Format reviewed: VITA PSN (exclusive)
OlliOlli has made my girlfriend plead with me to stop playing the game, such has been my aggressive outbursts of frustration. The joy of success is all the greater when the game punishes you so fiercely is the best explanation I can muster. So it was celebrations all round when I finally completed this fantastic VITA exclusive.
OlliOlli has an extremely simple surface; a side scrolling retro-styled, pixel art skateboard game; with seemingly simple controls - the left stick (or d-pad) makes you jump and complete all the moves by taps, or a variety of circle motions, and X lands; the controls are more Skate than Tony Hawks and do take a little while to get used to. But all this simple veneer masks a surprisingly complex game; those “simple” controls take a long time to adapt to, and then are layered with spins (using L and R), small speed boosts when you nail your landings (vital for later challenges) and many small nuances you uncover as you play through the game.
It consists of levels that last a couple of minutes each; there are 5 levels per area (seaside town, futuristic landscapes etc) with each level having 5 challenges (high scores, pulling certain tricks). You go through the level pulling tricks, grinding on anything you can and avoiding the various obstacles, all the while completing the challenges. Very rarely will you complete all the challenges in one run, and repeating the levels is a theme of the game (luckily replaying the level after mistakes and failures is instant) - and for me, this aspect should determine whether or not this game is for you; do you enjoy playing the same levels over and over again to try and get a high score, or complete a challenge like spinning 50 times in a level? Add to that the fact that just navigating the level is in itself at times an insanely difficult task. I don’t mean to sound negative about the experience, but it’s a huge aspect of the game, and one I fully embraced. As my brain slowly tapped into the gameplay, creating huge combos that can often span the entire level, it reminded me of a skateboarding, rock hard version of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat - jumping off railings and stalls, pulling crazy moves as I fly onto a neon sign… When you get it, it’s incredibly satisfying and fun. Until it throws the next impossible challenge your way; and the replaying and replaying and replaying starts all over again.
Although the game is often frustrating, it’s never boring and never feels like you’re being cheated; the only time I felt the game made a misstep was the first time you enter the base (the 4th world) - a snowy military base. Here the game changed slightly, previously the game eased you in perfectly, introducing you to the various mechanics and get you completing the always fun challenges; but on first getting to the base, the game suddenly felt more like a platformed - the obstacles became more frequent and much more difficult to navigate, meaning the biggest challenge was just getting to the end; I often completed all the challenges before getting to the end of the level, and this wasn’t as fun for me; and although your skills continue to develop so it becomes much easier to navigate; the problem of just “getting to the end” did crop up at times.
Although the games difficulty is the main reason the game offers a good length, there is a lot of content here; each of the 25 levels also have 2 different difficulties (amateur and pro) offering new layouts and challenges; once fully completed you unlock RAD mode, an insanely hard mode where all landings and grinds need to be perfect; each one of these levels has a “spot” - a potentially one combo run to the end of the level to try and get the highest score. On top of this there is a “Daily Grind”; every day you can submit a high-score on a level to compete with the world, the gimmick here being you can practice as much as you like, but you only have one shot at a score; personally I didn’t bother much for me as the game (in my opinion) stupidly doesn’t allow for Friends Score Comparing, I can’t compete with the world, I’d prefer to compete with my friends. But the mode is still a great addition which I’m sure most people will love.
Not everything is glorious though; the game is quite buggy, it crashes a lot, some touch screen menu’s don’t work all the time etc But Roll 7 have said they will patch this, I also really hope they patch the high score tables. Allowing for comparing scores with friends really will add a lot to the game, it’s a high-score game, it’s truly bizarre you can’t compare already, especially as it’s tracking the scores and putting them in world-wide tables. The final thing I hope they patch is detailing which tricks you have completed, there is a trophy for doing all of them, which became laborious rather than fun to achieve. There is a book of tricks already in the game so a simple colour coding would fix this. And that’s the thing, all these issues are easily fixable in a patch to really have a polished, perfectly formed little game.
All in all the game is a must have for the Vita. It has a simple premise and executes it fantastically, a great twist on mobile endless runners and skateboarding games, creating something unique in it’s own right. We can’t wait for more.