At a glance, OlliOlli may appear to be everything we loved from the good old days of Pro Skater: combos, level-specific collectables, a tricktionary bursting with impossibly cool-sounding moves. But this is no ordinary skater. In truth, the side-on view, the layout of the levels and meticulous attention to timing are closer in blood to a hard-as-nails platformer, or an infinirunner. Less Tony Hawk: Underground, more Rayman: Origins.

The simplified control scheme makes picking up OlliOlli easy enough, flick the left stick in different directions to ollie and perform tricks. Pull it again mid-air to grind on whatever railing/rooftop/helicopter rotor blade is below you. Then simply hit x just before landing to avoid splattering your fragile form into the ground. This all plays out against some delightful pixel art backgrounds across several different game modes: career, spots and daily grind. Spots are single run levels that have a long rail combo opportunity, whereas career is more varied. The main career mode unlocks new levels for finishing a run but higher difficulty variants for accomplishing all the occasionally infuriating challenges.

Neon Five-O

Amateur levels are easy enough to master quickly, but moving onto the pro levels you realise how much more there is to learn. For a while, you can blunder through just wiggling the left stick in random directions for more complex tricks, but eventually you learn about the need to spin, as that’s where the big points are. However, by learning that, something else is pushed out of your head, such as how to land. Eventually I started to get OlliOlli, things clicked back into place, I remembered to hit the x button to land and truly felt like I was in the flow again. Then I unlocked rad mode and lost it all. It’s one thing for a game to have a single well-balanced difficulty curve, but OlliOlli has three, and achieving flow on all of them makes you feel like a kickflipping god.

And this is definitely a game all about the flow; from getting the timing right and keeping difficult combo rails going to the smooth thumb movements needed to pull of the more impressive trick variants. The latter is something I struggled with, as is the case with most fighting games that require the same sort of dexterity. Nevertheless, I found the control scheme an enjoyable alternative to the “jump and bash a button” method employed by other entries into the skating genre. However despite the novel controls and gameplay, there are areas where OlliOlli really nails its roots in skating subculture. One of those is the excellent soundtrack.

Contrary to what you might think from previous trailers, that doesn’t just mean eye-shaking power dubstep. The music roster includes a broad range of instrumentals ranging from the more electronic and high-energy Qemists tracks to some lovely chilled out trip-hop to soothe your racing heart. And believe me, when you’ve restarted a level for the 30th time to get that last pro challenge, your heart will be racing at the final rail. Or during the Daily Grinds, all of which are one long combofest similar to the “Spots,” but with only one chance to prove your skills to the world. The thought of having my score posted for all to see really heightened the tension during my one-shot run. After about 10 minutes of practicing I was sure I had it in the bag, only to over-rotate on the first rail gap and send my pixelly ragdoll flailing across the stage. Such is life.

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The glory lasted for about an hour.

My one criticism is that this is the only time I get the feeling of competition, which is weird as I don’t have a competitive bone in my body. The online/friend leaderboard is strangely absent from normal career stages, but in a way that makes the Daily Grind that much more important. This is, in the immortal words of Eminem, your one shot so don’t miss your chance to blow (oh). That daily dose of intense practicing and learning a new course, brings back that feeling of cramming for an exam. And the knowledge that everyone is doing the same is a winning (darkslide to 180 impossible) combo.

Review: OlliOlli
In an effortlessly stylish attempt to distil skating down to its most basic form, Roll7 have created a twitch platformer with a 540 McTwist. Superlative stuff.
Pros
  • teeth-grinding tension
  • balanced difficulty curve
  • excellent soundtrack
Cons
  • lack of friends leaderboard
10Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)
8.0

About The Author

News Editor

Chris has always been, and always shall be, a gamer. He sometimes does not enjoy that label, but he does enjoy games so it's mostly accurate. He likes rain, Adult Swim cartoons and T-shirts with obscure gaming references. He dislikes mushrooms, bigotry and speaking in the third person. You can follow him @higgyc if you should so choose.

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