S ay what you will about the Playstation Vita, whether it’s your thing or not the device is an Indy powerhouse. OlliOlli was one of those games, at a point exclusive to the handheld. Harkening all the way back to the early 2000 era of skateboarding culture, OlliOlli took the spirit of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and applied it to an endless runner mentality to get a perfectly bite sized shredder for the bus. Now making it’s way to Steam, OlliOlli can be had by all, though it bails out more than once in the transition.
The premise is basic, the execution however is anything but. A thorough tutorial guides you through the goals and controls of OlliOlli, The controls themselves are a major hurdle at first and demand both knowledge and muscle memory. They aren’t necessarily hard or confusing at the base level, just hard to become proficient with, especially when using the keyboard, which the game itself strongly advises against. Which controller you use is limited though, as the game doesn’t play nice with several popular controllers such as the Dualshock 4.
Plug in a controller though, and the game relies on the shoulder buttons, left stick and a single face button. You’ll mainly be working out the stick in OlliOlli as it’s manipulated in all kinds of ways to go anywhere from an olli to the most hardcore 720 backside noseplant, while the shoulder buttons allow you to put some spin on a jump for extra points and the face button is key to land without eating concrete, as the closer to the ground you tap it the more points you gain or lose from your combo.
It’s the combo heavy gameplay where OlliOlli really channels the birdman’s earlier work. While you can get away with random wiggles of the stick to chain basic combos, you’ll need more finesse in order to get the astronomical scores the bonus objectives demand. An expansive “tricktionary” can be perused before any attempt that spells out the exact motions required for a trick. While not nearly as many buttons are in play as the pro skaters were ever asked to use, input is just as demanding.
Mastering those tricks takes plenty of iteration, which thankfully plays to the style of the game. Levels have five goals a piece, usually spread out into several categories, such as asking you hit a certain combo or score. Ideally, you’ll hit at least one of those goals in the run of a level, which plays much like an endless runner, though levels do have a definitive end. Should you fail to hit any of the goals at all, you’ll still be able to proceed. The main benefit of completing the objectives before you is to unlock “pro” variations of levels, which turn the original levels and goals up to eleven. Sweeping those goals unlocks the super tough “Rad” mode to raise the steaks even more.
The game’s presentation is inoffensive. Not exactly great, not exactly eye bleeding, just fine. The game importantly maintains it’s framerate constantly, and it’s immediately obvious what you can interact with as you zoom through the level. The art style itself is reminiscent of most 16 bit titles, and brings us back to ‘simply inoffensive’.
The soundtrack is generic and almost completely forgettable, comprised of semi intelligible rapping beats and a handful of guitar riffs for good measure. it fits the mood, and though it could have benefited a lot from some licensed tracks, it’s completely understandable why an independent developer couldn’t make that happen.
So given the difficulty curve is really as steep as you want it, what is really in the way of jumping on the board and skating? As mentioned earlier, a controller is almost necessary to make the game playable, and not all controllers play nice in all ways. I reviewed the game using a plugged in Dualshock 3, but only because it wouldn’t function over Bluetooth, and the Dualshock 4 wouldn’t work at all. The visuals of the title aren’t exactly demanding by any definition, yet the game seems to pitch a fit on Windows 8 and refuse to render anything beyond the opening credits. Only two complaints overall, but they are major and should be considered before buying.
OlliOlli takes old ideas and applies them to new thinking. It doesn’t exactly make the jump to PC without a few face plants and wipeouts both small and large, it’s overall still very enjoyable for the right mindset.
Those willing to tackle it’s challenges head on will find a ton of value here, they should just be prepared for a style of game that doesn’t mesh as well with the platform and be aware of some very persistant and serious issues depending on equipment and operating system. Get past it and you’ll find a highly addictive, score chaser that will give you whatever you put into it.
This game was reviewed on the PC.