Skateboarding is life.
They say once a skateboarder, always a skateboarder – and it seems that lies true for video games as well. Since the days of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (the original) I’ve been a massive fan of the skateboarding genre in general; I’ve probably put more hours into rolling around on a digital deck than school at this point in my life, and I don’t plan to stop now. Thankfully the guys over at Roll7 know of such an “addiction”, and have responded in kind with a unique skateboarding title for my favourite little powerhouse handheld.
OlliOlli breaks the mold a little bit compared to most recent skateboarding games and takes the formula back to its roots – skill and sidescrolling. It may look like an easy game but it’s far from it; punishing you for even the slightest of mistakes.
Level design is not only interesting, but will often give you multiple options. Do I land in a grind, or do I land on the ground and push for speed? Continue the combo or secure those points? There are many options in OlliOlli and the only wrong one is not trying at all. This is a game you get lost in; that “one more try” mentality causing you to lose minutes if not hours to the harder levels (or if you’re going for a high score, the early/easier ones too!). Yes, that’s right – in typical fashion the first levels in OlliOlli are fairly simple; lots of ground, a few grinds and some drops. It seems that Roll7 anticipated the difficulty you’d have with the later levels and has thrown you a bone – as these “simple” levels are a great place to hone your skills and practice your tricks.
The career levels go from simple and short to long and nigh impossible without training. If you get into the rhythm though (yes, there’s a rhythm), you’ll likely find yourself at the end of the course in no time. This doesn’t mean that you’ll complete all the challenges though, as getting to the end of the level with rhythm alone will only unlock the next level; pro levels will only be unlocked by completing all five of the challenges within each amateur level. Challenges include things such as collecting items, hitting certain grinds, landing certain tricks, not touching the ground (or not grinding) and the ubiquitous combo and score goals. These challenges often require more concentration and accuracy than just completing the level alone and the high scores will likely need you to combo the whole level.
The “spot” levels are unlocked once you’ve gotten to the end of the career levels, and are based around a single combo and continuing that as far (and with as many great tricks) as you can. The levels used for spot mode are similar to their career counterparts, though additions or subtractions have been made to facilitate a continuous combo throughout the whole level. These levels are based on the highest score, not challenges.
Rad levels take this a bit further, only unlocking once you’ve beaten all the levels before it and requiring all tricks and grinds to be “perfect” or you’ll bail.
Speaking of tricks, they’re plentiful and seemingly easy to pull off – though in the midst of a level long combo (which you may or may not have to pull off in the later levels) you’ll probably be more focused on landing those grinds than 360 flipping into it. The other end of the equation is the landing, which (in regards to points) is just as important, if not more-so. A bad landing can mean all those points you just racked up vanish – and can ruin your day just as easy as a missed grind or late spin.
Controls are pretty straight-forward; you have to hit “X” to land (the closer you do it to the board hitting the ground, the more points), the left analog stick is the main trick apparatus (swishes and flicks to perform different flip tricks) and the triggers are for spins. As much as this sounds simple, it’s really not – and the tricks themselves will be the biggest hurdle between you and a high-score.
Graphics are simple but not bad in and of themselves. Levels are littered with signs and different objects to grind on (ranging from railings to dinosaurs) as well as items like cones and garbage to get in your way. The background is anything from a simple urban sprawl to the neon of the big cities, complimenting the foreground quite perfectly in most cases. Your character is a small, faceless stickman with some baggy clothes; he wears a red and white hat, green shirt, blue pants and white sneakers – simple but representative with the feet and skateboard underneath him being what you should really pay attention to. Animations and items aren’t flashy but they are accurate and crisp – I could find no issue with their presentation in this regard.
The audio in the title is somewhat fitting, though I can’t help but to miss the punk and rap songs that adorned its predecessors’ sound-tracks. The sound otherwise wasn’t too impressive – though it seemed to be more utilitarian than anything (the sound effects only to compliment and reinforce the actions).
The game itself does something every game of its kind should; it breeds both competition and improvement. The daily grind (a changing daily challenge) contributes to new winners and competition between both friends and enemies – as well as anyone who owns the game. Though similar in outcome, spot records are a good way to show off your long-term superiority (or luck) as they aren’t reset or deleted regularly. Whether you’re looking to compete or simply improve your skills, there’s somewhere to do that and something to work for; this is part of what makes OlliOlli such a great game on Vita, the portability complimenting that “one more try” or “gotta beat that score” mentality perfectly.
After much consideration and a $#!7 ton of gameplay, it’s obvious to me that Roll7 have captured the essence of skateboarding, if not the realism. While OlliOlli doesn’t pretend to be EA’s Skate or Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, it delivers a large portion of the skateboarding experience as well as the core ideals. Everyone who has played a skateboarding game in the past and liked it should pick up OlliOlli – and if you’re even remotely interested in skill-based games which offer that “one more try” mentality, this one’s probably for you as well.
Just like my score, this game is sick; congratulations Roll7, you’ve just given me another title that’ll likely never leave my memory card.