I remember my early introduction to skateboarding well. My memories of playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on my Dreamcast for countless hours coming at a time when Eminem’s “Stan” was dominating the music charts. Neversoft had birthed an addictive and yet equally punishing experience, my childhood spent perfecting every possible aerial, flip and grind while Marshall Mathers enjoyed repeated airtime on the radio in the background.
Years have passed since then and it is Roll7’s side-scrolling skater OlliOlli that now carries the torch, presenting an experience that is once again easy to learn but exceptionally difficult to master. Their BAFTA award-winning sensation graces Wii U courtesy of Curve Digital’s welcome support for the Nintendo eShop, the publisher having already delivered such wares in differentiated puzzlers Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones, The Swapper and Thomas Was Alone, but OlliOlli‘s colourfully fluorescent logo belies the unwavering challenge that awaits you almost immediately.
Tutorials are a necessity before you’re let loose, steadily taking you through pushing, grinds, pulling off successful combos, and the sensational freedom of spinning mid-air. There’s a lot to take in, but the way that the game’s Career Mode is geared means that you are gradually asked to perform the more advanced tricks listed within Roll7’s ‘Tricktionary.’ You only have one attempt to rack up your highest score, whether that sees you reach the stage’s conclusion or fall flat on your face in the process.
Challenges objectify your approach, tasking you with achieving a certain score, multiplier or incorporating certain tricks as you showboat for as many points as possible. You only need to reach the end of a stage to move on to the next, but clearing certain blue-starred challenges on an Amateur level will unlock a Pro equivalent. Raising the benchmark for success, completing all of these starred challenges on Pro will then allow you to play RAD Mode.
Beyond this, Spots tasks you with achieving your highest score from only a single combo. Whereas Daily Grind builds on Spots, selecting one every day for players around the world to compete on – with only one chance to set your highest score. This online connectivity is welcome, with leaderboards themselves letting you compare your scores with others similarly trying to prove they can surpass the tense difficulty to OlliOlli.
That everything is only controlled by using the Wii U GamePad’s Left Stick, A and R Button adds to the simplicity. Although, while by design, this can sometimes lead to frustration through the imprecision in response to your input – mainly as a result of so many tricks being confined to so few buttons. And yet OlliOlli heavily relies on twitch gameplay, testing a player’s reaction time as they make the most of whichever objects and rails cross their path. That’s partly why it has struck a chord with the gaming community, revelling in the unpredictable and somewhat frantic thrill of it all.
The GamePad is deployed with support for Off-TV Play, useful for those that would rather hone in on the controller’s screen to maintain fierce concentration. Although, when not used in such way, the Tricktionary is displayed to act as a quick lookup tool for you to peruse tricks and grinds that will hopefully help send your scores into the stratosphere.
The eclectic soundtrack to OlliOlli is matched by minimalist visuals, players whizzing by a grey cityscape, snowy military base, and neon-illuminated city districts, where you’ll grind on London buses, samurai swords and more.
But main strength with OlliOlli lies in its competitive core. Perfectly balancing the fine line between high risk vs. high reward, it repeatedly satiates Roll7’s lure for you to chase your high scores. Be aware that it’s incredibly hard to put down once you get started…