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OlliOlli Review

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On 03/11/2014 at 12:00 PM by Nick DiMola

How to make an OlliOlli: Take Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, make it 2D, remove the vert tricks, and put all the trick controls on the analog stick. Voila!

For those who enjoy high score runs and don't mind the sometimes unpredictable stick-based input.

It's hard to say "skateboarding" and "video game" in the same sentence and not evoke immediate thoughts of the now classic Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS) series. Those games redefined the genre and brought social relevance to the counter-culture sport. Given that the craze for these games is over, OlliOlli has rolled through the door in an attempt to rekindle our love of the extreme sport with a new take on it. Rather than the vert-centric experience of Tony Hawk, OlliOlli is a pure street skating game, and a 2D side-scrolling one at that. Though clearly influenced by THPS, it goes about things in its own way. Unfortunately, Roll7's unique take on the sport doesn't ascend to the heights that The Birdman did in the '90s.

To OlliOlli's credit, it does manage to capture some of the spirit of THPS. It's still exhilarating to pull off a huge combo; jumping from rail to rail, nailing flip tricks in between and landing flawlessly is the biggest draw of the experience. And just like THPS, it offers a variety of levels, each with their own unique set of objectives to meet, including hitting high scores or grinding certain objects in the run. The biggest difference is that OlliOlli has a finish line and progressing to the next level is just a matter of reaching it. The objectives pose no impediment to moving on, but rather they are required only to access the Pro version of each level.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that OlliOlli lifted most of its core from THPS. In what feels like an effort to build a greater distinction between the two products, Roll7 completely changed the means of executing tricks. Don't expect to be pressing buttons to pull off crazy kick flips – each and every trick is done with the analog stick. Quarter and half turns in various directions will execute a given trick, and when landing on a rail, the direction the stick is angled will drive what grind is performed. Even performing an ollie is done by holding the stick in any given direction and releasing when you want to perform the jump.

After years of playing Tony Hawk games, it took a number of sessions to retrain my brain to this new style of control, which still feels like a step back from the more reliable button inputs. Rather than just quickly hitting a discrete button and a direction on the D-Pad or Analog Stick, I was constantly jamming on the stick in different directions in hopes of executing the move I had intended. As the levels progress, it only gets tougher because you need to execute flawlessly, pulling off tricks mid-grind by jumping, and tricking before landing.

It's also worth mentioning that part of executing tricks is landing successfully. So in order to really maximize your score, you need to flick the stick in the proper direction to perform grinds at the exact right moment to make it a “perfect” one. When you eventually hit the ground, you'll also need to hit X at the right moment or you stand to lose all of those points you racked up from the beginning of the trick string. Factor in the L and R buttons for expanded trick sets and spins, and you start to feel like you need to be a contortionist to perfectly pull off giant combos.

Eventually I managed to get a handle on the finger acrobatics required to succeed, but I still wasn't enjoying the countless runs I needed to make to maximize my scores. I often felt like I needed to get lucky just to have the tricks go off without a hitch. As one might expect, this quickly deterred me from continuing to pursue high score runs or playing OlliOlli in general.

For those that do manage to get hooked on the formula of OlliOlli, there's enough content to keep you occupied for quite a while, specifically in the Daily Grind challenge. This mode allows players to take on a specific challenge for a high score just once a day, though an infinite number of practice runs can precede the one big shot. During my time I had more fun trying my hand at these challenges because they're tailored toward pulling off ridiculous combos without wading through boring stretches of a normal level.

Despite that, OlliOlli never really managed to capture my attention. I didn't dig the input mechanics, or the perfect landing concepts, both of which could sink your run with one misstep, forcing you through another attempt at the level. I'm sure many high score chasers will fall in love with OlliOlli, but it never managed to engage me in that way.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Jamie Alston Staff Writer

03/11/2014 at 12:22 PM

Whelp...I guess this clinches it-- skateboarding is officially dead to me in the video game world.  At least I'll still have the X Games I can watch in the summer.

Casey Curran Staff Writer

03/12/2014 at 01:27 AM

I'd say give it a try. I can see where Nick's coming from, but I personally loved this game and thought the trick system worked fine, it felt like Skate's controls used for Tony Hawk caliber tricks with Bit Trip Runner's setup. Here's my review if you want a second opinion


03/28/2014 at 07:35 AM

It looks like a cool little game.  $12.99 for it is a bit much though. 

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