OlliOlli, another new PlayStation Vita indie title, is a hit in the making
Tony Hawk used to be synonymous with extreme sports games, that’s back when they were all the rage mind. Even Dave Mirra and Shaun Ryder were getting in on the extreme sports video game action; wanting to interest a whole new audience in a sport they loved, possibly while grabbing some money in the process. Fast-forward a few years, and only Tony Hawk’s remained; bloated, aging and largely uninspiring. So, when Skate kickflipped in to steal the king’s crown, it was embraced with open arms. Since then, there’s been silence – bar a so-so HD remake. That is, until now.
Taking the genre back to its speedy arcade roots, Roll7’s side-scrolling skater, OlliOlli, is the perfect remedy. Blending pixel-art visuals with some Velocity Ultra levels of twitch gameplay, the PlayStation Vita has yet another golden child under its wings.
And this isn’t me just hyping up a small indie project; OlliOlli is just a work of concentrated genius. It’s just so pleasingly simple to play. Tap ‘X’ to push-off, twice to hit full speed; hold ‘down’ on the left stick to crouch, and jostle it about to perform flip tricks. Pressing ‘L’ or ‘R’ in combination with a trick and you’ll spin while you do it. Grinding is performed through pushing ‘down’ near a rail, holding different directions for different tricks. It just makes sense, feeling natural, yet still pleasingly arcade-inspired. It’s not all just spasming on the left stick either. There’s a ‘Tricktionary’ to help you grasp how to perform tricks, but you really have to make sure you land tricks perfectly by pressing the ‘X’ button just before landing for the best scores.
It’s not easy to do at first, but you’ll master it thanks to each level providing you with a set of objectives to achieve, which then unlock an even tougher run to navigate. These range from something as simple as achieving a high combo score or level score, to trickier things, like transitioning from a ‘Frontside Pop Shove-It’ into a ‘Tailside’.
They get steadily harder too; meaning that as you progress, and Roll7 drip-feeds new features into each level, you’re essentially learning new skills. It’s almost as if the first half of the game is nothing more than a well-produced tutorial, with the real meaty challenge lying within ‘Pro’ levels themselves. Each challenge pushes you to try something new to accomplish it, breaking the comfort zone you find yourself residing in as you keep playing.
In a way it’s a similar approach to how Velocity plays with your expectations before turning the challenge on its head in the latter half. It makes you feel that every bail, every less-than-perfect landing, or every missed collectible is down to your mistakes. Nothing ever feels impossible, just another gap, grind or flip to master. And it’s because of this that the near-instant restarts mean you’re unable to put it down (a little bit like how Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 kept you in its endless neon grasp).
But that’s not its only appeal. Whoever was responsible for the visual design choice and resulting pixel-art should be commended. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. From the parallax effect on backgrounds, to the minute animation details of your skater contorting before a spinning jump, everything is just so pleasing to watch.
And naturally, with a skateboarding game, one key aspect of visual enjoyment has to be watching your little skater bail and tumble through the level. Which is really as enjoyable as you’d expect it to be – largely thanks to some predictably dark bails seeing your skaters body flop through the level. While things already felt a little like an endless runner with a skateboard, bails add to this sense as you bound off obstacles and down steps. Really, it just makes every failure feel ever so slightly rewarding.
When you finally manage to get your way through the 50 career levels and 250 challenges, or if you fancy a change of pace, OlliOlli still has more to offer you. There’s 50 ‘Spot’ challenges to complete and online events that change every day, along with an immensely-hard ‘Rad’ mode. Spot events see you vying for the highest score in a single trick on each level, while the daily challenges give you one chance to beat your friends in various spot tasks, be it best grinds, combos, land tricks etc. It’s certainly enough to keep you coming back for more.
There’s also a reason to stick the sound on while having some fun, something that I usually tend to not do when playing sat around the house or on the bus. OlliOlli’s soundtrack is just wonderful. Just like Jet Set Radio manages to merge platforming, skating and an eclectic mix of music, OlliOlli does the same. You’ll be skating to some soft jazz, minimal techno, head-bobbing metal, and twitch-inducing electro, just to give you an idea of what to expect.
All in all OlliOlli is a near-perfectly combined package for your Vita. It’s hard to fault it, especially when it feels like Roll7 has taken the best bits of some excellent games and wrapped them seamlessly into its own creation. But perhaps it’d be nice to have seen some grabs thrown into play, or the addition of pipes or ramps. Although, introducing those elements could well have played havoc with the excellent pacing present. Regardless of those foibles, OlliOlli is a no-brainer, must-have PlayStation Vita game.
+ Tons of levels
+ Brilliant soundtrack
+ Intuitive and enjoyable gameplay
- Grab tricks may have been a nice addition