Skateboarding has been an all but deceased genre in the video game medium. The Tony Hawk series led the charge in the late 90’s, and the Skate series had a decent run, too, but since 2010, there hasn’t been a skateboarding game that’s stuck the same notes as Tony Hawk or Skate – that is, until now.
OlliOlli, from developer Roll7, is a return to relevancy for skateboarding games. Focusing on landing difficult tricks and massive combos has created not only one of the best skateboarding games of all time, but one of the best games to grace the PlayStation Vita.
Think of OlliOlli as Skate, but designed like a side-scroller. You’ll press X to push yourself forward, and tricks are performed by moving the left joystick in various patterns for a trick. For instance: to perform a kickflip, you’ll have to push the joystick to the right and let it go to perform a trick. A trick like a 360 hardflip will require you to start by pushing the joystick right and turning it completely around before letting it go. The tricks aren’t that simple, however. Each trick must be followed up by pressing X before you land. This will determine how many points you’ll get from any combo or trick you’ve been performing. You won’t be able to just press X at any time before landing, you’ll actually need to time it. Press X too soon, and you’ll get a “sloppy” rank for that trick along with very little points; press X just as you land, and you’ll be awarded a “perfect” rank along with the highest amount of points associated with your trick or combo.
A substantial amount of OlliOlli is spent grinding, which is achieved by pressing the left stick in various directions before landing on a rail or structure. Grinding is what is used to keep your momentum during combos, and chaining grinds with tricks and vice-versa is absolutely essential to attaining a high score.
If you’d like to access even more tricks, you can press either of the triggers while skating to rotate tricks, which will help increase your combo. Pressing the triggers along with a direction on the the joystick before grinding opens up even more grinds, like the salad grind or a bluntside. If you’re ever curious as to how to access some of these tricks, the game has a quick access dictionary of tricks called the “tricktionary” that shows every trick in your arsenal, as well as how to perform that trick. While a trick list is nothing new to skateboarding games, its easy access and simple navigation makes it a breeze to find whatever trick you may be curious about.
OlliOlli has a surplus of modes that offer incredible re-playability. In career mode, you’ll initially only have access to “Amateur” levels, but by completing the five challenges in those levels, you’ll unlock the “Pro” version of that level that has harder challenges and increasingly difficult obstacles that you’ll need to avoid. If you want an even more substantial challenge, you can unlock “Rad” mode by completing every challenge on Amateur and Pro modes. Be warned: Rad mode is not for the faint of heart, it will challenge your ability to the fullest, but it’s a brutally fun time.
Apart from the main Career, there’s also “Spots,” which challenge you to perform the biggest combo possible in the various levels. This score is posted on the global leaderboards, so if you want to claim a level as your spot, you’ll need to chain the best combo you can, as my time with OlliOlli has shown that some players have eclipsed my highest score by an embarrassing amount.
OlliOlli features an incredible presentation, and uses the front touch screen exclusively for menu navigation, which makes getting into a level incredibly quick. Unfortunately, even with fantastic presentation, the in-game visuals definitely seem inadequate. While the style chosen certainly works, the environments lack diversity that stops any of them from being memorable, and they’re frankly boring to look at. Each set of levels offers a new setting, but the levels found in said sets are almost impossible to distinguish from one another besides some set pieces and their overall length.
While landing tricks in OlliOlli, you’ll be treated to a soundtrack that perfectly complements the game by mixing slow beats and faster, adrenaline fused tracks during every level. The slower tracks reminded me of songs found in skateboarding montage videos, where the beat was a backdrop that accompanied the spectacle put on by the skateboarder. OlliOlli‘s soundtrack perfectly captures that feeling with it’s slower jams, and it also introduces more modern, fast-paced music that works incredibly well, too. Headphones are an absolute must to fully experience the soundtrack, as I found myself hard-pressed to play OlliOlli without them.
OlliOlli brings skateboarding games back to relevance by breaking down the once popular genre to a much simpler and mechanically sound form. Roll7 proves that skateboarding games aren’t dead, and that they can still provide some of the most entertaining and addictive forms of gameplay. Solo challenges are perfect for quick pick up and play sessions, and challenging the leaderboards and your friends’ high scores will undoubtedly keep you coming back. Those who aren’t even interested in skateboarding will still find much to love about this game, and anyone with a Vita would be doing themselves a disservice by missing out on this surprisingly fantastic exclusive.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation Vita game OlliOlli by Roll7.
- Perfect for on the go
- Great soundtrack
- Lacking Visuals