(WiiWare)

Game Review

Jam City Rollergirls Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

The revolution has now been televised

According to the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, roller derby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the US right now, and anyone that's ever been to a bout can see why: hard hits, lots of action and ladies on wheels. Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore even got in on the action in the movie Whip It. What's not to like?

So making the leap to video games is a no-brainer, and developer Frozen Codebase's Jam City Rollergirls is the first title of note ever to depict the sport. There are lots of big ideas here and for the most part it all works quite well, but there's an inescapable sense of restriction throughout that is no doubt due to the file size limits of WiiWare.

Roller derby is a sport that requires context to understand, as it's not quite as clear-cut as "get ball in goal." Bouts, as they're called, are made up of a series of two-minute jams that take place on a rounded flat track, and the two competing teams are made up of a combination of blockers and jammers. Teams go round the track, and points are scored when a team's jammer (in Jam City, that's you) passes skaters of the opposing team, who in turn try to block and bop you in order to slow you down. The first jammer out in front of the pack is named the lead jammer, who then has the ability to strategically call off the jam early — good for locking in points or preventing the other team from scoring. And of course, the team with the most points by the end of the bout wins, with draws decided by overtime jams.

But, being a video game, Jam City takes a more over-the-top arcade approach to things befitting the sport's signature rockabilly/riot grrrl style. For one, penalties are out, replaced instead with Mario Kart-style power-ups, tricks, stars and crazy stages that we're pretty sure aren't regulation. The five included teams and accompanying players are licensed from the WFTDA, so if you happen to be a fan of New York's Gotham Girls, Milwaukee's Brewcity Bruisers, Austin's Texecutioners, Madison's Dairyland Dolls or Seattle's Rat City Rollergirls, then you're in luck as each is present and accounted for along with their own unique home track.

Littered throughout the stages are stars, which act as stamina boosts and eventually build up enough to unleash a super boost that can propel you ahead right quick and take out some opponents at the same time. Controls are pretty straightforward: the analog stick handles turns and acceleration, you can jump and do tricks with motions of the Nunchuk and Remote respectively, and bop opponents on either side with a tap of B or Z. A quick waggle with a team mate in front of you will whip you forward for an extra little boost.

There are a couple of ways to play: solo jammers will want to hit up the 10-bout Season, which lets you create a player and join a team, earning cash for equipment unlocks as you go that influence assorted statistics. If you're not up for long-term tomfoolery then Quickplay will satisfy, and if you want to take on a friend head-to-head then the two-player multiplayer is the way to go. Having a human opponent really brings the game to life since the AI isn't all that great, and trouncing them over and over is fun but gets a little stale after a while.

Jam City is certainly unlike anything you've ever played — it is after all the first roller derby video game of note — and does prove that the sport is a very viable contender for a kickass game. The problem really is that there are so many places where the overall package really would benefit from simply more stuff, which WiiWare's stringent file size limitations unfortunately just doesn't allow.

Where the game most obviously suffers is in the audio department, as there is exactly one loop of one song that plays over and over again throughout the entire game — in menus, during bouts, anywhere and everywhere — and the commentator says about three or four different things. Similarly, the five teams on offer are nice and authentic, but it's just five of the dozens of WFTDA teams around. The five courses range from plain to slightly more complicated, but there are also only five of them — Jam City fudges this a bit thanks to the inclusion of mirrored versions, but really that means all those left turns just go right. Graphically the game is quite nice; the punk graffiti style works really well and the skating animations aren't half bad to boot, but there are a few spots where things just look a bit plainer than they otherwise could have been, or where the tracks could have used a little more complication.

And even though bouts last 10 minutes, they seem to go on for a bit too long. It'd be nice to be able to customise how long you want to play, since in our experience a bout was pretty much decided well around the half-way point and we spent the rest of the time further rubbing it in.

Conclusion

Jam City Rollergirls is a pretty neat, if ultimately not too heavy video game introduction to roller derby, and if you have even a passing interest in the sport may serve you well. While it could ultimately benefit from more, more, more, the game still manages to punch out a good time.

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Game Trailer

First footage of Frozen Codebase's WiiWare roller derby title Jam City Rollergirls. For more information visit http://www.nintendolife.com

User Comments (19)

thebigM

#1

thebigM said:

Sounds more interesting than I thought first. Maybe I will check it out, when it comes to Europe. Would be a nice one to have a Demo version to try it out first.

BlueBandanaJake

#2

BlueBandanaJake said:

Nice, glad this one left a good impression on you guys. It'd be nice if they could figure out a way to expand on this, since you say it suffers from a lack of content (which is obviously not their fault). Hopefully the opportunity to really make this stellar will come sometime.

Now get a demo out there, this is too strange a title for most people, so I'm sure they're going to glance it over and think its not for them, give them a reason to really consider it :)

HolyMackerel

#3

HolyMackerel said:

Sounds cool. I love "extreme" arcade sports games and it's a shame that they didn't release this as a retail game so it could have more content and polish.

Maybe they could release an upgraded, more complete version for Steam? :)

Vinsanity

#4

Vinsanity said:

The Frozen Codebase guys went on IGN's Nintendo Voice Chat podcast this week to talk Nintendo and promote the game. They sound really enthusiastic, and I'm glad they went with an "NFL Blitz" approach instead of a more sim-like thing. But - memory restrictions hampering the game or not (it IS always nice to see ambitious wiiware developers though) - I'm afraid I just don't care about Roller Derby. Mario Kart-style or not.
I'm waiting to spend my wii points on La Mulana still, or MotoHeroz, or FAST Racing League. Whichever comes first. Or a sweet Virtual Console game. Wiiware is a pain. I'm getting sick of putting in my credit card all the time to play it, and the large prices, as well as the lack of promotions and sales.

Kid_A

#7

Kid_A said:

Sounds fun. The head developer was on IGN's Nintendo Voice Chat, and he sounded really excited about the project. I might give it a whirl.

TKOWL

#9

TKOWL said:

Even though this isn't my type of game, I'm still glad developers are putting more time and love into their WiiWare projects.

warioswoods

#11

warioswoods said:

"Jam City" and one music track? Guess I'll have to break out my boombox and some turbo bass.

rwq

#13

rwq said:

I'm sorry but this doesn't look like Jet Set Radio at all. I think we are done here.

the_shpydar

#16

the_shpydar said:

Hope there will be a demo eventually, since i'd like to check out the gameplay first-hand before d/L'ing.

Rawk_Hawk

#18

Rawk_Hawk said:

I'm happy I downloaded this. It took me about 4-5 matches to understand the rules, but once I did it became pretty enjoyable. I would love to hear some bands like the Clash or Rancid provide the soundtrack for this type of game. Also is announcer the same guy from Crazy Taxi?

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