated has been decreasing with each passing month. Its time has come and (almost) gone, but it’s been a great starting point for a lot of Devs that are now moving onto the new consoles / PC. Congrats on the Steam release!

    2. Tim….we been talking about it’s death for far to long and yet it still has a heartbeat. Not much of one but way more of one then I expected at this point. As well as overall 360 support in general.

      I thought I would have to be moving on to the One due to lack of new content on the 360 but it keeps coming. And add to that the sales it just don’t want to die.

      25% of all console sales during the holiday season was the 360 with the one pulling in just over 50%. The 360 was the 3rd best selling console over the holiday season. THAT is crazy and that is why I think they will continue to support and make games for it much longer than I originally expected.

      Which MS (when announcing the Xbox One Launch) said they would give at least 2 years notice before they stop supporting and at that time they said they would support it through at least 2016. If they are actually going to give 2 year warning then we are looking to at least 2017 now.

      Just Saying. 😛

    3. @ImTheMetalLord: I know, I know. That’s why I put the asterisk and / or parenthesis on there and say ‘almost’. 🙂

      I can’t speak for XBLIG’s absolute health, but all I can go by is the word I hear from developers, and watching my own numbers at the site go down with each passing month. Views have basically been dipping since last July, so the interest is waning. Considering I’m one of the few sites left that cover XBLIG, I have to assume that means total, overall interest is on the decline.

      Things can always pick up, and developers can always continue to release games (so long as MS supports it, as you mentioned). Xbox 360 itself is doing just fine. I think there’s a lot of people just like you, content with the current gen. Even better, there’s plenty of sales to go around. Why upgrade when you’ve got a huge library of very good, very cheap games, to choose from.

      XBLIG, though, may be the odd man out in all this. I’m not trying to force it into the grave, by any means. All I know is, numbers don’t lie, and I can’t spin them to my advantage these days. :/ …Too bad I’m still an optimist, I guess. 🙂

    4. I should point out that no one was more disappointed than us at making the decision to stop writing games for XBLIG. The platform had its faults but we loved it – and having the opportunity to write games for a mainstream console was really incredible. If it wasn’t for the fact that we are now programming in Unity instead of XNA, we’d still be releasing via XBLIG as well as for PC.

      We still manage to make a bit of money each quarter from our 10 games, but it’s only a fraction of what it was at its peak (admittedly we haven’t released anything since late 2013). But that does mean people are still playing, which I think is great.

      Tim – thank you for the congratulations on our Steam release. It’s gone down well in that most people seem to like it but sales aren’t great and still haven’t come close to matching XBLIG sales of the game – though I think they might in time. There’s nothing wrong with being an optimist – who knows what the future holds and if it became viable to do so, we wouldn’t rule out going back and releasing another XBLIG!

    5. @Battenberg Software if you really want to be on mainstream console you should try to get on the One if you haven’t already. Those guys are cleaning up from what I hear.

    6. @BattenbergSoftware & ImTheMetalLord: Yeah, both the One and the PS4 have been really good to indie devs to start. I’d give the edge to XbOne if and when they open up the ID@Xbox program a little more. I think part of my ‘optimism’ stems from that, and picturing a pseudo-XBLIG scene where devs get access to achievements / leaderboards. If anything can entice more casual gamers to give indie games a shot, it would be the promise of earning achievements for a game they only spent $1 to $5 on.

      That said, you’d still get the groups that complain about anything that looks ‘indie’, even if it’s the free game of the month. You can’t prevent that, but the idea of ‘new XBLIG’ scene taking root there is pretty damn awesome, should that ever happen.

    7. @ImTheMetalLord – Yeah we’ve tried Xbox One – we have been accepted onto the ID@Xbox program (which I believe a lot of people were), but we weren’t one of the lucky ones to get given a free console. From what I can gather Microsoft were giving consoles out to those it was prioritising. We’d definitely release for Xbox One given the opportunity, but all ID@Xbox seem to be doing is apologising for not releasing more information sooner. What with that and us not having an imminent release, we’ve kind or forgotten about it for now.

      @Tim – The pseudo-XBLIG scene you describe sounds great! I wish they’d do exactly that – we’re not necessarily bothered about being on a level playing field with commercial games. As I’ve said before, for all its faults, we loved XBLIG. And after all, we write Indie games and don’t pretend they’re anything more.

    8. Yeah, the info has definitely slackened off, and you’re right, it seems only the more ‘established’ indie devs have been given the go-ahead. That’s what’s confusing about it, and not knowing if and when they’ll come through on their promise that ‘every system is a development kit’. Perhaps they’re still working on the specifics, and this year’s E3 will see some kind of movement towards that. Hard to tell, fingers crossed.

      You’ve got the right idea, though. Indie Games have a place and a vital role in the industry, and that’s a kind of enthusiasm that the bigger companies just can’t match. 🙂

  2. Bosses 3 & 4 are quite easy. Boss 3 you just keep jumping, forcing it into a corner. Boss 4 you just camp in the corner (where it can’t reach you), learn the pattern of when the boss has spikes or not and then jump on it when it is vulnerable (camping in the corner after each hit).

    1. I think that’s the strategy I used, more or less. I do remember the fourth boss being easier than the third, but that could have been the shock from the increased difficulty. Would’ve had an even better run / score if it weren’t for those guys. 🙂

    2. I agree I think we made the fourth boss easier than the third, and waiting in the corners is exactly the way to defeat the fourth one. I also think the fifth boss is harder than the sixth – in hindsight maybe five and six should’ve been swapped round. They can definitely hinder a long run/score. The guy at the top of the online scores has about 117,000!! That’s better than we’ve ever managed!

    3. Oh yeah, that blows my score out of the water. Need to go back and take a look at where I stand on the boards now, but I salute him, because I know it goes far beyond dedication with those bosses. All skill.

    1. Quite a bit more work involved than the original, I’m sure. 🙂 Really nice-looking too. I would wait on some more feedback from other players, but if I had to make a recommendation, I’d say to tone down / weaken the bosses. Maybe people will appreciate the challenge, though, who knows. Either way, good job.

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