Roll7’s PlayStation Vita exclusive OlliOlli is game that is about speed, precision, and timing. Hidden behind misleadingly simple controls is a brutal difficulty that is softened by the ability to quickly restart a level after face planting for the fiftieth time. It is the type of game that will drive gamers into that level of hyper focus that is near trance like as the colorful skateboarding sprite guy skates faster and faster chaining together kickflips, grabs and grinds with a total of three buttons and an analog stick. Now imagine I said all of this paragraph really really fast without taking a breath. That is how it feels to play OlliOlli.
As mentioned, the controls for OlliOlli are simple. Hold the analog stick in a direction to prime for a kickflip and hit x at the point of contact to land it and speed up; mistime the x and the skater will land sloppily slowing down and almost stumbling to regain balance. Better timing equals more speed and more importantly more score. Grinding is just as simple with holding the analog stick in whatever direction as the grind is landed. A press right at the point of contact will land a perfect grind and even more score. Moves are tweaked with different directions on the analog stick, a couple of fighting game style quarter circle spins, and the shoulder buttons. String all of these tricks together to create a line and more score. You might be starting to see a trend here about what is important in OlliOlli… more score accomplished by timing.
Landing well timed moves isn’t just about scoring big as the speed bonus from the tricks help clear gaps that would otherwise cause the little skater guy to bail. It is that speed that will draw players into a trance as hitting moves becomes almost reflexive. The only downside to all of the focus, speed, and precision is the smallish controls of the Vita that can leave some of us bigger handed gamers feeling less in control as our big fingers fumble. It is more of a knock against the system rather than the game but still something that should be considered.
Levels are set up to be quick from point A to point B style affairs with the goal of reaching the cheering crowd at the end to unlock the next level. This allows all of the levels to be unlocked with a minimal play it safe effort but to truly get the most out of OlliOlli, gamers must complete 5 challenges on each of the 25 levels to unlock a higher difficulty to play that level on. Each level has a total of 3 difficulties; Amateur, Hard, and Rad. 25 levels times 3 would make a short game but luckily there is another mode called Spots. Spots are variations of the 25 levels that are set up to run a line of tricks from start to finish. Mess up the line and the level ends.
The feature that will keep gamers coming back to OlliOlli has to be the leaderboards. Every level and difficulty keeps track of the best scores which is always fun to try and beat a friend or rise to the top globally if you have the skill. The ultimate leaderboard is the Daily Grind that presents a different spot every day. Players only get a single attempt to place themselves on the leaderboard though they can practice as much as they want before attempting the “serious” run.