By: Casey Curran
When I was a kid, I did not have a system other than a Gameboy. One thing I really remember about this was how I would occasionally rent or receive a downgraded version of a console game as a gift, usually met with disappointment. Tony Hawk on the Gameboy Color was a central one of these, losing everything that made it great by being a 2D side-scroller. The reason I bring this up is because OlliOlli is exactly how skateboarding in a 2D plane should be, retaining the depth and addictive quality of nailing combos seen in Tony Hawk games in its own unique way.
OlliOlli has a pretty simple control scheme. It is set up like an auto-runner side-scroller as pushing X to go faster is the only way to increase your speed. You will be moving to the right the whole time until reaching the finish line. The left stick is used for tricks; pointing in a direction will yield a simple trick while spinning it around before releasing will allow for more complex tricks, similar to the Skate series. Holding L and R also allow for turning during these tricks.
My only complaint is that the Vita’s analog sticks are not the most precise ones available. This created some scenarios where I pulled off different tricks than I meant to. It is not a problem most of the time, but doing everything I needed to for a complex trick and seeing my character perform a simple ollie every now and then is annoying.
OlliOlli doesn’t look bad, just basic. It looks very similar to a Gameboy Advance game, with the one difference being that it runs a lot smoother than most games on that console did. The backgrounds can either pop out fairly well or look and feel incredibly bland. Character models meanwhile look awful; even for a GBA game they would have been bad.
The music is neither memorable nor annoying. Sound effects do a good job of mimicking a real skateboard, however, which is the best part of the game’s audio.
OlliOlli is the kind of game that always makes you want to play just one more level or attempt something just one more time. A large part of this comes from the game’s objective system. Rather than have you simply get to the end of a level while scoring as many tricks as you can, the game offers objectives such as getting a certain combo or not pushing to go faster during the level. Doing so unlocks a pro level, and the game does a fantastic job of making it feel like clearing the level isn’t enough and making the player want to clear every objective.
Clearing these objectives can get very tough as well, with some requiring multiple completions to get through every level. Often, however, you do not even need to complete a level to complete an objective. In fact, only a few really specify to complete a level for their completion.
As noted, these objectives can get very difficult, especially in the pro levels. These are not the only source of the game’s challenge, though, as the combo system has a fair amount of depth to it. There’s no limit to how many degrees you can spin, just that you fall off if you do not stop spinning soon enough. The best source of depth, however, comes from getting your timing right when finishing a trick.
Grinding at just the right time allows you to get a perfect grind, which adds quite a bit to your combo score. The timing you get when you land also plays a huge role in your score, as not pressing the X button while landing will net a few points while a perfect landing for that same trick can give a few thousand. Getting a perfect landing is easy enough to be natural while also keeping you on your toes the whole game and adding a fair bit of challenge.
OlliOlli knows exactly how to stay compelling. The levels are quick enough for every failure to not feel so crushing. The challenges are tough, yet not unreasonable, and despite its auto-runner nature, the combo system has a surprising amount of depth. The game provides a multitude of reasons to keep playing while being fun enough to make the player want to do just that.