Skateboarding was pretty much a way of life for so many of us, including myself, a little less than a decade ago. Sure I probably wasn't as good as I remember but that didn't matter, it was about the whole package rather than just the sport. The music and style along with the freedom you felt to roam the streets, it was just as important. Skateboarding and its culture even grew into such a mainstream lifestyle that it began to seep into the gaming world, which meant, low and behold we were delivered the ultimate ‘Arcade Skater’ in the shape of Tony Hawks Pro Skater. Arguably one of the greatest gaming franchises in history, everyone remembers the days of skating the streets of America collecting giant floating letters, grinding cop cars and helicopters and generally causing mayhem on some amazing maps. A few years on and the days of The ‘arcade skater’ have died a slow death. Perhaps killed by the huge amount of THPS sequels, bad imitations or simply times had changed.
Sure, Skate landed on the PS3 and Xbox 360 to teach us about the technical side of skateboarding, but while it was amazing to play and a ground breaking concept, using the thumb sticks as controls to your skaters feet, the focus on precision often felt like it was missing that much more instant gratification and craziness that THPS offered and pretty much distilled into my psyche as something of importance.
Well, if you've read this and found yourself nodding along with my poorly crafted words, then I urge you to take a look at OlliOlli. Available on Steam and PS Vita, OlliOlli is almost the perfect blend between the arcade madness of THPS while still nudging you to learn the more technical controls of your craft, much like Skate.
As soon as the game boots up, you're greeted with a really explosive, electronic soundtrack. Theres loads of wub wub and crazy beats, which when played over the menu and its crazy, neon colour scheme you can already sense the overall style Roll7 have gone for here, creating not just a new game but a new form of the culture and its infectious.
As soon as the game began I was hooked.
This constantly scrolling 2D skater utilises the thumbsticks for its main control, give three pushes, or pumps to get yourself up to speed, and then use your let thumbstick to charge a jump while your right can be flicked around to create different tricks. If you want to land the move though, you’ll need to tap X just before you land, the later the better for that perfect execution.
While in the air you can also perform spins by using the shoulder buttons to send your skater rotating in the wind, just hope you can finish it in time, or its lights out.
As you begin getting used to what seems like a minimalist control scheme, the maps start to build up with more and more grind rails, gaps and stairs to manoeuvre. Mastering the grind is a must if you plan to get very far in OlliOlli and its dealt with in a rather neat way, tasking you with holding your left thumb stick down once in the air above the rail, leaving you free to flick the right stick to trick off the rail and land, or jump straight to another. Words cant really do justice to that feeling you get once you find yourself in the natural rhythm of OlliOlli, grinding rails in continuos line to the beat of the music.
You’ll fail, a lot. I’d almost warn you to expect the sporting version of dark souls here as once the game builds pace, it can be one of the most devious games I've ever played. Thankfully however, OlliOlli, while hard and at times frustrating, you never feel cheated by the game or that its simply to hard, instead you feel disappointed in your own reaction speeds and begin to focus, get better and eventually succeed. This in itself is a great achievement, to be difficult but not discouraging is quite a feat.
Holes in the floor and obstacles that will require perfect timing begin to crop up, forcing you to build a quick reaction speed, solid nerve and to stick to the rhythm, by the end of my time with OlliOlli I was comfortably building patterns of Grind, KickFlip, Grind, Olli, Olli, Grab, Grind, Olli Stairs, Land. Well, I was proud of that, and when you get your hands on the game you’ll see just how quickly you go from intrigued, to challenged to ecstatic and feeling like a true pro!
The maps have character too, reminding me of the THPS days, you’ll go from junkyards to Russian Military bases and more, leaving you to grind Helicopters and Tanks or tricking over peoples long forgotten trash as well as racing around neon cityscapes and more. During career mode, each level will have its own unique check list of creative tasks, asking you to score a certain amount, collect floating spray cans etc. and to perform rather particular move sets in certain areas, all of which gives that bit more life and importance to each maps diverse identity.
It could be argued that while OlliOlli does what it does extremely well, with a core mechanic that is both fluid and natural, the fact that you’ll find no grind moves or vert ramps could leave some miffed, as after all these are staples of skating, this felt like a minor flaw in my mind.
On top of career mode, OlliOlli offers Spots and Daily Grind mode for those who want some more challenges along the way. Spots tasks you with getting the biggest score you can with a single trick, while Daily Grind offers you the chance to practice running a chosen level before being offered one chance to nail it perfectly, all for the chance of glory by having your name plastered on the leaderboard. For me, Daily Grind is the most enjoyable addition, as while you can practice the run for a few hours, you’ll often find yourself choking under the pressure when your one shot begins.
Overall, OlliOlli does exactly what it sets out to do and it does it really well. The core trick system is cleaver and natural, fostering the perfect amount of challenge, creativity and pure fun. It looks great, sounds great and offers a lot!
If you've ever been a fan of skateboarding games and the culture, you’ll love this! If you haven't, well then, trust me when I say that you’ll be digging out those 3/4 length shorts and be dying to immerse yourself in the lifestyle.