Fans of skateboarding titles may have had slim pickings over recent years, even more so when it comes to genuinely engrossing titles such as the Tony Hawks and Skate series’ that had many so addicted once upon a time. Roll7 aim to pick up the mantle with the Vita only title, OlliOlli, which itself aims to test players’ skill without testing their patience. Does it succeed? Read on to find out.
Reviewed on: PlayStation Vita
OlliOlli on the surface is a 2D side-scroller scroller which puts a skateboard in your hand and gives you a single life to navigate each level without bailing. The idea is simple, as are the controls, but this simplicity opens up the door for the player to focus on the real nitty-gritty of the title, which is ultimately racking up scores and hitting that ‘perfect run’.
The game has a similar feel of Motorstorm RC and Trials games in the sense you’re constantly chasing your own scores; the effervescent need to go back and try a run again and again is astounding and the addiction factor is certainly there throughout OlliOlli. The simple controls usher players into the game almost immediately, too. Unlike the hundred plus button combinations of its 3D counterparts, OlliOlli tasks you with two buttons – Left stick to trick, and a well timed ‘X’ to land them.
To jump and trick there’s a slew of simple left stick movements that trigger the move that needs to be actioned pre-jump. Once you’re in the air you’ll need to time your landing by hitting X as close to ground as possible (or pushing the left stick to land a grind). Fundamentally, this might be as close to simulation than most other skateboarding games have achieved. The importance of timing landings perfectly, combined with the need to pre-plan tricks (as opposed to jumping then deciding what you’re going to do) is far more in-keeping with what skateboarding is about – people who love the sport may find a quick affinity to this Vita title.
It’s often said that the best games are easy to play, but hard to master. OlliOlli fits that criteria and then some. The simplicity allows players to get shredding effectively almost immediately, but when it’s time to get down to the business end, it gets seriously tough. Timing, speed, ingenuity and, at times, some pure dumb luck is what’s needed to get those big scores. Failing even a little on any one of those accounts and you’ll be wanting to give up and restart the level.
This is where cracks start appearing in design aspects. Frustration is always a danger in these types of games and it feels far more than that in places thanks to the blistering pace and quite frankly, evil level design by Roll7 that throws hazards in without warning. Don’t get me wrong, the pace is excellent, but towards later levels it becomes increasingly important to memorise your route, in turn making the game more trial and error based than perhaps it really needed to be. Of course, this can be a staple of skateboarding also, but from a game perspective a hazard sign, warning, a small pixel yelling at me to jump or die – anything would have sufficed, just to numb a little of the frustration.
That aside, the audio design is decent without ruffling too many feathers. There’s a number of relevant beats and nostalgic rhythms that remind you of older arcade titles, if not slightly more recent mobile ones. The visuals also have that retrospective feel that are varied throughout the fifty different levels from a Snow covered military base to a bright neon city, each with it’s own unique grind spots and ramps. If anything, the visuals feel a little bland and uninspiring.
The simplicity works for the gameplay, but it’s far from a visual treat; levels are essentially a plot of land with an obstacle thrown in here and there, and come the end you’ll have a few pixels dressed up as people clapping to welcome you in. The graphics aren’t that ruinous, it’s just you’d expect a little more with a dedicated gaming machine than you would with a mobile title – and this could be that, and probably will be eventually without any real negating factors compared to this Vita version.
There’s definitely plenty of replay value through the numerous challenges and levels, plus some (but not much) social functionality through global daily high-score and daily grind challenges to challenge your friends with. Overall though, the addictive nature and easy pick up and play nature means that it’s another title that fits the Vita like a glove, in spite of harbouring a little frustration in places and missing a few licks of paint to make it more interesting from a graphical and design perspective. OlliOlli is a perfect title for those who love games that encourage you to give it one more go, plus it probably does a better job than most at capturing some of the real essence of skateboarding.