My thumbs and spirit are broken. I’ve tried for the umpteenth time to get close to the top score on the OlliOlli leaderboards. It doesn’t matter what course I attempt it on, I can’t do it. Then suddenly, like a glorious flash of light from the very heavens above, it appears: “#1 You are King”. I punch the sky; in fact I think I even jumped off the sofa in celebration. My wife looks over at me, silently thinking “bloody video games again” and the world keeps turning.
You are King – and for that moment, I am.
OlliOlli harks back to days gone by, but in the very best way possible. It rewards you for learning all you think it has to offer, then surprises you with a timely reminder that you need dedication to stay at the top of your game. And it’s so simple to look at, all of its pleasing aesthetic coming from the retro visuals that are decent to behold, but never intrude upon the serious business of skateboarding, and smashing your face on the deck when you try a too audacious action.
At first, the controls are fiddly. After every jump you have to push the X button to land. Like so much of OlliOlli, this is timing-based and right away lets you know that it’s all about that high score. Land perfectly and you’ll add to your score, or end a combo on a high. Land awkwardly and you’ll lose your combo, or worse, fall flat on your face and have to restart.
Grinding is the key to that combo score, and all of the various grinds are done by holding a combination of the left analog stick and either the L or R trigger. All manner of tricks and jumps are also performed by flicking the left stick to begin with, too. A “fireball” type motion might do one trick, then you land a grind by quickly, and perfectly holding the left stick to the down-position, then more tricks, and more tricks, and it’s just a glorious blur of combos, action and instant gratification.
It works so damn well, because the controls and mechanics are tight and responsive. You can grind quickly on a tiny piece of scenery to regain speed (a bus, for example) before leaping straight into the air, spinning, then landing perfectly – and it all plays out to a suitably excellent soundtrack.
If it sounds like I’m in love, it’s because I am, and you will be too. Taking place over a variety of modes, each location (there are five) has five basic courses, but each course has five objectives to meet within it. Achieve these and you’ll unlock a pro version of the course. Every level also has a “spot”, which is redesigned for combos and once you land, the level is over. These offer intense bursts of replayability as you will constantly see the #1 person in the world, and how he’s hundreds of thousands of points ahead of you; at least to begin with.
Even better (and smarter) than this is the daily grind. Every 24 hours a new level is selected for you to try and thrash out a top score. You can practice as many times as you want, but you only get one proper, ranked go at it. Get used to hitting the high scores in practice then choking on your “proper” go – I did, and it’s soul destroying, but brilliant at the same time.
But it’s not all perfect, and the lack of a proper leaderboard means that you are only ever going to be going up against the best player in the world at any given time. There is currently no way to see what scores your friends actually have, which is a crushing disappointment and would extend the life of OlliOlli immensely.
Thankfully, learning all the combos and just getting things right means that you’ll get a ton of hours from the 100+ courses before even worrying about this. OlliOlli is very much a game that you feel you need to learn properly, before taking the daily grind seriously. Having an instant restart button (similar to Super Meat Boy) means that when you mess up, you are only a finger tap away from being right back into it. It’s rarely frustrating when things don’t go to plan, though, because it’s always your fault. You’ll get in the zone and nail tricks for huge scores and it’ll feel amazing.
VERDICT: With a fair learning curve that will ease in all-comers, and RAD mode (every landing must be a perfect one) for the people who want a challenge, this is an absolute must own game. As long as there are developers like Roll 7 out there making compelling, interesting, and exciting titles like OlliOlli, I’ll be a very happy gamer. The Vita continues to be a real home for independent developers, and this is a fantastic game that deserves every bit of attention that it (hopefully) gets.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.