OlliOlli World Review

Did you know that SKATEBOARDING GAMES ARE BACK, BABY. 

Yes, we’ve had quite the successful run of amazing skateboarding video games over the last few years. Starting with the early access launches of Session & SkaterXL way back in 2018, followed by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 in 2020, and last year saw The Ramp & Skate City release, with a new entry in the Skate franchise on the way. We’re not done though, as another awesome franchise has returned to consoles this week.

For those who have never heard the name OlliOlli – It’s a relatively new franchise. The first game came out in 2014, and prides itself on side scrolling, twitchy, fast moving action. The sequel came out a few years later, refining the formula further with new tricks and a change in art style. What’s worth noting is that both of these games were punishingly difficult. They reminded me of the early “arcade” era of gaming where every game was designed to be incredibly hard so that you poured money into a machine. The benefit for OlliOlli, however, was that you could restart your run at the press of a button (and without having to fish a £1 coin out of your wallet).

The quick slam/restart/slam/restart loop was part of the game’s beauty. It’s one of the areas where OlliOlli one-ups THPS considerably, and was core to its identity. It was like THPS dialled up to 11, with your skater flying at obstacles at mach-10 speed, as your brain barely struggles to keep up. The dopamine hit from landing anything was awesome, and the risk/reward mechanic of keeping a huge combo going was even better. I think a lot of core skaters don’t approach OlliOlli because of it’s intentionally non-realistic art style, but it’s honestly one of the best skateboarding games out there.

And that brings me to OlliOlli World. Developers Roll7 (a team which features friends of the blog John Ribbins and Alex Darby, as well as former Heroin pro Arthur Tubb) are back with the 3rd instalment of the franchise. The interesting thing about OlliOlli is with each new game they have mixed things up considerably – the first game was an old skool homage to games like Skate Or Die and California Games, the second had clean vector art which felt super modern without losing the old skool charm, and the now the third game wears a super unique art style heavily inspired by Saturday Morning cartoons like Adventure Time. This change in aesthetic pays dividends with World and at a time where every other skateboarding game is embracing simulated realism, it’s a bonus.

The cartoony art style and presentation sets a backdrop for a fantastical story set in a skateboarding utopia called Radlandia (a name that I am utterly convinced is a reference to the Northampton indoor park, and outdoor plaza, of the same name). 5 skateboarding gods offer Animal Chin levels of godliness to the skateboarders of the land, and communicate solely with “skate wizards”: incredible skateboarders with mystical control of their boards. Your job (as a player created avatar) is to prove you are worthy of becoming the next big skate wizard of Radlandia, with the help of a loveable group of skateboarding misfits who riff on the various archetypes of our hobby (the Rad Dad, the hesh Thrasher guy, the filmer and the tech wizard)

It really comes across as a Saturday Morning Cartoon written & designed by actual skateboarders, with sly references to real skateboarding culture weaved into it’s presentation. Everything from the cute sentient Sony VX “Cammy”, to the use of popular board shapes like the Nora Vasconcellos “Queen” shape, to the fake brands used throughout the game which clearly riff on famous brands like Rip N Dip, Santa Cruz and Dickies – It’s the kind of game that could only have been made by people with a deep love and knowledge of real skateboarding.

At its heart though, OlliOlli World is still very much an OlliOlli game. The gameplay has been softened around the edges (you no longer get punished severely for landing sideways, or not landing things with the “perfect landing” mechanic) and as a result it’s a more accessible and approachable experience, but it’s still a blisteringly fast and twitchy game which requires full attention. It still has that arcade machine style game loop that makes you want to put another pound in – and the restart mechanics continue to make this an addictive ride.

Every level matches the structure of previous games, asking the player to reach the finish line, complete the run without using a checkpoint, and knock out 3 progressively more difficult high scores (represented by “local heroes”). On top of this, magazine editor Mike has laid down 3 challenges which range from easy (do 5 flip tricks) to incredibly complex & difficult (collect or avoid items laid out on the most tricky route of the level). Completing goals unlocks more customisation options to pimp out your avatar with more wild and stylish clothing and skateboard parts.

This all culminates in the competitive element of the game: every level has a leaderboard for you to compete against your friends and beat their high scores. And if that isn’t enough, you can step things up with the Ranked Season based competition mode – where you compete against a lobby of other players to level up on a global scale, with the best customisations on offer for those who do well.

It’s a feature rich game, and surprisingly deep given it’s kid-friendly appearance and accessible, easy to play core mechanics. Even doing basic tricks is a fun time, but the game gradually layers things up with new moves to make your combos pop – new terrain like wallrides, split routes and quarter pipes make the levels feel incredibly deep even though you are skating from one side of the screen to the next. 

Once you have learnt all of the traversal techniques available, you have all the ingredients to nail incredible combos, and at its best OlliOlli World’s toughest combos will have you in a zen-like trance as you go from grinds, to wallrides, to manuals in search of a high score. At times it’s difficulty can be somewhat relentless, but it’s a game that rewards persistence (like real skateboarding). 

The difficulty often has you hammering away on a level for 20 minutes looking for a perfect line, and for that reason I found it wasn’t a game I obsessively grinded for hours, but gleefully snacked on for an hour at a time. It’s a sugar rush of shredding fun, as opposed to an all you can eat buffet.

It’s an experience that goes toe-to-toe with Tony Hawk in the best way possible. Compared to Skate City, a very similar game that released last year, it’s miles ahead – it features the depth, polish and wealth of features that Skate City lacked, and it also helps that OlliOlli World is filled to the gills with charm and a subtle confidence in its subject matter.

For those of you who prefer SkaterXL to Tony Hawk, there might not be much here for you. To make the racing game comparison: SkaterXL is Gran Turismo, obsessed with realism, and a slow-paced experience. OlliOlli World is like Crazy Taxi: it’s about huge jumps, wild characters, frantic pace and arcade twitchiness. In the same way that both Gran Turismo and Crazy Taxi have their audience, they both add a huge amount of diversity and fun to a genre that is increasingly becoming more crowded. 

There are people who would hesitate to call it a “skateboarding game” by the standards of those other simulation games, but without a doubt it concentrates on the key facets of skateboarding that these games must nail to be good: flow, sense of speed, creativity and the freedom to fail and try again.

With it’s smart art design, refined and honed controls and authentic yet fantastical setting, OlliOlli World is honestly one of the best skateboarding games I’ve ever played. I love the art style and I honestly wonder why nobody has gone this route with a skateboarding game before. The dialogue and characters feel so grounded to real skateboarding, but shown through a goofy, loveable lens. The gameplay is so tight, so rewarding and so easy to pick up and play that I’m super stoked to come back to it after being away for a few hours. If it wasn’t already, OlliOlli is a franchise that can now easily compete with Tony Hawk in the arcade skateboarding space: it’s just that good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: