Rotolla is a simple puzzle game that blends the classic colour-matching of Klax and the hectic pace of Super Hexagon. You must navigate coloured polygons that form at the centre of a hexagon and move outwards until they hit the edge where they stop. The objective is simple – to not let a stack of shapes get so big that it reaches the centre. To destroy pieces, you must connect two or more that share the same colour – a common function for puzzle games – and as a high-score-based game, the only change in difficulty is simply the speed at which the pieces move. The catch is that not just one piece moves at a time and there can be up to four that all move away from each other symmetrically, forcing you to start stacking. If a block in the middle of a stack is destroyed, the stack doesn’t fall down to replace it, meaning you still have to worry about the top pieces. This came as a surprise but seems to suit the quick-paced action. You can only move left and right, which changes the direction of all moving pieces at once, sometimes stopping you if one of the pieces is blocked by a stack. It may sound complicated, but it’s most definitely pick-up-and-play for anybody.
To progress, you need to destroy a pre-set amount of blocks to reach the next stage, which doesn’t stop gameplay and just starts speeding everything up. The game gets difficult fast and is only supposed to last a few minutes per play like many other classic arcade titles. Much like Tetris, there’s also a speed-up button, allowing you to quickly shoot through the first stages of the game so that you aren’t forced to slow down when you retry – a feature I’ve always appreciated in similar games. From the menu, you can choose between either a light background with darker-coloured pieces or vice versa, depending on what you prefer, and in-game you can select to play in 3D or 2D. These options are nice to have and still keep the game as minimalistic as possible, which is exactly what Prior Games are going for with their line of ‘microgames,’ of which Rotolla is the first.
The motivation behind trying to reach a high level is due to the start screen, which teases you with the promise of a ‘spiritual awakening’ should you reach Level 30. Using your curiosity as a weapon that forces you to keep playing is clever and it’s a great reason to come back to the game time and time again. Unfortunately, I did eventually reach the seemingly impossible stage after many, many tries and what I received was extremely disappointing. This annoyed me and didn’t intrigue me into going any further at all and although I still like to play the game for a high-score, I’m no longer interested by the games attempt at coercing me. Many other games use player’s curiosity in such a manner and there’s currently a social experiment of a game called Curiosity – What’s Inside the Box, which requires thousands of players to work together to eventually unlock the ‘life-changing’ centre of the cube. It’s interesting to watch, but the reward should always be something worthwhile instead of simply hoping that players will never reach the goal anyway.
One of the biggest reasons to play Rotolla is actually the soundtrack, which is very odd for a mobile game. I hardly have the sound on when playing other mobile games, but at the start it recommends headphones for a better, more immersive experience. Whilst I don’t think headphones are completely necessary, the music is definitely worth a listen. The game boasts original pieces from one of gaming’s best composers, Akira Yamaoka, who created the extraordinary Silent Hill classics and has made music for many of Grasshopper Manufacture’s games, such as Lollipop Chainsaw and Shadows of the Damned. Rotolla’s music is no different. It’s an instant classic that I’ll be listening to over and over again, although it may not be what you’d expect from the writer of the Silent Hill soundtrack and sometimes actually more closely resembles music from games such as BIT.TRIP RUNNER. Constantly flitting between a number of different tunes that blend together perfectly but are still very unique (including a chiptune-esque section) keeps the music interesting so that it doesn’t begin to annoy you with the same repetitive sounds.
Rotolla isn’t a game that you’ll play for hours on end, but it’s a game that you’ll come back to when you’re on the bus or waiting in a line. By definition of a ‘microgame,’ it succeeds entirely, being a small game that’s based on replayability and high-scores instead of a full world. This touch of simplicity also successfully opens the game up to anybody and not just core gamers, which is what mobile is best at, after all. The music is incredible and the game has a distinctive, consistent style of minimalism, the downside being that you aren’t rewarded for your efforts after being promised something so enchanting. It’s certainly a lot of fun and I’ll be waiting to see what Prior Games has to offer next in their ‘microgame’ line-up.