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January 2020 Retro Gaming Article


January 2, 2020 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

I bought a Roll & Rocker as an alternate "controller" for skateboard games on the NES

Roll & Rocker NES controller box
The first time I hopped on this death-trap to play 720, I nearly put my head through my parent's TV!
I thought this was going to be the end-all-be-all of controller options for skateboard, snowboard, and surf games. On the shelf at Toys R Us, the Roll & Rocker looked like it would change gaming for me and insert me into the action in a way a standard game controller could not.

This terribly conceived device< from LJN Toys, plugged into the Nintendo NES controller port and allegedly took over the duties of the D-pad. By standing on it and tilting it in a manner similar to the D-pad. On one side of the Roll & Rocker was a port to connect an actual NES controller. You could use the standard controller to start and select games and use the A and B buttons. Between your hands and feet, you had all bases covered, right? sorta....

It looked fun, but it's practicality was near zero!
With a rounded bottom and questionable stability and functionality, I was stoked to shred at a new level. It seemed as though there may be some sort of gyroscope inside the Roll & Rocker to register your movements and send it to the game console. It's hard to say what mechanism was inside, as the unit rarely worked properly... if at all. Even games made by LJN Toys failed to react correctly with this device.

It's real problem was more akin to geometry. The rounded ball on the underside was strangely tall. When standing on it, there was a great deal of "travel" as you tipped it with your feet. Much more travel than you'd find on a skateboard, even with really loose trucks. Thus, when you made a quick maneuver, your body could work up a lot of motion that enabled this plastic disaster to easily launch you across the room in a stumbling tumble to the floor.

You wanted to believe it was a learning curve. Like a real skateboard, you need to get accustomed to it's lean. The Roll & Rocker was binary. You either stood next to it or it was catapulting you off of it. A nearby table or lamp could be your ticket to an ambulance ride to the ER.

It looked fun, but it didn't really work well even if you were able to maintain balance and not get tangled in cables when you slammed onto the floor.

Roll & Rocker NES controller The Roll & Rocker seemed large enough until you stood on it and realized the standard stance on a skateboard was much wider than what this controller allowed. It was a catalyst for in-home injuries.
Roll & Rocker NES controller box It looked fun. Really fun. The kind of fun no one had ever experienced with a video game. I loved the NES Sk8 games from 720 to Skate Or Die. No longer would I be "on the couch". The Roll & Rocker would bring a whole new dimension to these games. It did not. Poor functionality and physical instability made it best as a "collector's item."

The real tragedy of the Roll & Rocker was that I owned one and then I didn't. It was an awful controller, but a wonderful keepsake of failed gaming controllers. And then it was gone. Did my parents throw it away? What happened to this glorious atrocity? I'll never know, but I remember the fear that filled me as it threw me tot he floor for the first and only time before I retired it and went back to the couch.

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