Developed by Sonzai Games, Super Sami Roll is a 3D Platformer which sees the titular Sami on a quest to save his kidnapped friend. He rolls, he bounces, he even uses his tongue as a grapple across the game’s brightly coloured and often challenging worlds.
The title is clearly inspired by many of the classic 3D platformers of yesteryear and this is obvious from the game’s design, soundtrack, and of course its gameplay. It all has an almost Sega like feel to it, and it isn’t the only title I have written about recently to do so; for more information on that, check out my preview on Out-Class Hunter. However Super Sami Roll has a very distinct flavour to it that is undoubtedly fun to play. Even if it has a couple issues here and there.
Super Sami Roll is available now on Steam for your regional pricing.
STORY – ANIMAL CRACKERS
Super Sami Roll sees you assuming the role of Sami, a little lizard living large on a tropical island. One day the evil Albert VII swoops in and kidnaps Sami’s friend, Vera. And with that the chase is on as Sami rolls his way to try and save his dear friend. The story is told via a series of short pixel art screens which appear sporadically through the adventure and shortly after each of the game’s boss fights.
It’s told well for what it is. Sure it’s not going to win awards for its story or how it tells it. But in frank honesty that isn’t why you are playing this game; this isn’t a narrative focused game, it is a game which puts gameplay front and centre.
Of course that isn’t to say that the story is bad or anything like that, as it frankly isn’t. It’s a pleasant addition to the title which never interrupts the core experience. And there are no forced attempts at quirky or self-referential humour which is always a plus. It tells its story without pretence or pretentiousness on any level. It’s a very typical and traditionally told videogame story.
It’s fine, it’s simple and it’s efficiently told. Quite frankly that is all it really needs to be.
GAMEPLAY – ROLL ON!
Super Sami Roll is a third person 3D platformer where you lead the aforementioned Sami through a series of levels across the game’s four worlds. In each level you try to reach the exit within the given time limit. You’ll jump, pull yourself along with your tongue, wall jump, bounce, and of course, roll. Along the way, you collect coins to extend your time limit and the hidden raspberries that are tucked away within each level.
Single Player is where the meat of the experience resides. For the most part Super Sami Roll provides a smooth and fun experience, which is easy to learn but can be hard to master. The best way to describe the gameplay itself is that it is like a combination of Sonic the Hedgehog crossed with Super Monkey Ball; Sami curls up into a ball and rolls through each level trying to make his way through obstacles as quickly as possible, though with some rather involved platforming.
Sami handles as one would expect a small lizard ball would; you can’t make sharp turns if you are going too fast, no break button means you need to tilt the control stick in the opposite direction to stop, momentum builds the more you move in a straight line, etc. It is fairly intuitive all things considered. And given the game gradually ramps up its difficulty the further into it that you get, you should have a firm grasp of the controls by the time some of the harder sequences start to appear.
Even when the game gets difficult, it never feels like it is doing so in an unfair kind of way; you never find a challenge that is too hard or impossible to complete. As most of the time when you do fail something, it’s usually due to human error and is something you can remember for when you do it again. It’s a trial and error kind of frustrating, which is palatable with these kinds of platformers. However that isn’t to say the game is wholly without any negative frustrations.
Throughout Super Sami Roll, you’ll come across a variety of colourful baddies and obstacles that will try to block your way. By and large they are easy enough to deal with. And by deal with I mean avoid; there is no combat in the game aside from the boss fights, and no offensive abilities to defend yourself with. Now there is nothing wrong with this per se; by and large you will manage to get around these beasties and traps without much difficulty. However when you do get hit by them, poor little Sami is flung several feet into the air and is unable to do much aside whimper and move slowly ever so slightly.
Because of this, it is not uncommon to find yourself getting into a situation where you are stuck on a loop, getting hit by the same monster over and over again as they are able to just stand under you, ready to punt you skywards. Or you end up thrown right off the course with no way of being able to save yourself due to how long you are stunned for.
Something that only makes those moments where you had finally overcome some tricky platforming after the fifteenth try, only to get thwarted because your tongue decided to lock onto one of the spiked balls rather than the platform in front of you—resulting in you getting thrown into a bottomless pit—all the more painful.
Super Sami Roll is a game that requires quick reflexes in order to complete some of the more challenging sequences. And I’d be frankly insane to criticise the game due to failures on my part to press the correct button at the right time. However I do feel that some challenges are undermined by how certain mechanics function.
The grappling tongue can feel a little too slow and short range for what it is intended to do. At times it feels like you are losing momentum when using it. Which for some sequences can be the difference between getting to your goal or getting sent back to the checkpoint. Plus it doesn’t home in on the nearest target in front of you when launched; so if you are a little too high or too low of your target, you’ll miss your shot.
That is providing the tongue actually releases on time at all given how slow it can be. Because there is a slight delay before you can use it again, it leaves you having to hope those reflexes of yours really are on point. Otherwise you might have to restart certain sequences again.
However even with its frustrations, there is still nothing about it which feels disheartening or unfair, as the game itself is sufficiently forgiving. There are no lives, and in the main game mode there are checkpoints that you’ll respawn at in the event you fall off stage or are defeated by a monster.
Granted it does feel like some of the stages should have more checkpoints, which are then more evenly spaced out given that some sequences can be incredibly time consuming and punishing if you aren’t quick enough to pass them.
Super Sami Roll also features a four-player multiplayer mode which can be unlocked in the single player mode. It is honestly a surprising addition to the game. Especially given our protagonist and his friends do not feature in it. The controls feel far tighter than in the main game. So much so that I wish that I had that level of control when I am guiding Sami around.
In all, Super Sami Roll offers a fine gameplay experience which is often addictive and offers a nice balance of challenge and accessibility. It can be frustrating however. But how much so depends on your own skills and patience.
GRAPHICS & SOUND – DO THE SAMI SHUFFLE
There is no denying that Super Sami Roll is a treat to the eyes and ears. Everything about it screams of passion for the types of games that served as inspiration. Such shows in more than just its gameplay, but also in its art and sound design. Everything within the title has a feel to it akin to the Sega games of yore.
As for the aesthetics, every aspect of the game has a vivid colour palette which is pleasing to the eye. Giving it a cartoonish and family friendly appearance, which is frankly rather cute and charming. Also I am honestly shocked at how much design variety there is for many of the game’s bad guys.
A lesser game would just have stuck to a handful of them and just reused them throughout. But Super Sami Roll by contrast has a wide selection; many of which are unique to the worlds they are introduced in. Which helps to give you new challenges to avoid as you go about your adventure.
ROLLING IN THE DEEP
The game’s soundtrack especially feels like it has just rolled in from a Dreamcast game. And helps to give the title a feeling of familiarity to it without it sounding too familiar or derivative.
It has a joyous energy to it. A spark of life and charisma which never feels too lively or too powerful. Nor is it too subdued and distant. Adding just the right amount of seasoning to give it a tone which feels apt for the challenges ahead. There really is nothing to fault with the soundtrack at all. As it really is a pleasure to listen to.
Super Sami Roll was reviewed on PC with a review code provided by Novy Unlimited.