OlliOlli is a skill and timing based 2D side scrolling runner with a skateboarding theme. I say runner, because even though you’re riding a skateboard, you can’t stop. You’re always moving to the right. Its an original take on the genre and a fresh skateboarder. I’m not sure this game is for everyone because of the genre and control scheme.
The goal is simple, make it to the end of each level without falling off your board. You’ll grind, jump and ride your board to the end. Just you. Getting to the end unlocks the next level. Each career level has five optional goals. Things like get X score or X combo. Jump gaps, collect spray cans, do a kick flip, only use one push or grind everything that needs girding. When you accomplish all five goals in an amateur level, it unlocks a pro level. Not only do the goals keep you in the relatively short levels, but you’re rewarded for playing completing them. Outside of the career half of the game there is a “spot” half, with 25 more armature levels. These spots require you to do one long trick combination to the end of the level. There are 25 pro spot levels to compliment the amateurs.
The challenge isn’t avoiding obstacles, its the unique control scheme. To get speed, you need to push with the simple tap of a button. Two taps gets you up to top speed. Now for the tricky part. Instead of having a jump button, you use the analog stick to hold in one direction to charge the jump and release. So you flick the stick to jump. The direction you flick the stick determines the trick in the jump. There is a trictionary if you’re looking for a specific trip, but I don’t think it matters what trick you do. Your momentum determines the distance of the jump. You can even do quarter circles, half circles and so on to perform bigger tricks. Its elegant and simple yet complex and difficult to time because of how unique it is.
When you are about to land the jump, you need to hit the land button, which is the same as the push button. If you don’t push the land button, you’ll land a “sloppy” which briefly stuns your rider by making him unbalanced. Getting stunned makes you vulnerable to falling off your board because you can’t jump. Hitting obstacles or falling down a flight of stairs sends your rider tumbling a comical distance. In a way its a funny bit to tell you that you’ve failed, but in another way its a time wasting punishment. There are several grades to your landing depending how close to the ground you hit the button. A sloppy landing can make 20 trick combination worthless for point value. The grade of your landing not only determines the score you get for the combination, but it changes your momentum. A sloppy landing slows you down while a perfect landing will make you speed up.
Outside of pushes, jumps and landings, there are grinds and twists. Twisting in air requires you to hold the button before you jump so your rider gets into position. I didn’t find these necessary, but if you want a bigger score, you’ll twist like its the 1950s. Twists are true risks and rewards, because you can fail the level if you mess up. Grinds are much easier. If there’s a wall, railing or rooftop, just push the analog stick and hold it. Releasing it makes the rider jump as he normally would. Getting big combos relies on your ability to grind. Like with landings, you can score perfect grinds too, depending on how late you time your grind. Some of the later levels rely on your ability to make perfect grinds, because they keep your momentum going. Just know this is what you’re getting yourself into.
There is an easy to use, optional tutorial that explains all the controls. Everything gets explained one by one before the game makes you do them.
There are five themes in OlliOlli each has its own color pallet. A grey urban, a brown pallet junkyard, a blue port, a snowy white base reminiscent of Rush’n Attack and finally the bright neon city. They are all beautiful, but they go by in an unnoticeable blur. I couldn’t pay attention to anything other than was there a grind or a landing coming? As the levels get higher, the challenge grows. The base has safe pavement to land on, but a lot of it is snow that sends you tumbling. Its fun to grind over helicopter blades and statues instead of simple railings and walls. Neon city is mostly rooftops and railings to grind on, because the ground is either pink spikes or wide stairways.
To keep you in the game there are daily challenges that let you practice as much as you want, but you only have one real attempt. Each level has its own leader boards after every attempt. The game keeps track of your high score of each level and your best trick combination for that run. Truth be told, the game did freeze and twice crash in four hours after some completed runs. I assume because it was loading leader board standings and couldn’t.
The soundtrack is also a real standout. The lo fi electronic beats fit the art style. For the most part it felt like all mellow songs, but there is an eclectic mix of tunes. No matter what the beat, nothing got in the way and just added to the feeling of zoning out that I had while playing. The game became all timing with no thought. I just knew from playing that was the millisecond I needed to do something. After spending 20 – 30 minutes on some of the later levels of the amateur career, I could might be able to do them blindfolded.
In the future I’d like to see different riders to unlock. Not that the rider was anything bad, but it was just him for the 4 hours I played. I am thankful for him having a red hat, otherwise he may have gotten lost in the blur of the background.
In conclusion, its a fantastic presentation and a test of skill, but I’m not sure how fun the game actually is. I found my mind not as engaged as my reflexes were. I wasn’t having any joy going through the motions. Although I did get a few laughs seeing my rider tumble down flights of staircases and seeing just how many meters he could go. Its still a good game, but after going through the armature career and spots, I’m just not that willing to unlock all the pro levels.