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Polyroll Review (PC)

We’re on a Polyroll here, folks!

polyroll screen 1

When most people think of Sonic The Hedgehog, the first thing that comes to mind is ridiculous manimal drama speed. But there were a few other aspects to the character’s original moveset, including his spin attack and rolling ability. What if you shifted the focus to spinning and rolling while ignoring speed almost entirely? That’s the question that indie platformer Polyroll sets out to answer.

Polyroll has players taking on the persona of a single woodlouse tasked with rescuing his kind from a nasty bird. As the titular pill bug sporting a pretty shell and fancy footwear, you’ll traverse a handful of very trippy, colorful worlds before fighting the fowl (ha) feathered fiend. Fortunately, Polyroll is adept at crushing enemies with his rolling attack, and knows exactly how to make use of assorted elemental shields to aid him in his quest.

 

Clearing out a few bugs.

polyroll screen 2

Anybody with even a cursory familiarity with classic Sonic will find their muscle memory kicking in right away. Not only does Polyroll do his own version of the spin attack, but he’s able to rev up on the spot, spin-dash style. The latter affords our hero the ability to bounce and ricochet off walls. Mastering this ability becomes crucial, as later on in the game it opens up alternative paths and leads you to secrets. It’s all good, but I feel the control is slightly more floaty than it needs to be. Nonetheless, it controls decently and the frustration level is minimal.

Curiously absent from this game is a lives system and a score counter. Our dear roly poly can die as many times as he wants (which is probably none at all), but this is compensated by the lack of checkpoints in any of the levels. Honestly, you won’t need any, as this title is pretty easy. Perhaps a bit too easy. Platform veterans will burn through it like a bug caught in a zapper. But whether or not you’re new to platformers or a seasoned veteran, you’ll have a hell of a time with the addictive, simple gameplay and gorgeous retro aesthetic. It’s also helped by the array of clever boss battles. I actually found myself looking forward to these battles and enjoyed them immensely whenever I fought. They’re not terribly tough and there’s little in the way of strategy, but they’re fun and clever.

 

Wood you do a louse a favor?polyroll screen 3

Rather than rings, our determined little bug collects colorful gems, both large and small. Small gems are scattered throughout the levels (though they become considerably rarer in the latter part of the game) and help Polyroll restore one health point for every ten collected. It’s an interesting twist from the arbitrary standard of collecting for its own sake or to fill some superfluous high score table. In addition, three large gems appear in hidden areas in the levels, and these are crucial for game progression and some nifty bonuses. New worlds are often locked behind a gem paywall, and gems also allow Polyroll to access “heart palaces”; simple time-based arenas that allow players to snag more hit points and which bear more than a striking resemblance to the special stages from the 8-bit Sonic The Hedgehog.

And while we’re on the subject of visuals! Polyroll has an interesting pixel art style that meshes together Sonic-style psychedelics with 256-color VGA graphics from the final years of MS-DOS. It’s almost as if this is what Sonic The Hedgehog would have been like if it were developed by Apogee instead of Sega! The music and sound effects are functional, though somewhat less remarkable. It’s fully competent chip music, though none of the tracks particularly stuck out for me. However, if you really enjoy the game’s blips and bloops, you may purchase the soundtrack separately.

Polyroll is a very cute, clean, and competent platformer which manages to simultaneously wear its inspiration on its sleeve while forging its own unique identity. The only thing preventing me from giving it a higher rating is the low difficulty level. It’s tempting to say that this game is aimed towards younger players, but the design doesn’t really lend itself to that theory. If you can forgive the lack of challenge, you’ll be charmed by the clever level design, creative bosses, and the gorgeous retro aesthetic. Are you a Sonic fan? Then get this. Are you a platform fan? Then get this. If you’re a Steam user, then you need to roll on over here to snag your own copy. Alternatively, you can check out the Nintendo store to grab a copy for your Switch.

 

Final Verdict: 4 / 5

Available on: PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch ; Publisher: HOF Studios ; Developer: Spicy Gyro Games, Shiny Dolphin Games LLC ;  Players: single-player ; Released: the 29th of October, 2019. 

Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam key for Polyroll given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.

Delano Cuzzucoli
Delano is a lifelong gamer who resides in the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. He's also a political student, artist, geek, writer, historian, skeptic, linguaphile, IT nerd and electronic music fan. An eccentric lover of the strange and beautiful who is equal parts harmony and discord.
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