This my second time writing this review.
My first go was a slathering of babble about the parallels shared by OlliOlli and the mother of all skateboarding games – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. It was a predictable discussion on how OlliOlli works to revive a slumbering genre that once sold millions worldwide.
Although the two share some common ground, it’s impossible to accurately label OlliOlli as a two-dimensional re-imagining of the Tony Hawk games I’ve held so dear. Plus, we’ve already got the Game Boy Color port of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 to fill that void.
So in lieu of all that, I’d like to instead take a moment to kneel and pay tribute to a new king – OlliOlli.
Yes, it’s that good.
OlliOlli is almost like a rhythm or a fighting game. At first, it seems like a button-masher, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Once you begin your run, there’s no stopping until you reach the finish line or take a spill. The timing of a landed trick or grind drastically impacts your skater’s speed, which can be a game changer when trying to clear a certain gap or reach a specific platform.
The X button is used both to push off and land your combos. If you don’t press X with the proper timing when, you’re going to faceplant or kill the value of your combo. A “Sloppy” landing essentially negates all of the effort you just poured into your last string of tricks, and while an “OK” or “Sick” landing is less draining, it’s still a bummer. A “Perfect” landing nets you the highest yield for your combo, and mastering it is the only way you can ever hope to hold a presence on the leaderboards.
Tricks and grinds are performed using either the d-pad or left analog stick. The L and R buttons allow you to spin and modify your tricks and grinds, creating more combo opportunities.
Managing the controls quickly becomes a balancing act. It’s a “minutes to learn, lifetime to master” sort of thing, but an in-game Tutorial and “Trictionary” are available at any time to show you the way.
As for the HUD, it’s pretty standard, displaying your score, distance traveled, combo counter, and your current best run – things you’ll ignore as you frantically time your next trick, jump, or grind. There’s also a bold, yellow reset icon in the top-left corner that you’ll reference again and again. I promise.
Three modes of play are available from the get-go: Career Mode, Spots Mode, and the Daily Grind.
Career Mode is fairly ordinary, following the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater model: You’re given a list of objectives to complete in each stage, which includes collecting items, clearing gaps, and breaking scores. While nothing special, Career Mode is probably the most effective way to learn the ropes.
Next, you have Spots Mode, which allots you one combo and as many attempts you need to earn the global high score in each of Spot Mode’s 50 stages.
For me, Spots Mode was an ocean of addiction and the sole reason for rewriting this review. My personal white whale was the “King” title awarded to the player in the number one slot, drawing me in for hours at a time.
Let me assure you, few things in video games have satisfied me more than this screen.
The Daily Grind is a everyday challenge that pits you against others in a unique stage for the high score. You have as much time as you need to practice, but only one shot at a qualifying run. This means you can pull off an outstanding practice run and then faceplant the first rail in your ranked run (this happened to me). It’s delightfully clever and gives gamers a solid reason to keep coming back after clearing the Career Mode.
Graphics & Audio
At first, OlliOlli came off as a bit understated, which may be because I was so intensely possessed by mastering the play mechanics. When you’re not moving, you’re mashing the reset icon or checking the objectives list. You won’t exactly have time to sit back and enjoy the view.
It wasn’t until late into Career Mode that I really gave it a good look – and I’m glad I did.
While limited to five worlds, the backgrounds and environments in OlliOlli are beautiful and surprisingly varied. Settings include a snowy Russian military base, a glowing neon Tokyo, and an expansive New Mexico junkyard. From top to bottom, OlliOlli is delicious eye candy, gushing with the same depth and care that’s apparent in the core gameplay.
Equally stunning is the eclectic soundtrack, presenting a gorgeous mix of songs that could easily be repackaged and sold on its own. The music feels as though it’s straight from a professional skate video, featuring genres that include hip-hop, dubstep, and even electro-swing.
Buy It, Try It, or Skip It?
Buy It – OlliOlli is a must-own title that I strongly recommend you play.
It’s evident that the team at Roll7 didn’t create OlliOlli just to make a quick buck. They did it because this is the game they wanted to play. It’s almost difficult to believe how well put-together everything is, from the controls to the soundtrack.
OlliOlli demands perfection, and it leads you to settle for nothing less. As you plan your line and practice your combos, you’ll slowly inch your way to a new high score. If you’re good enough, maybe it will even beat out the players ranked above you.
That said, OlliOlli is hard – very hard – and you should walk into this game expecting a challenge. If you don’t like games that live by the mantra “try, try again,” this one simply isn’t for you. Though priced at an awkward $12.99 – and while certainly not for everyone – fans of the genre will adore OlliOlli, most notably the hardcore crowd that lives for the leaderboard crawl.
If OlliOlli is even just a prelude of what’s to come in 2014, I’m delighted that the year is so young.