It’s interesting how speedrunning in video games has become its own sub-genre. Pick any genre to sit alongside it, and suddenly you have a battle of optimization, wits and critical planning, all wrapped up in reaction and preference. It’s an idea that’s grown more and more in the recent years of AGDQ charity runs and constant world record beaters, and Rooftop Renegade is no exception.
This is the debut game from Australian developers Melonhead Games, formed in 2017 and slowly accruing interest over the years with today’s title. You play as Svetlana, a rebel collecting mysterious crystals before the nefarious Globacorp does for their deeds. When utilized appropriately, the portals allow for short-space travel, which Svetlana can use to her benefit to escape Globacorp’s minions after intense chases through the rooftops of the universe.
In terms of story, that’s all you’re going to get, both from my paragraph, and the game itself. It’s rather uninterested in explaining why Svetlana is doing this, who she is doing this for, and what Globacorp represents. They’re small basic elements of motivation, and they work to get the point across, that point being you gotta dodge the cyber cops before it becomes 1984! For that, Rooftop Renegade does wonders.
Gameplay will consist of you pushing Svetlana across the rooftops, skyscrapers, and industrial estates of the galaxy, collecting crystals, and avoiding the clutches of Globacorp. This involves grinding rails, dodging obstacles, and eventually the personnel of Globacorp who will fire at objects within the level to slow you down. Thankfully, you’re not completely unarmed, thanks to Svetlana’s hoverblades, which can be upgraded with special abilities the more you level up and play.
It’s all very intuitive, Rooftop Renegade compacting all obstacles and opportunities on 3 paths that constantly intertwine and lift up, leading to catharsis in pacing. You’re never explicitly losing all speed, even as Globacorp targets obstacles to prevent a quick exit. One fall from grace is quickly superseded by a faster path, happy little accidents which are constantly accruing to a high score and potential S rank.
It’s heavily reminiscent of Doritos Crash Course, the party platformer emulating the likes of Total Wipeout!, developed by Behaviour Interactive, and a personal nostalgia mine for me. While not similar in tone, the capsule presentation of its levels and its structure feels like a callback that is more than welcome, if you ask me. The type of straightforward call to action that should be commended, more than anything.
It’s not filled with a great amount of variety, mind you. Some level paths are set back with a constant state of deja vu, and while different biomes offer different opportunities, the variables one biome might uniquely possess tend to be willfully ignored. The game’s “Generator Mode”, which will create a seemingly infinite amount of levels for you to play, seems to suffer from set paths that always crop up.
It would be best to stick with the curated levels, with Rooftop Renegade having 26 to choose from, including tutorial efforts to get you acclimated to the different abilities. The level design here is consistently tight, always allowing for the player to retain a consistent rank, even if the scoring system seems slightly swayed. S ranks on certain levels demand a perfection of which the threshold will never be visible, even with everything having a score attached to it.
There are ways you can attempt to get higher scores, with the different hoverblade sets that Svetlana unlocks with each level increase. Each of these are equipped with different modules that can boost Svetlana’s speed briefly, dodge obstacles, and double jump, with others being dedicated to one ability or more. While they can change the flow in their own unique ways, they seem under-baked due to the small number of actual hazards to fight against.
They still don’t feel like they help your fight for S ranks on the curated levels. Meanwhile, S ranks on the seed-generated levels? You’d have to be actively trying to fail getting anything but an S Rank. The margins and thresholds are so far removed from what the curated levels demand, that it feels worthless in this format. With a little bit of tweaking, like a “Survival” mode, or maybe even daily leaderboards, could help justify such an option.
There is also a party option, which involves one player controlling Svetlana, and the others controlling the Globacorp vehicle, firing at obstacles to prevent progress. It’s pretty cute, but doesn’t offer the same chaotic imbalances that the AI does as it tries to predict your every move. At the very least, it’s another small offering that Rooftop Renegade can provide.
It’s tough to consider Rooftop Renegade’s replayability. It suffers from a lack of clarity in regards to how a score is calculated, even when you know you just finished a perfect run, and can leave you feeling demotivated in the race for all S ranks. Still, for the exhilaration it provides, the game can get by, almost solely on a nostalgic presentation of pacy platforming, and also by its soundtrack.
Composed by John Oestmann, it’s a head-boppin’ bundle of drum n’ bass tracks, infused with small guitar licks and acid-y drops. Perfectly fitting the games aesthetic of clean neon and speedy exits, it’s another simple impact of the type of fun Rooftop Renegade provides: unfiltered, unpretentious, a relatively straight-forward goal, and no frills attached, which feels like a blessing at points.
While not lighting the world on fire with variety, or even longevity, I find myself looking back on my short time with Rooftop Renegade with more fondness as time goes by. You’ll find yourself with 4 hours gone, hundreds of rooftops left with impressions from your hoverblades, a devious global conglomerate pantsed by your skill, and a huge smile on your face. It’s not the perfect platformer, but it doesn’t need to be, and Rooftop Renegade knows that.
TechRaptor reviewed Rooftop Renegade on Xbox One S using a copy purchased by the reviewer. It is also available on Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
- Nostalgia-baiting works perfectly in scale
- Phenomenal level design
- Hypnotic and thumping DnB soundtrack
- Upgrade mechanics lack proper depth
- Small handful of actual hazards lead to repetition