Skateboarding games haven’t had the smoothest ride in recent years, Skate 3 aside. The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games were fantastic, with tons of variety in their level design and a simple control scheme that belied a ridiculous amount of depth for those willing to learn its systems. The Underground games started to show the series’ ageing mechanics but were still fun due to the large, open environments.
Once the Xbox 360 and PS3 came along, the Tony Hawk series fell into a slump. Project 8 and Proving Grounds offered nothing new and the less said about Ride and Shred, the better. When Skate arrived on the scene, with its innovative control scheme and tighter design, it effectively killed the Tony Hawk gaming brand.
Now, Olliolli isn’t pretending to take on the much-loved Skate 3, but it does owe a lot to its control scheme. Despite being a 2D side-scrolling skating game, Roll7’s skateboarding does use a similar analog stick-based trick system to that which Skate made popular. Using various circular motions and flicks of the analog stick, your avatar will do different tricks and a well-timed press of the A button (an Xbox 360 controller is highly recommended) upon landing will ensure your score is as high as possible.
The controls are very simple here, with the same combinations of buttons and analog stick usage controlling everything. Need to grind a rail? Use the exact same method as preparing a trick from the ground. Build up speed using A and land using the same button. The number of tricks in the “Tricktionary” however, show just how deep the control system can be if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
Time isn’t exactly the name of the game here, though. Long sessions will likely lead to players growing very bored with Olliolli, as the game is far more suited to quick, ten-minute blasts. Unfortunately, if you find yourself stuck on a particular level, you cannot progress until you’ve finished a run with a decent score and it can quickly become frustrating. With runs lasting less than a minute, failing again and again for ten minutes can feel like a fresh form of Hell.
Replayability is key in a game like Olliolli, but its level design is very bland and samey, which makes it all the worse when you’re forced to replay the same run for the twentieth time. It’s a game that suits players with the ability to memorise the layout of each run, but penalises anyone wanting to just have fun skating. What makes it worse is when your failed run has nothing to do with your own mistakes, but because pressing A to land doesn’t always work. The timing is horribly inconsistent, meaning you either lose a large score or you end up falling down stairs because your “sloppy” landing meant you lost control at a key moment.
Patience is key, however. Olliolli will reward the most patient players with progression through the five areas in the game, each containing ten stages that offer a wide array of challenges. Each level has its own optional objectives, that range from performing a simple trick, to grinding every rail or getting perfect landings throughout the run, which adds another layer to the gameplay. Considering Olliolli costs a meagre £9.99, it offers a ridiculous amount of content for your money.
Visually, Olliolli is functional. With a style similar to, but not as original as, Canabalt HD, Olliolli’s 2D style looks simple and colourful, if not particularly attractive. This can mean that some obstacles aren’t immediately noticeable, leading to yet more frustration as your run comes to an abrupt end as you fall over a cone that blended into the background. This is a fairly rare issue, but one that can be very annoying if you were in the middle of an otherwise perfect run.
Despite some major flaws and a large number of minor ones, Olliolli does have a certain charm to it. Play it with friends in a “pass the pad” game and it can provide many laughs and a lot of fun. Play it on your own and it can be a very hit-and-miss affair, but if you can be patient and if you have an eye for memorising the levels, you may find Olliolli is a very rewarding experience.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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