I am a fan of skateboarding. I skated in high school. I was not great, but I had fun. I loved watching the rise of the sport on television. I looked up to skaters like Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist and Rodney Mullen. When college rolled around and the demo for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released, I was enamored. I could not stop playing. In fact, when the full game released, I skipped all my classes for a week and completed every objective with every skater. I could not put the game down.
Getting back into gaming after so many years, I was disappointed that there was no longer a strong skateboarding game. I realize that the annualization of games like Tony Hawk ruined the market for them, but I still missed playing.
Luckily, I was turned on to an indie skateboarding game called OlliOlli. Roll7 released the game on the PS Vita in January and then later this year on the PC and PS3/PS4. At first glance, OlliOlli looks like a simple, endless runner developed for a mobile minded generation. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Though the visuals are simplistic, the game holds a lot of complexity and variety.
OlliOlli progresses players through 2D sidescrolling levels with five accomplishments to achieve in each. Getting to the end of a level unlocks the next, but mastering the achievements unlocks a pro version of the level. Once unlocked, players can also skate spots for a one trick high score set against a global leaderboard. The game consists of five areas with five amateur and pro levels in each to skate.
For those used to games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or Skate, the controls are an adjustment. Holding down prepares the skater to perform a trick. Releasing the direction ollies. Rolling forward or back to various degrees before releasing will perform more complex moves ranging from kickflips to impossibles and more. Grinding is as simple as hitting a direction when near a grindable object. The type of grind will depend on the direction hit. Before landing the trick, players must hit a button to land cleanly. If the button is not hit at the right time, then points for the trick are docked. The same is true for landing grinds. High level combos require precision control. Between tricks, holding one of the shoulder buttons will spin the board adding to combos and total points. It is a simple design scheme that allows for plenty of complexity.
When I started playing, the controls felt foreign. I could not perform perfect landings and I did not even attempt to include spins in my tricks. It was frustrating. I was often falling short of the achievements for each level. As I progressed, things became more natural. I found myself making solid landings and chaining together trick after trick. Soon I was pulling off spins between every trick I performed. By the fourth set of levels, I realized I could go back to the earlier stages and complete the achievements with minimal effort. And that is what makes OlliOlli so wonderful. The game does not attempt to hold your hand through the progression. Trial and error hones your skills and makes accomplishing those tasks so satisfying. With time, I found myself hitting gaps, collecting objects and nailing accomplishments. It was not handed to me. It felt earned, and was all the more worthwhile because of that.
OlliOlli does not have the 3D look, huge levels and licensed soundtrack that games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater brought to the world, but the game provides excellent controls, cool level design and plenty of “fuck yeah, I finally got it” moments. It might not be a game that I obsessively complete like Pro Skater, but for the price, it cannot be beat. And there is plenty that the game offers to stand on its own two feet. Be sure to check it out for yourself.