Right off the bat, I go into this review asking the readers to not go grab OlliOlli expecting your traditional skateboarding title. By and large, this is more a twitch-based trials-esque sort of experience than that seen in your Tony Hawk's and Skates. It tasks players with learning to perfect combos and timing, all the while slowly mastering the admittedly cumbersome controls. Does the title's hardcore sensibilities detract from it being a fun experience though? I would say not. While the game certainly manages to frustrate throughout, it's the building of the player's overall skillset, learning to overcome those frustration that really makes this game shine. This is Demon's Souls meets fun, arcadey skateboarding action, and the game manages to be a more and more rewarding experience over time.
Set in a minimalist 2-D world made up of both hand-drawn and pixel art, the game will do very little in the way of impressing with its visuals. That's probably the point of it all, however. What the game needs the players to focus on is the path in front of them and just how they are going to take advantage of the obstacles laid out. Vibrant vistas and just overall visual noise would detract from the effectiveness of the level design on show, essentially weakening the player's effectiveness in the process. No, while the game is not what I call a looker it allows players to better focus on the game itself, making the admittedly stressful act of coming to terms with the games chaotic controls at least a bit easier.
That said, at first glance, there is not a whole lot of depth on offer in OlliOlli. The trick set is undeniably small, ditching the likes of ground-play in the form of manuals and the like, as well as limiting flip and grab tricks to a number doable with a few flicks of the left stick.
Then again, you should never take a game at face value. Hidden underneath its limited set of moves is a system that rewards timing and quick thinking. With every flip and every grind, the game tasks players with timing their landings perfectly, increasing their score ten-fold in the process. The more accurate you are, the better the score. Botched landings providing almost nothing, outside of the disappointment of messing up an otherwise fantastic combo. The overall enjoyment offered doesn't come from its laundry list of a trick set. It comes from making the most out of your limited tools, and taking advantage of proper timing. They managed to make a simple flip, into grind, back into a flip and landing feel just as rewarding and impressive as those 100k combos you remember back on the N64.
An entirely different beast to be sure but, damn, can it be just as enjoyable at times.
OlliOlli boasts a steep learning curve, as was mentioned above. However, smart game design helps players to slowly learn the game at a proper pace, meaning that, hopefully, they are fully prepared to take on the harder tasks the game throws your way once the time comes.
Whereas early levels focus around training the player to perfect simple flip tricks and landings, then moving into grinding and the more complicated flip and grab tricks, about forty-five minutes in, it expects the player to take all they have learned and put it to use in levels procedurally more complicated as you go. The game has a nice flow to it and, despite its difficulty, it goes a fair way to try and make the whole experience feel . . . well . . . fair.
Offering both an 'Amateur' as well as a 'Pro' difficulty level, both with their own sets of goals to complete, there's certainly some replay value to be had. That said, even the perfectionists looking to complete it all can only really expect ten-or-so hours out of the title. There is a new daily challenge put up every day, however, which is always nice to see and gives veteran players a reason to boot the game up again every once in a while.
Overall, OlliOlli is a very enjoyable experience. Nothing too unique, but still entirely good at what it does. The controls can feel a bit off at times, leaving me, at points, questioning just why I wasn't pulling off the moves I could have sworn I initiated. At the end of the day though, that most likely was me and not the game itself.
Still, the complicated controls does detract from an otherwise fun experience. Part of the difficulty, sure, but that could have been left to the mechanics and level design itself, leaving OlliOlli just that much more an enjoyable experience.
As the first title from an obviously talented studio, this one is definitely a winner. Roll 7 did an admirable job with the title, leaving themselves a fantastic building point to create an even better sequel.