Having started out as a PS Vita exclusive, OlliOlli has now made its way over to Xbox One, and don’t let it’s minimalist, austere aesthetic fool you, this is a meticulously crafted and compelling, twitch reaction romp in the guise of a skateboarding game.
OlliOlli’s 2D, side-scrolling perspective, washed out colours and 8 bit style are a seldom seen scene for skateboarding games, but it all comes together spectacularly. It looks understated and tame but hides a devilishly difficult experience that’s hard to put down.
It all seems so simple: You’re goal is to complete each short course, stringing together tricks and grinds to finish with the highest score you can, but achieving this is a remarkably tricky task. Tricks are pulled off with the usual quarter turns and so forth of the left analogue stick, meanwhile, the trigger buttons let you spin, however, jumping and grinding is also tied to the analogue stick, where holding a direction activates a grind and releasing the stick performs a jump. The A button is reserved to achieving a smooth landing, which is the only way to bank the points you may have accumulated through tricks and grinds. It’s an odd control system that feels supremely alien for the first 30 minutes or so. You need to relearn how to use a controller, and how to read obstacles on-screen. To begin with the strange controls dull your reaction times considerable and makes for dozens of failed attempts.
It does eventually click but it’s a humbling experience before it does. Tricks feel risky and intractable; it’s a gamble to try pulling one off in the limited time you’re airborne. And landing becomes crucial, not only because it dictates your score but also because falling off your board resets the level for you to try it all over again. You have one life, so to speak, per run, and you can feel the dread of failure and the presence of mortality far more so than in many other titles on the market. It’s a peculiar feeling but absolutely a welcoming one; OlliOlli feels unique and intense.
Restarting the level after a fall is practically instant; additionally you can reset yourself at the press of a button. It shares similarities to the Trails titles, in that it’s built upon a high score setting mentality with fast paced skill runs. Where it greatly differs is with its visual austerity. Backgrounds are basic and washed out; meanwhile, foreground objects aren’t much more prominent. It works well at keeping you focused, providing enough visual cues for you to performs your jumps, grinds and trick but not distracting you with superfluous animations. It’s very well designed. This is also evident from the make-up of each level, whether you’re grinding through the streets of an urban environment, a port, junkyard, or neon city, the placements of obstacles, jumps and grindable surfaces are like a single, flowing track rather than a collection of separate objects.
50 levels over five locations make up the primary mode; however, reaching the end of each level in one piece isn’t your only concern. Each level also challenges you to complete specific objectives, these involve performing certain tricks, achieving a specific score, or stringing together a certain combo length, and so on. Complete them all on a level and you’ll unlock the pro run challenge, complete that and you unlock and even harder Rad run. Furthermore, Spots mode challenges you to perform the highest score you can on individual, specific sections of the levels against an online leaderboard. Finally, Daily Grind pits you once again against online adversaries through a leaderboard at achieving the highest score on a randomly chosen level. You can practice on this level as much as you like but once you commit to a ‘real’ run then that score will be uploaded, with no chances to submit another. 24 hours later and a new challenge awaits.
OlliOlli is a difficult game that plays you against risk vs. reward expertly through its tight mechanics, controls, and level design. The Daily Grind asynchronous multiplayer is a great way to encourage replay even after you’ve mastered the 50 levels, and the chasing of higher and higher scores is a compelling experience. The achievement list is a bit on the small side and it can get frustrating during your initial time learning the controls, but when it all clicks it’s remarkably hard to put down.
Thanks to Curve Digital for supplying TiX with a download code
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