by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
OlliOlli is the kind of game that will keep you up at night. In fact, on my first night with the game, it was 3:30 in the morning when I finally threw in the towel and collapsed into bed. Over three hours had passed since I'd sat down to pull a few tricks and complete a few challenges. Little did I know that this combination of tricks and challenges was diabolical, expertly contrived to justify just one more run hours into the night.
As a big fan of Tony Hawk: Pro Skater, it disappointed me to see that franchise, and the skating genre as a whole, ground into dust. I've made a habit of searching out new skateboard releasings, but the unfortunate truth is that the PC landscape is as barren as they come. PC players lack even the backlog of last generation’s consoles. The HD re-release of Pro Skater seemed promising, but it too failed to deliver because it adopted the wonky physics of the Unreal Engine.
Who would have thought that a 2D sidescroller would turn out to be the best skateboarding game since 2007’s Proving Ground?
OlliOlli is a game that defies expectation. After years of being trained to expect 3D skate parks and even entire cities, I had to wonder how a game like OlliOlli could pull it off. How could developer Roll-7 hope to even approximate the range of tricks found in the typical Tony Hawk or Skate title? Would it even feel like the genre I had come to know and love, playing only from the side-angle? But I was happily surprised to discover that OlliOlli delivers.
The secret to the game’s success lies in its simplicity. You start on the left and move to the right, pushing A to keep up your speed, and grinding along any platform you come across. Getting air is as simple as holding the left stick (the game recommends not playing with a keyboard) down, left, or right and letting it flick back to center. Pulling off a trick means rotating the stick one- to three-quarters, plus holding the right button to spin. Each direction and the amount rotated results in a different trick. Landing requires pushing ‘A’ just before you hit the ground. You won’t wipe out, but your effort will be considered “sloppy” and result in significantly fewer points.
Big Numbers, Big Challenge
The trick – no pun intended – is that each level is also a score chase. In order to maximize the points you earn on each run, tricks must be both chained together and landed perfectly. Every surface must relentlessly be grinded and tricked upon. Spinning also boosts your points, so holding that bumper is a requisite. Just be careful not to let your speed get too low, or you might fall off of your grinding surface, or might not make your next jump.
All of these things combine together to make for an experience that is easy to get into but hard to master. Put another way, OlliOlli is easy to approach but hard to walk away from. Pulling off tricks and lining them up into combos is an entirely skill-based affair, which means that every mistake is one of timing or pushing the limits just a touch too far. When I failed on a level, it was never because the game had become unfair or the level was poorly constructed. It was because I had made a mistake. I could do better. I tried again, over and over and over. Three-quarters left here, one-quarter right there, one of each plus a bumper on the big air. I was hooked.
In a way, playing OlliOlli feels a lot like spinning plates, and I mean that in the best possible way. You have to make sure your speed is up (two presses of ‘A’ at any time). You have to make sure your timing is perfect, that you are grinding and tricking. And you absolutely have to nail the landing by pressing ‘A’ at just the right moment.
Easy to learn, hard to master; addictively fun; multiple game modes.
Poor keyboard/mouse support