This article originally appeared in Volume XX, Issue VIII of The University Observer and online at universityobserver.ie
Remember skateboarding games? The Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise broke down the barrier to the mainstream in the late 90s, managing to successfully mix accessibility with a deep enough combo system so as to appeal to a very wide audience.
It wasn’t long before THPS was run into the ground with annual instalments. Ex-developers Neversoft now make Call of Duty maps for a living; a tragedy if ever there was one.
EA’s Skate series saw a brief and deserved three-year rejuvenation period before fading away in the ether once more. OlliOlli comes at a time when there’s a sufficient gap to fill and demand for it too. While it’s unlikely to be the cultural phenomenon Tony Hawk was, it’s a very welcome release indeed.
A rare PlayStation Vita exclusive, OlliOlli is perfectly suited to the portable device, given not only the simplicity of its controls, but also its emphasis on bite sized portions of gameplay. The left analogue stick acts as a substitute for the skater’s legs and when flicked in a particular direction an analogous trick is performed.
Landing tricks properly is as important as performing them with very specific timed presses of the X button required in order to pull off the much sought after perfect landing. With the shoulder buttons, rotations can be made, adding another small variable to the game.
It’s a simple setup, but not overly so, striking the previously mentioned balance between depth and accessibility although with a high degree of skill still required. OlliOlli is unforgiving, with regular failure guaranteed. The brief nature of each individual level in combination with instant restarts quells the frustration and makes successive repeat attempts very appealing.
The core mechanics are rock solid and result in a feeling of immense satisfaction when even the simplest of tricks are performed. Around the edges though, OlliOlli is a little bare.
Outside of the going through the main stages and their remixed variants, Daily Grind is the only other mode. This gives all players the same level to compete on over a 24-hour span, but only one chance in which to do so. It’s a clever, tense addition. However, it isn’t enough to round out the overall package.
Given OlliOlli’s emphasis on high score chasing, leaderboard integration is disappointingly limited. You can see the global leader for each stage and your own individual position, but friend comparisons are nowhere to be found. It’s a baffling omission.
At the moment, OlliOlli sets a great foundation. Hopefully developers Roll7 will give it the support it deserves in the future, fleshing it out with more content. If they do so correctly, OlliOlli could be the next great skateboarding game.