OlliOlli strips trick-based skateboarding down to its most exhilarating, addicting elements.
It’s the practice and lead up to a perfect run; the repeated failure and experimentation over and over until finally you nail that perfect combo and the multipliers go crazy. OlliOlli takes that key moment and feeling that was pioneered, refined, and then beaten into the ground by Tony Hawk Pro-Skater, and removes all the fluff and needless bloat that began to weigh the series down the further it went on.
Some of this is accomplished inherently by moving from a 3D sandbox to an always moving sidescroller, which immediately gives OlliOlli a great deal of originality. But developer Roll7 clearly knows and loves the games that built (and subsequently largely destroyed) the extreme sports genre, and borrows liberally the pieces that worked best from them to make a new, disturbingly addictive blend of mechanics.
It’s Tony Hawk’s eccentricity, Skate’s organic trick system, and a whole lot of intelligent endless runner progression design. Performing tricks is as simple as flicking the analogue stick, but having to time your landings adds a considerable amount of risk versus reward to performing longer tricks when your movement speed is largely out of your control and it’s not always easy to predict what’s going to meet you later on in the level.
OlliOlli can be absurdly difficult at parts, but it’s a challenge that I always felt prepared for. The goals for each level gradually introduce new moves into your skillset, and then gave me the perfect area to learn them. There’s a feeling of constant growth as you clear each level and the gradually climbs to counteract it, but also an understanding that for some players certain challenges will be out of their reach. OlliOlli never forced me to clear a goal or spend more time on a certain level than I wanted to, but it was so successful at instilling confidence in my ability to overcome whatever it threw at me that I rarely had any desire to move on before showing the game how capable I was.
I did eventually abandon some levels, surrendering that I wasn’t quite as skilled as I pretended to be, but unlike a lot of games my experience wasn’t tarnished in any way for doing so. OlliOlli seems designed from the ground up to be as much as you want to put into it, and providing an awesome time whatever that is. The short levels are perfect for picking off in small bursts, and the addition of a daily grind which changes daily and gives a you only one chance to hit your best score, gave even more reason to return to the game instead of trying to plow through it all at once.
My biggest frustration with OlliOlli actually doesn’t have anything to do with what’s here, but the disappointing absence of a convenient leaderboard. You can track your score and compare it with others in any level you choose, but instead of being prominently displayed it’s put on a separate screen completely removed from gameplay. For a game so perfectly designed for chasing high scores (you even unlock score focused “spots” after clearing each level once), having something like Geometry Wars 2’s immediate tracking of leaderboard positioning and your next score to beat would have been far more compelling a motivator for me to chase my friend’s best scores.
That may matter more or not at all depending on your feelings toward competing on leaderboards, but it’s at least telling that my only major issue with OlliOlli is in something it lacks (and even then, it’s more the implementation than complete absence of a feature). It’s a game so precisely tuned and refined that I found myself becoming lost for hours at a time repeating levels attempting to best my prior run. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and elation at expertly executing a sequence of tricks I haven’t felt in a decade, and reminded me why I’m so sad games of this nature were killed off by their own insistence on flooding the market and deluding themselves with features nobody wanted. OlliOlli suffers from none of that. It’s pure, sublime skating perfection.
On the PC version
While the PC version of OlliOlli is content complete to its console and handheld counterparts, the port has sadly suffered a great deal in the transition. I experience a significant amount of technical issues, from dropped frames, persistent slowdown,leaderboards crashing the game, and a generally lower level of responsiveness than a game so reliant on timing needs. It wasn’t so bad I was unable to enjoy the game or play it successfully, but if you have the ability to play it on another platform it might be advisable to do so.