The Way We Roll Review

If there’s one genre that’s rewarded iOS gamers more than any other, it must be the logic puzzler, and now fans of all things that give the ol’ brain a workout can add The Way We Roll (Out Now, $0.99 Release Sale) to the list of greats. A true crossover of puzzle and adventure, Polar Bird Studio’s debut has you guiding little bug-eyed balls through a ton of block-and-roll exercises. You know the kind: give the player object a flick and it’ll roll until it hits something. Keep repeating and hopefully you’ll collect gems and hit the exit without spilling over the game board along the way. A big puzzle game starring little spherical beings is nothing new to mobile gamers by now, but having a character-driven narrative layered over it is impressive — and if that happens to sound like a turn-off, you can skip it almost entirely. Whatever your feelings on story, you’ll appreciate how this level of attention shows in all aspects of the game.

We gave an overview of Roll‘s gameplay back in June, but let’s recap the highlights. No sooner do you wrap up a few easy tutorial levels than you hit your first branching path on the game’s huge overworld, letting you pick and choose your brain-sapping battles. Good thing, too, because solutions become ever harder to develop as more game elements are stirred in. Your decisions begin actively changing the game boards as you work through; getting all the direction-switching bridges and movable objects to fall into place seriously tests your powers of prediction, making each gem pickup a hard-won accomplishment. Gems not only attest to your ability to figure out what was going on in the designer’s mind, but also unlock sections of the game world. Fail to reach a certain threshold and you’ll have to revisit bypassed levels to round up more — but with sharpened skills that make old challenges look like child’s play in hindsight.

There are just as many secrets to uncover as there are ways to clear the game’s levels. Roll‘s world is pretty formidable from the get-go, but spend time looking for secret warp points hidden under foliage or bypassing gems to complete levels in the fewest possible moves, and it’ll branch out even further! In rewarding player achievements with more gameplay, Roll demonstrates that principles of great adventure game design can spice up any genre.

While Roll is clearly a must for puzzle fans, there’s just one thing that keeps me from recommending it to all mobile gamers. As gameplay evolves it gets ever easier to back yourself into a corner — ending up in a spot where there’s no alternative to rolling off the game board. This isn’t a design oversight; rather, it’s pretty clear the devs took ruthless joy in constructing levels this way. Fair enough, but these “gotcha” moments feel like a punch to the gut when you’re holding onto three hard-won gems and have to give them all up to start from scratch. There’s an “Undo” button, but it only works for your most recent move and disappears once you’ve spilled into the drink, robbing you of options if it happens at a dead end. Remembering what you did to snatch a gem three minutes back is less fun than figuring it out the first time, so the stymied momentum will discourage players who rely on trial and error over foresight. Multiple “Undo” levels could take Roll straight to perfection. It’s a lesson the tragically overlooked Marblenauts brought to the table years ago, and one more puzzle game developers would do well to emulate.

Getting a good view of Roll‘s overworld and game boards is no problem thanks to the trusty drag-to-pan and pinch zoom. Roll will be remembered as much for its lovingly crafted visual charm and ultra-soothing guitar soundtrack as for its unstinting challenge, but let’s hope for more variety in the aesthetics department when content updates introduce new worlds.

iFanzine Verdict: A puzzle adventure that’s rewarding as it is challenging, The Way We Roll is sure to become your next guilty pleasure if you’re a logic puzzle fan. Just be warned — there are dead ends aplenty for you to get trapped in unless you push your powers of prediction to limits you’ve never imagined until now.