8-bit style, 2D, sidescrolling skateboarding game with 50 levels across 5 worlds of increasing difficulty.
March 5, 2015
3DS (reviewed), PS Vita, PS3, PS4, XB1, Wii U, Win, Mac, Linux
Developer: Roll7 / Curve Digital
Publisher: Roll7 / Curve Digital
Platforms: 3DS (reviewed), PS Vita, PS3, PS4, XB1, Wii U, Win, Mac, Linux
Price: $8.49 (Nintendo eShop)
Release Date: March 5, 2015 (3DS & WiiU)
OlliOlli is an indie, 2D, sidescrolling skateboarding game developed by Roll7 that debuted on Sony’s PlayStation Vita last year. Boasting nostalgia-inducing looks, simple controls, and a pretty steep challenge, OlliOlli has just recently kickflipped its way onto Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS consoles. Since its release, OlliOlli has been ported to pretty much every platform with a controller (except Ouya… Sorry, Ouya). So, did OlliOlli have a perfect landing onto the 3DS, or is it just sketchy?
The only thing that some people may find questionable is the fact that some of the slams your skater takes look pretty painful. Sometimes, if it’s particularly bad, he ends up looking pretty mangled, but there’s no blood or anything nasty.
Many would say that looks are what separates OlliOlli from most other skateboarding games, but I would argue that gameplay is what makes it stand out in the crowd. I played every skateboarding game that I could get my hands on in the PlayStation era. Everyone knows the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games, and THPS2 is one of my favorite games of all time. The control scheme of the Pro Skater series set the mold for skateboarding games for years to come, while also laying the foundations for all action sports video games. But if you go into OlliOlli expecting Tony Hawk-styled controls, you’re in for a shock, and that’s the beauty of it.
The controls in OlliOlli are quite simple. The days of furiously mashing buttons as you would in THPS are over. Now, you have just the circle pad, a landing button, a frontside spin, and a backside spin. Move the circle pad in different directions to perform various flip tricks and grinds, hold either shoulder button to spin, and press the landing button to… land.
Simple controls, however, do not a simple game make. OlliOlli is all about flow. The landing button adds a unique mechanic to the gameplay because your timing in pressing the button determines how you land: perfect, sick, OK, or sketchy. Not only will a bad landing wreck your score dramatically, but it will also kill your speed and momentum. If you want to get through the game, you must master perfect landings and perfect grinds, which makes OlliOlli a shining example of “easy to learn, difficult to master.”
OlliOlli is broken down into three main modes of play (not counting the tutorial, but it behooves the player to go through it). The main mode is Career, in which you flip and grind through a stage from left to right (that’s how you can tell the you’re the good guy in video games). The player is presented with five challenges, involving reaching a score, creating a combo, or using a specific trick. Upon completing the challenges, Pro levels are unlocked that correspond with each normal, Amateur level. Pro levels are a bit more difficult than the Amateur levels and also have five challenges each. There are five themed worlds, each with five Amateur levels and five Pro levels.
For those who are a bit more competitive, Spots is a game mode in which you get one combo per level and try and rack up the most points. You can set a high score for each of the fifty levels. Similarly, the Daily Grind is a daily challenge mode where every player is presented with one level to set a high score on with one combo, but the difference is that you only get one attempt (you get as many practice runs as you want, but, once you go, your score is set until the next day). Your high scores in these modes go to the online leaderboards, where you can measure up to your friends or every player worldwide. I don’t mean to brag, but I tend to hang out towards the top of the board. (I lied. I kind of mean to brag.)
The levels themselves are a bit short, which ends up being a good thing because if you slam once, you have to start the level over, and believe me when I say that you will slam. You will slam often. Some of the challenges and Pro challenges in the later stages are just maddening, but this is where OlliOlli strikes a good balance. The gameplay is fun enough that despite the difficulty, you never want to flat-out turn the game off.
OlliOlli does have a bit of a “mobile game” feel to it; in fact, I’ve played some pretty similar games on my phone, but OlliOlli has a bit more polish to it. With the short levels and challenges, however, it’s easy to make the mobile game connection, which really does work in favor of the 3DS port. The game is easy to pick up, and just as easy to put down when necessary.
While an 8-bit, 2D, sidescrolling indie game doesn’t sound particularly original, in the context of a skateboarding game it becomes pretty unique. The sprite art in OlliOlli isn’t very detailed because your skater is a bit on the small side, which is a good thing, as this allows you to see more of the obstacles that you are approaching. I do wish that there were some more animation frames to highlight the movement of the board during tricks, however.
What OlliOlli lacks in character and foreground detail, it makes up for in its beautiful and varied backgrounds. Each world is given a drastically different theme, but each individual background is a sight to behold. There always seems to be something going on in the backdrops, and they add some great depth to the scrolling when you’re moving fast.
What is a pretty big disappointment for the 3DS is the fact that there is no 3D at all. The only part of OlliOlli that is in 3D is the icon on the home screen before you start the game. I went into the 3DS port, having already played the PS4 version, hoping to see the beautiful backgrounds with depth and detail, only to be disappointed with the exact same visuals on a smaller screen.
Where OlliOlli really hits its stride is the music. The soundtrack is full of really cool and funky jams, some hip-hop, and little electronic music sprinkled in there every now and then. All of the tunes fit the gameplay, with an emphasis on flow; this game would sound terrible paired with the stereotypical, punk rock soundtrack that’s so typical of other skateboarding games. In-game songs help to echo the street skating vibe that the gameplay and design portray.
OlliOlli is a simple-to-control, difficult-to-beat trick-fest that will test both your patience and skill. The game has style and flair, enough content to keep you playing for hours, and an overall design that compliments the 3DS’ portable nature. There are a couple of flaws: the omission of 3D visuals is a glaring oversight, and the game did crash a couple of times during my time playing it (no progress was lost, as the game autosaves often). These aren’t dealbreakers, but a little bit disappointing, considering this is a port of a game that’s already been out on other platforms for a year.
Overall, OlliOlli is a solid, unique experience for fans of skating games that are looking for a challenge. If you haven’t grabbed this on another platform, check out the 3DS version. You’ll be 360, backside, bigspin-flip-to-boardslide-ing in no time.
+ Simple controls
+ Solid soundtrack
+ Interesting background visuals
- No 3D visuals on 3DS
- Character model could have been more animated and detailed