At certain times, OlliOlli can be one of the most frustrating, impenetrable and unforgiving games I have ever played; at others, it can be one of the most rewarding and addictive. Whatever the prevailing feeling is at any one time, OlliOlli can almost always be described as one thing – fun.
• Developer: Roll7
• Publisher: Roll7
• Reviewed on: PlayStation Vita
• Release Date: Available Now
OlliOlli is Roll7’s first foray in console development. To say this is a surprise to learn should be taken as a huge compliment. What can be best described as the love child of EA’s Skate series and Nintendo’s original ExciteBike, OlliOlli is a confident stride into the handheld console market. Roll7 have built a game that is punishing but addictive, turning the most mild-mannered gamer into a mental masochist.
The game begins with all of its tricks open to you – over 120 tricks and grinds actually. This vast Tricktionary may seem daunting at first, but the game’s Career mode is spread intelligently across 50 well-crafted levels – each one with 5 challenges to achieve. These tasks often require you to browse the Tricktionary to find out how to pull off a particular move. As you begin to unlock more and more levels, the tricks and grinds required to complete these tasks become more and more complex. By the end of the 250 challenges, you feel like you can take on anything… I can almost see the smirks on the Roll7 developers’ faces.
While unlocking the next level simply requires getting to the end of the course, the game quickly becomes an altered beast when you try to complete all of the tasks in a given level. Doing so unlocks the Pro mode, which ramps up the difficulty and requires you to complete even more challenges. If you decide to punish yourself by attempting to overcome these, you are ‘rewarded’ with RAD mode – the metaphorical yet good-natured middle finger from Roll7 to you.
For those who grew up with Activision’s Tony Hawk series, you may need to acclimatise to OlliOlli’s control scheme. Using the left analog stick to pull off various tricks and grinds, the game’s 2D level design means that landing your tricks becomes a huge focus of the gameplay. Timing your grinds and landings correctly rewards you with a better rating. These ratings are then used, in conjunction with the variety and difficulty of the tricks you are pulling off, to calculate a score. The elation you feel when you nail a combo and see a massive number get added to your score is more than worth the frustration you suffer when you fail.
Taking on the Daily Grind is actually something I look forward to now. You get all day to practice your route and combos, but when you choose to go, that is it. Like the main game, you will often fail to hit the heights you might have achieved in your practices, but when a Grind comes off better than you had hoped, you will need a chisel to remove the smile on your face.
While many may turn their noses up at the pixelated art-style and flat 2D environments, the gameplay is such that these concerns are rendered meaningless. If I had one gripe (well, more of a suggestion for what I hope is a swift sequel), it is the lack of a level editor. One of my favourite activities in the old Tony Hawk games was building my own skate parks and simply messing around in them. While the scope would obviously be reduced in a 2D world, a track maker in OlliOlli must have crossed the developers’ minds.
There were countless times when I felt like hurling my Vita across the room but the sense of accomplishment when I nailed a challenge or grind was worth it. OlliOlli is already a classic in my book. If you own a Vita, you must to pick it up – but beware, you may never put it down.