Can a Sonic clone be as good or better than what came before it? We have had Sonic on handhelds before, but how will Polyroll hold up on the Nintendo Switch and PC? The story of the game is that you must make your way through the levels to rescue your friends from the clutches of the evil Kaiser Kiwi, who has taken them to Frigid Castle. You must bounce, jump, and dash your way through 36 levels in order to save them.
This game looks and feels like a Sonic game but without the speed. The first time I saw a sloped ramp and held the button down to do a spin, I got excited. When I let the button go, I was in complete disbelief upon seeing how slow the character moved, barely making it across the gap. I know that roly polies are not fast, but neither are hedgehogs. Even when jumping and landing on enemies, I expected little animals to scurry off. When I was hit by an enemy, I expected to lose all the diamonds that I had collected. Instead, the enemies simply vanished, and you just take damage, respectively. Even the damage animations look very similar to the ones when Sonic gets hit. I really disliked that I felt this way about the game in this regard. Neither of those above-mentioned events happened, but this is okay. After all, we don’t want a complete copy of a Sonic game. After collecting ten diamonds, you can earn an extra heart to refill your life meter. This is a huge difference between Polyroll and Sonic as with Sonic if you get hit after not having any coins, you lose a life. Polyroll does not have lives, instead it lets you continue to play.
I played this mostly in handheld and some when the system was docked and was using the Joy-Cons. Both setups were great and responsive. The controls are basic like most Sonic games. The left stick and left D-pad buttons are for movement, and the right stick lets you look up and down in a level. Both the Y and X buttons are used to charge up your spin. The B and A buttons are used for jumping. Other modifiers of the game are various power-ups that surround you with spikes that let you walk on other spikes in the environment, leaves that let you fall slower, or bombs that allow you to drop bombs to kill enemies or remove blocks. This is a welcome addition to the game and is even required to use in some levels to gain extra hearts for your gauge or to collect the crystals hidden throughout the levels.
Beyond the standard Sonic similarities, this game does have some uniqueness to it. As mentioned before, you can get power-ups. These are in Sonic-like holders that you must jump on to get. There are also three large crystals to collect in each level. You are not required to get each one, but you will at some point have to accrue enough to further progress in the stages. Another difference is bonus levels that you must complete to extend your heart meter beyond the default of three. I did like the bosses that I did fight. They were unique and although the method for defeating them was to simply hit them, they did provide some challenge and slight strategy. To me, this is the best part of the game. Along with this, the boss areas act as checkpoints so you do not have to go back through the level to get back to the boss if you fail. Another unique feature to the game was a mini-game at the end of a level that let you get a power-up if you boosted onto a block. This was different but did not push my thoughts towards this being a great game.
As for the graphics, they look like a direct rip-off of the Sonic games. It looks like most of the games from the Sega Genesis era. I also did not notice any difference between handheld and having the console docked. While this is not necessarily bad, they could have added a little more subtle differences to make the game more of its own. Even the main character looks very similar to Sonic himself. The sound is also more of the same Sonic-like music. Yet another shame for this. Once again, if they would have done something more original, it would separate itself more and give it a better feel.
Developer: Spicy Gyro Games, Shiny Dolphin Games
Publisher: HOF Studios
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: October 29th 2019
Do you agree with our review of Polyroll? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.