Video Game Review: OlliOlli

Game: OlliOlli
Developer: Roll 7
Publisher: Curve Digital
System: 3Ds, WiiU (3DS Version Reviewed)
Price: $8.49, £7.99

Easy to play, tricky to master is a phrase you see thrown around an awful lot. With OlliOlli on the 3Ds, it’s a phrase you’ll see being used even more than usual.

In theory, OlliOlli is a skateboarding game where success is measured in your ability to take your little skateboarding avatar from one end of the wonderfully retro-looking levels to the other without wiping out. In practice, OlliOlli is an exercise in frustration, anger, and punishing skill checks. It’s also one of the most enjoyable, rewarding and downright fun games I’ve played in a good long while.

The controls are deceptively simple; you tap the A button a couple of times to start your character moving, flick the control stick when you want to jump, and use the L and R buttons to perform tricks while you’re in the air. Pulling off a grind is as easy as pushing the control stick in the direction you’re going, with L and R once again adding in tricks.

Here’s where things get tricky though (pun intended), to land safely after a trick or grind, you have to tap the A button again. The closer you are to the ground when you tap it, the higher your score. Fail to hit A, or hit it too late, and you’ll still land, but you’ll get a low score and lose most of your momentum.

It’s that last part that’s the difficult bit. The timing for that button press is incredibly sensitive. Maybe it’s me, and my 36-year-old hands just can’t handle the difficulty any more. It could also be that OlliOlli is just incredibly unforgiving

The game’s levels are well designed, sprinkled with objects for you to grind on, and others for you to avoid. There’s a consistent sense of flow to each of them that generates a feeling that, if you managed to nail a perfect run, you’d barely need to touch the ground at all, stitching together one long seamless run of tricks, jumps and grinds that takes you from one object to another, racking up points every step of the way.

Each of the in-game levels has an Amatuer and a Pro version, with the latter needing to be unlocked by completing 5 challenges in the former version of the level. To begin with, those challenges will be fairly straightforward – score a certain amount of points or land a certain kind of trick, etc – but as the game goes on, they become increasingly more difficult.

The game as a whole is shot through with that desire for “one more game,” fed partially from the feeling I mentioned earlier that you’re just one or two clicks away from a perfect run. It’s also helped immeasurably by the incredibly quick reload times – wipe out, and you’ll be up and running again in a matter of seconds. It takes some of the sting out of your failures when you can almost immediately try again. It also means that, while the game seems designed for the 5-minute pick up and play style of gaming, you’ll frequently end up spending an hour absorbed in clearing a level, without realising it.

That hour won’t feel wasted though, because the feeling you get when you finally complete that course you’ve been wiping out on is second to none. Although OlliOlli is hard, sometimes brutally so, it’s not unfair, so there’s a genuine sense of accomplishment, of having maybe not mastered something, but certainly of having achieved something.

While the graphics are deliberately retro-inspired, unfortunately, they don’t really shine on the screen of the 3DS. Even playing on an XL, things appear smudged and slightly out of focus. Granted, this isn’t a game that really demands crystal clarity from its graphics, but I can’t really shake the feeling that making things just a little bit clearer would make the game “pop” a bit more, especially when compared to the WiiU graphics.

Speaking of the WiiU, it’s worth pointing out that OlliOlli is cross-buy on the Nintendo platforms, so if you buy it on one console, you can download it for free on the other, so long as you’re using the same Nintendo ID. Sadly, your save data won’t cross over, but I guess you could just look at that as an opportunity to test your skills all over again.


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