OlliOlli Review

Looks Like: A more colorful Canabalt
Plays Like: A side-scrolling Skate
Bitchin’ Soundtrack: Yes!
OlliOlli banner
OlliOlli is one of those games that requires a player to get in the zone. You know what I mean. It’s that headspace that gamers end up occupying while working in total harmony with a game’s mechanics. It’s what causes our jaws to hang agape or our tongues to stick slightly out of the corners of our mouths, loosing any semblance of facial control as all of our focus directs toward the game with laser precision. Like the best of shmups, OlliOlli demands total concentration in order to attain the highest possible score. Unlike shmups, it’s about pulling off sweet tricks, massive air, and smooth grinds into the longest possible combos.
Skateboarding video games have filled an interesting little niche since Skate or Die! hit the PC and NES way back in 1988. While graphical improvements over the decades are to be expected, it’s the evolution of the genre’s control schemes that is most intriguing. It’s this element that makes OlliOlli more reminiscent of EA’s Skate series than Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. The X button propels the skater forward in a pixellated 2D side-scrolling world, and all jumps and tricks are performed using varied motions on the analog stick. Tricks and grinds can be modified with the shoulder buttons as well. Landing them corectly is of the utmost importance, as a well-timed press of X means the difference between a high-scoring perfect landing and a pathetic sloppy one. This easy-to-learn/hard-to-master control scheme is the game’s true genius. It’s all about timing, and it inspires infinite excuses to play just one more round.
OlliOlli isn’t just terrific controls. It features a crisp, retro look and a fantastic soundtrack boasting chilled, smooth, electronic tunes by The Quemist, Dorian Concept, Flako, Dark Sky, Long Arm and more. There are over one hundred tracks in five zones themed Urban, Junkyard, Port, Base, and Neon City. Each zone features five Amateur levels and five Pro levels to be unlocked in Career mode. Each of these includes five challenges that range from pulling off specific combos to reaching high scores to picking up collectibles. There is also a Spot mode for each level. Spots demand a single, continuous combo to achieve the highest possible score. There’s even a Daily Grind that refreshes every 24 hours and allows players to compete for high scores every day with other skaters from around the world. It’s a demanding game, but it rarely reaches levels of frustration that outweigh its fun factor.
OlliOlli is definitely worth any curious gamer’s attention. It’s enjoyable in short bursts or in marathon sessions. If you’re one of the handful of people out there with a Vita, pick it up. If not, wait a bit. Roll7 recently announced that the game will be available this summer on PS3, PS4 and on PCs via Steam. (Roll7) by Kris Poland