On a Roll was developed by Battenberg Software and released on September 21, 2009 and costs 80 Microsoft Points. A copy was provided by the developer for review purposes.

Not every modern video game needs overzealous protagonists, realistic environments or gratuitous violence to be successful—sometimes all a game needs is a round ball furnished with buggy eyes to supplement an efficient gameplay mechanic. Enter the world of On a Roll.

Here’s what we liked:

Fast-paced gameplay – On a Roll wants to be like Sonic the Hedgehog. It features a character that roams stages heavily inspired by the blue hedgehog. Loops? Yes. Gravity-defying landscapes? Yes. Collectible stars that mimic the lifesavers aka the coins in Sonic? Yes. But On a Roll copies the Sega Genesis classic fairly well, and the fast, yet somewhat twitchy gameplay is fun and challenging.

Lengthy and challenging – This is one of the longest XBLIG titles we’ve played, spanning 16 difficult stages with four distinct bosses. Players will be rewarded for their hard work with a scoring system that tracks their progress and collection of stars.

Colorful visuals – Like the game it tries to be, On a Roll is bright, colorful and easy to look at. Although the graphics won’t win the developer any awards, the graphics are minimalist and work well with the title.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Too much like Sonic – We congratulate the developer for creating a competent Sonic clone, but I have to criticize them at the same time for it. Much like how the original Saints Row copied a lot of the bad mechanics of the Grand Theft Auto games it was influenced by, On a Roll relies too heavily on the 16-bit hedgehog. For instance, the fast-paced gameplay that has the player quickly moving through the levels works great, but cheap enemy placements slow the gameplay down and force the player to make timely jumps that interfere with the trademark speed. Also, many of the springs that catapult the protagonist leave the player in the wake of awkward spikes and hopping enemies determined to steal hard-earned stars from the player. The menus are exactly like Sonic and the first stage resembles the Green Hill Zone, mechanical flowers and all, to the letter, and all of these examples make On a Roll less original.

Great loops but bad looped tunes – The music that accompanies the game is a bit of a letdown because it’s almost too cheery for the subject matter. It’s the kind of optimistic melody associated with daytime soap operas. And it loops over and over again.

No saves – We commend the game for its challenge, but have to knock points off for it as well. Much like Sonic, On a Roll doesn’t allow the gamer to save after the completion of a level. That means that the measly three lives the gamer receives in the beginning are the only thing preventing a game over screen, which the player will see often. Gamers will be frustrated after losing all of their lives and forced to revisit the game, in its entirety, from the beginning. Masochists may enjoy it, but the difficulty is unbalanced and deaths resort from cheap enemy placements.

On a Roll is an unholy animal of a game that blatantly steals elements from more successful titles but manages to be fun simultaneously. Despite the garage band tunes, awkward balancing issues and lack of save points, the game is still fun to a degree and I recommend gamers give it a try.

Score: Try it