Game Reviews

Rolando: Royal Edition review - "Has the king of mobile platforming returned?"

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Rolando: Royal Edition review - "Has the king of mobile platforming returned?"

The original Rolando has, to some extent, been lost to the mists of time. It defined the early part of the App Store's life, but it didn't take long for the idea of adorable platformers as the core of mobile gaming to lose ground to new genres and, perhaps most importantly, new ways of paying.

Rolando: Royal Edition is something of an outlier then. It's a piece of App Store history repackaged for an audience that might not have been there the first time round. It's a remaster not just of the game, but of a chunk of time before Clash of Clans and Candy Crush became the C-all and end all of mobile play to some.

In one way it shows us the playful creativity that existed back then - while the ideas here are nothing new now, back in the day they were joyous and fresh. But in another way it's a formative link, a connection to a past that's unfortunately dead and gone. Rolando's return, in other words, is something of a bitter-sweet one.

Roly poly

If you've not played the original Rolando then imagine a Badland game with more control, and less gloom. The game radiates primary-coloured brightness from all of its pores, painting its levels in chunky swatches of cartoon hues. You're in control of a rolling critter, and you tilt your device to send them hither and thither.

More often than not you've got multiple different rollers to deal with, but you can select different ones to make things a bit less madcap. Swipe and drag to create a box and when you release your finger you'll select all of the characters that are within it.

Different characters have different sets of skills - some of them are asleep, some of them will keep rolling whether you tell them to or not, and some of them can stick to walls. You need to combine these plusses and minuses in order to get every one of your charges to the exit door.

Rolando: Royal Edition iOS review screenshot - A spiky roller pushing a switch

There are shades of Lemmings here, as well as plenty of other games that were more relevant a decade ago. And that's the kicker - the games industry has moved on from the likes of Rolando, which leaves us with an interesting dichotomy.

On the one hand it's great to get the chance to revisit a time before the App Store got so cynical - there are endless blue skies here, and it's hard to play without a smile on your face. On the other, though, while Rolando's aesthetic might be a welcome change, its success means that there's a degree of over-saturation here.

While the bright colours might not have struck a chord, so much of what Rolando did originally has made it into the mobile gaming zeitgeist. Clever tilt controls, gaming references, a cheeky sense of humour? It all feels like it's been done before - because it has, by Rolando, ten years ago.

I rolly liked it

That's not to say that there isn't fun to be had here - far from it, in fact. Rolando is a bright and cheery platformer with a lot going for it. What you're not going to be is blown away in the way plenty of people were the first time round. It's like reading a book that defined a style of literature after you've read all the books that came after - you can see the nascent ideas clear as day, but you've already experienced them in more polished and precise ways.

For better or worse, the mobile gaming landscape today is very different to the one the original Rolando rolled onto. Which makes Rolando: Royal Edition a charming and engaging glimpse at a potential future we never ended up with. It's an entertaining game, but the ground that Rolando broke has been well and truly smashed through since then, and this new edition proves that.

Rolando: Royal Edition review - "Has the king of mobile platforming returned?"

Rolando: Royal Edition is an entertaining platformer, but even with the extra polish it's showing its age
Harry Slater
Harry Slater
Harry used to be really good at Snake on the Nokia 5110. Apparently though, digital snake wrangling isn't a proper job, so now he writes words about games instead.