Many have tried to shake up the skateboarding genre since its golden age in the early days of the Tony Hawk franchise. What OlliOlli is able to do is distill what many people loved about those games, namely the ridiculous combos, into a bite-sized downloadable package. If you won’t miss the free roaming aspect of later games such as EA’s Skate franchise, then you will feel right at home with OlliOlli.
Unlike other games in the genre, OlliOlli is a 2D side-scroller. Action moves from left to right and the goal is to rip off as many tricks as possible (without bailing) before reaching the end of the level.
At first the controls seem simple enough. Tricks are mapped to the left analog stick and are landed by hitting X when you land. Doing this perfectly a trick perfectly is key to getting the most points from your combos. Sloppy tricks forfeit almost the entire score, messes with your balance and more often then not leads to a painful crash. Grindable rails and obstacles are mounted easily by hitting the left stick while in the air. Spins can also be thrown in via the left and right shoulder buttons.
The in-game “Tricktionary” shows how to preform tricks, but it’s bit of a trap because right away you’re tempted to go for the most difficult tricks and end up bailing constantly. That’s because in OlliOlli preforming the trick is the easy part; the challenge comes from being able to land it successfully while respecting the layout of each stage. There’s a lot of trial and error involved until you get to the end of a stage and see where all of the obstacles are. It’s frustrating at times, but because the game quickly puts you right back at the start, it’s hard to put down until you complete that particular challenge that is bugging you.
“Finessing the left stick to get the exact trick that you want is a crapshoot at times.”While pulling off the basic maneuvers are simple enough, advanced tricks are difficult to get right and it’s because too many tricks are mapped to the left analog stick. Finessing the left stick to get the exact trick that you want is a crapshoot at times. Instead of trying to squeeze all of the controls onto three or four buttons, Roll7 might have been better off pushing some of the tricks and variations onto the multitude of unused inputs.
Roll7 should be commended for creating one game mode that is simultaneously appealing to all different skill levels. The only requirement for progressing through the game is to survive until the end of each stage, a worthwhile challenge for gamers of all ilks. Each area introduces dangerous new obstacles that rookies and experts are forced to avoid and builds on skills previously learned. However, advanced players can unlock more difficult stages by completing the in-game challenges. The final “rad” difficulty, where all tricks and grinds must be landed perfectly, is reserved for the best of the best.
Beyond the career mode, there are “spots” and the daily grind. These are similar to the stages in career mode, except that the level needs to be completed within one trick. Whatever total you have after you land is your final score. The daily grind rotates one spot level a day for the community. You can practice that level as many times as you want, but only get one opportunity to play it for real and save a score. Once the score is set, that’s it for the day and you can see how you stacked up worldwide. Both spots and the daily grind add a good deal of value and fun to OlliOlli especially for the perfectionist and competitive types.
OlliOlli is a unique addition to the skateboarding genre. It successfully mixes elements from its own genre and simple but addictive endless runners. On the surface is a minimalist 2D game with few controls and game modes. However if you dig a little bit, you’ll find a deep skateboarding game that’s easy to learn but extremely difficult to master. The sometimes frustrating controls and guesswork aside, OlliOlli is a treat to fans of the genre.