OlliOlli is a lightning quick, single life skateboarding game that focuses on tight, gratifying gameplay and beating personal and worldwide best scores. The original OlliOlli has polished pixel art; each move has been perfectly rendered in low rez slickness. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood, on the other hand, has a more polished, almost rotoscoped style of animation, at times playing like a fast-paced Flashback on wheels.
Much like real skateboarding success in OlliOlli all about confidence and timing. Also, much like real skateboarding just when I think I have the hang of things I fall to the ground and realize how much of a grommet I always have been and will continue to be.
While reviewing OlliOlli, I have also been reflecting on my hundreds of hours spent growing up with the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise and on an IRL skateboard. The differences go way beyond the graphics and controls. THPS’s immersion came from the inclusion of real-life clothing, sponsors, skaters, and sports drink brands.
There are no named characters or customization here. OlliOlli does away with any of that focusing on a single unnamed avatar with Roll7 perfecting the animations of the faceless plank-pusher rather than spreading themselves too thinly. In an uncharacteristically creative move, I’m deciding to name him Oliver or Oli for short, Oliver McSkater.
New levels are unlocked by making it to the end of a course without smashing your face and other body parts into the unyielding ground resulting in ragdoll like bodily wrecks and followed by an immediate return to the start of a level. Restarting levels is an absolute necessity and is made comparably easier, as if you see a combo failing, or you are dissatisfied with your current run you can restart the level with a tap of the X button, although if you are of the clumsy fat fingered variety of person then you may accidentally press this once or twice losing what could have been earth-shattering combos the likes mankind has ne’er seen before.
Each of the levels on both games has five initial amateur challenges. If you complete all of the amateur challenges you unlock the Pro versions and completing every Pro challenge unlocks the impossibly tricky RAD mode. This is the same across both titles with the main difference being that, coincidently much like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood includes synchronous multiplayer gameplay, while in terms of trick additions also specials, introduces manuals, reverts, grind switching and revert manuals, allowing for stage spanning combos that’ll rack up your score to even higher levels, getting you one step closer to beating the every increasingly hard to beat score challenges.
One single mistake will end your run and cause you no end of frustration time after time, after time, after time until a level’s timing clicks and you reach an epiphany-like state of synchronicity between man and machine, foot and ground, skate and board. Without having to use any plastic skateboard simulating peripherals, OlliOlli gives a sense of tense realism through the use of directional inputs, quarter circles and double pretzel motions to perform tricks, oddly making it control much more like a King of Fighters or Street Fighter than any skateboarding game. Sometimes, you begin to feel as though you are emulating the perfectly timed foot movements necessary to make these moves happen in real life but with your chubby thumbs rather than a pair of Vans.
Each game works on its own and is complete title; together they make a genuinely exceptional package of additive, skateboarding based, twitch gameplay. However, OlliOlli 2 takes everything the original introduced and builds upon it. It gives you better introductions to the mechanics and especially of explaining how to play the game. The levels are more detailed and varied, with a Hollywood and classic cinema theme rather than more generic city and industrial backgrounds of the first and a more humorous vibe with level titles such as “The Origins of Manual” and “Mulholland Grind”.
My personal recommendation is to start with OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood and play through the first few levels, gaining confidence and skill, right up to the point where they introduce manuals. When you get to this stage, you should have a rich foundation of knowledge and skills to take on the original OlliOlli without any superfluous skills introduced in the second. Then when you get stuck on a level and bored of failing the same gap, again and again, slap the sequel on getting some more confidence and go back and take on the more challenging original.
I cannot help but fill the story and context gaps with my own personal headcanon. Is our skater hero an actor that is so good at skating that he is featuring in a swath of genre-spanning skateboarding movies and the levels are all just beautiful backdrops parallax scrolling past him. Conversely, is he in actuality having skateboarding time traveling adventures, that later goes on to have films based on them? Is that the difference between the Pro an Amateur levels?
He was a time-traveling amateur skater and now as a professional Oli is going back and retelling his legendary skateboarding quest. Perhaps both theories are correct, or maybe my mind has started to wander attempting to land a particularly tricky gap for the forty-second time today.
This brings me to my biggest and only real complaint that I have with OlliOlli: Switch Stance as a collection of two upstanding and very competent games individually, once you have chosen which OlliOlli you want to play you are locked into that specific game. If you’re going to change to the other OlliOlli, there is no easy method to change between the two titles quickly. There is no menu option in either.
Instead, you have to return to the Nintendo Switch’s home menu, quit the game, start it up and select the OlliOlli title you want to play. That is really my biggest complaint as OlliOlli delivers everything it promises with addictive, accuracy-based gameplay that I just can’t put down.
OlliOlli Switch Stance launches on the Nintendo Switch on 14 February 2019 and is a definitely a must buy from me.