I remember playing tons of different skateboarding games as a kid. My earliest memories are that of Skate or Die! during the late 80’s and the Tony Hawk series of games in the 2000’s. I’ve always been fascinated by skateboarding games because that’s just an aspect of my life that I was never really good at. Sure I could ride a skateboard, but I was never daring enough or coordinated enough to pull off any real tricks. In the virtual world though, I was a pro and loved it. Of course the most recent series of skateboarding games I have played have been that of the SKATE franchise, but those games just never seemed quite as fun due to them being too much like a simulation and less of an arcade style game. Tony Hawk is probably still my favorite thanks to the vast amounts of ridiculous tricks you could pull off and how easily you could just jump in and play.
With that said, there really hasn’t been another skating game that has caught my fancy until now. OlliOlli by Roll7 is the first skateboarding game in a long time to really catch my eye, not because of how realistic it looks or how vast the world is, but for the completely opposite reason. OlliOlli looks like an old school, 16-bit retro game that doesn’t try to win me over with its fancy looks. Instead, it tries to wins me over with gameplay, which in my opinion, is the most important thing about a game. Yes, being graphically different did draw me to it initially and thankfully, the gameplay kept me interested as well.
OlliOlli is probably the first 2D side-scrolling skateboarding game that many of you, who weren’t born before the 90’s, will play. That’s right, this is a 16-bit looking, 2D side scrolling game that is as old school retro as you can get. That means that instead of concentrating on trying to make the game look as realistic as possible, much of the effort here was placed in its gameplay mechanics and making the game as fun to play as it is challenging.
Control wise, the game seems simple enough. The left thumbstick is used for jumping, creating tricks, and landing grinds and when combined with the left and right bumpers, you’ll be able to pull off some pretty sick tricks. The bumpers themselves are used for rotation. What’s makes this game a tiny bit more difficult is that you also have to tap X to land your tricks and jumps. So if you’re keeping score, you have to basically keep your left thumb on the thumbstick at all times, as well as your index fingers for the bumpers and your right thumb on the X button. Again, it sounds simple but once you start playing, you’ll find that trying to do all this when you start off is actually very very difficult. As much as you think you can do this, it will take lots of practice before you can really master this game, and that’s okay with me.
If I were you, I highly suggest going through the tutorial mode. It’s pretty basic, but it will teach you most of what you need to know to get started, mainly all the important stuff and will at least get you accustomed to the control scheme.
Now, if you’re the type who likes challenges, OlliOlli sure isn’t without its share of difficult challenges. Each level you play has 5 challenges to complete in order to fully complete each level and 5-star each. You don’t have to do them to move on, but they are fun. 5-starring each level also unlocks Pro mode for each level which also has 5 challenges of its own. Completing those unlocks the super difficult Rad mode. Needless to say, I haven’t unlocked any of those yet.
Despite OlliOlli having the look of an 16-bit game, everything about it is gorgeous and purely awesome. The menu system itself isn’t done in 16-bit. It’s very modern and minimalistic but fits the whole 16-bit theme quite well with its solid colors and hard edges. Navigating the menus is pure joy and as simple as it can be allowing you to jump right into the game without having to jump through hurdles. I love all the bright, contrasting colors used throughout the user interface which really grabs your attention and directs you where you need to go.
Next up are the in-game graphics. Again, it has kind of the 16-bit style to it but if you take a closer look at the artwork, you’ll find that it’s actually very good and not as pixelated as you first thought. There’s actually a lot of detail on the screen that you might not notice because of how fast paced the game is. The game is actually built on layers that gives the game more depth despite being so flat. Background elements move independently of each other as does the foreground elements and all of that gives off the illusion that this might not be such a flat world after all.
Of course the visuals are only half the game with the audio being the other. In this case, the audio is also just as fantastic as the visuals. Music here really lend to the whole skateboarding feel with uplifting tracks for epic combos. It has kind of like a digital pop type feel to it. The sound effects too are pretty awesome with authentic skateboard sounds as well as being able to hear ever bone breaking wipe out.
OlliOlli is one of the most fun skateboarding games you’ll probably play this year. Sure it might not have realistic graphics or real locals, but the gameplay is pure fun and excitement which is what we want in a game anyways, right? The game itself can be grueling at times, especially at the beginning, but if you take the time to really learn how to play it and master the controls, it will reward you with a “hell yeah” every time you pass a level. You’ll fall and fall continuously, but it’s the type of game where you never want to give up in frustration and instead want to keep on trying. When you do finally begin mastering the moves and the intricacies of the gameplay, it really gives you that satisfaction of accomplishment.
My favorite thing though in the game isn’t trying to blast through each level, but instead to beat all the challenges set. This is what makes OlliOlli worth playing, the feeling of accomplishment you get when you tick off each challenge. These aren’t easy challenges. These are challenges in which you’ll have to try over and over to complete, but with each completed challenge, you can actually feel yourself getting better and better.
I’ve only had the PS Vita for a short time, but so far, this is probably one of my favorite games to pick up and play when I need to kill some time. Not only that, it’s a great game for the whole family and it’s something I would let me kids play, especially now that one of them is all into skateboarding in real life.
Look for OlliOlli on the PlayStation Network Store now. It’s $12.99 but if you’re a PS Plus member, you can actually get a discount on it this week and grab is for 20% off. This is a great indie game and one that everyone should own in their collection.