The last few years have seen something of a resurgence in games mimicking the platforming titles of old, as both 2D side-scrollers and more elaborate 3D adventures. Super Sami Roll is the latest offering in this arena, presenting players with a series of 3D racing stages to explore.
The game casts you as a tiny dinosaur searching for his kidnapped friend. As far as the story goes, that’s all you’re really going to get; this is not a game seeking to make a huge narrative impact. Instead, the story is set up in a few quick panes of retro artwork, and then players are free to get on with the business of platforming their way through Super Sami Roll’s various levels.
Understandably, given the genre, the game’s primary focus is on movement. Beyond simple directional keys and jumping, players are given access to a short range grapple in the form of Sami’s tongue, and a bounce jump that grants extra height. Combined with the sense of momentum players have to account for when Sami is rolling at high speed, there is a surprising amount of complexity to navigating the game’s levels and perfecting the speed at which you do so.
Each level takes the form of a short time trial, in which players have to get to the end of the track before the time runs out. The races are ranked depending on how much time you have left when you complete the course. Along the way there are coins to collect, which add seconds onto your time limit, and occasional checkpoints to give you a helping hand with the trickier platforming sections. There is also a single raspberry in each level to find. Outside of the races, the coins and raspberries both take the form of currency that can be traded in the game’s shop to alter Sami’s appearance or to buy accessories for him to wear.
These ranks and collectibles are what provide Super Sami Roll with replayability; completionists will want to ensure they find everything on offer, while perfectionists will want to shoot for a perfect S+ ranking on each level.
Backing all of this is a really solid soundtrack, helping to give the game a lot of energy despite the numerous resets players are going to have to sit through on the harder levels. And this game is hard – if you’re not a fan of replaying the same sections over and over again until you get it right then this is definitely not the title for you. Like the original platformers of the 80s and 90s, Super Sami Roll demands near perfection in places or players face the risk of falling or running out of time.
For anybody looking to divert a few hours to a reasonably simple but challenging platformer, then you could certainly do worse than Super Sami Roll.
That being said, this game is far from perfect and there are a couple of issues that can really negatively impact your play time. To start with, the levels can be a little disappointing visually. While the platforms have all been well crafted in terms of jump distance and height, all of them exist as random blocky structures in a strange, featureless void. Effort has certainly gone into making the levels feel distinct, with striking colour palettes and varied enemy types, but the lack of actual world around you can feel incredibly disconnecting. Super Sami Roll doesn’t have the same focus on world design and exploring as, say, Yooka-Laylee, so it’s not a huge issue, but it really contributes to making each level feel very small.
A much more pressing issue is the sudden, unpredictable performance crashes that crop up throughout the game. Random frame drops and sudden increases to camera sensitivity can be tolerable in some games, but Super Sami Roll relies so heavily on rapid, careful movement that the slightest drop in performance almost always necessitates a reset. Reverting to a checkpoint doesn’t take long and they are liberally spread through complicated levels, but having to restart because the game decided not to register your input for a few seconds never feels good.
Compounding this issue is Sami’s sense of momentum. As a concept, this seems like a brilliant idea, making players have to work out what they want to do before they do it instead of relying on reactionary controls when it looks like something isn’t going the way they want. However, there are places where the maps don’t feel entirely like they’ve been built with this sense of forward movement in mind. Sharp turns and narrow walkways do add challenge and that’s likely the point of them, but there are a handful of sections that feel as though they’re difficult more due to level design not meshing well with the controls than through any developer intentions.
Overall, Super Sami Roll is a decent 3D platform racer. There’s not a huge amount of variety in content, but there are enough levels to keep players entertained for some time. The art style is appealing and the music consistently manages to be engaging without being distracting. If you’re looking for a more adventure- or story-based experience then you’re probably better off with something like Yooka-Laylee or Super Mario Odyssey, but if you just want something you can breeze in and out of, then definitely give Super Sami Roll a look.