There was once a time when skateboarding games were THE biggest deal when it came to the gaming world, a new Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater title signalling another critical and commercial hit. Unfortunately, this success wouldn’t last forever, with the genre soon losing momentum over the years and a number of gimmicky and ill-designed attempts to reinvigorate the formula bailing hard (we don’t talk about Shred and Pro Skater 5). That isn’t to say the genre is entirely dead. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 proved a return to form for the series verifying there was still plenty of fun to be had from ollying the magic bum and searching for secret tapes. The OlliOlli series meanwhile took the action to 2D delivering a take on the extreme sport that felt simpler but no less fun. Now, developer Roll7 has returned once more with their third effort in the series and easily their best entry yet.
The skateboarding in OlliOlli World takes place in 2D as your rider constantly barrels forwards toward the finish line. That means no stopping and no turning around. Along the way you’ll pass rails to grind, ramps to trick off of and plenty more fun things to use in order to grow your score (and generally look cool). Performing flip tricks is an easy flick of the control stick with Street Fighter-esque quarter-circle movements leading to more complex moves while spinning your skater is handled via the shoulder buttons. Grinding meanwhile requires the stick tilted in a direction as you approach rails and walls with better timing awarding more points. OlliOlli World is an interesting concoction that features the usual bells and whistles of a skateboarder (tricks, bails, ramps and the like) but keeps one of its feet in the platformer genre too with levels essentially a series of well-timed ollies and grinds to avoid plunging into a river or slamming into a rock. Just like a platformer, the game has a real snappy pace to it making it an ideal match for the Switch.
While making it to the finish line in one piece will allow you to press on, each level will also dangle a number of cosmetic carrots your way through completing challenges. These will not only task you with besting high scores but performing level-specific feats such as nailing certain tricks at certain points in the level or even something more outlandish like bouncing off a giant bumblebee.
This flexibility in progression allowed to the player is what keeps OlliOlli World flowing along at a decent clip. If you’re happy simply skating through a level once just to see it through, the finish line your only concern then you can. Those after some added challenge will find plenty to sink their teeth into as they stick around trying to topple high scores or land that specific trick you need. Better still, that extra time spent perfecting a run feels worthwhile as you’re thrown new boards or clothing for your hard work.
While the action itself remains largely similar to past entries in the series, OlliOlli World’s biggest change comes in its presentation. Aside from the obvious visual differences (more on that later), the game does its best to work in a narrative complete with a cast of characters and even a world map. Before all that though, you’ll first need to create your skater, which is a nice addition and one that adds a touch more personality to your protagonist since you’re the one who has decked them out. Then it’s off to the land of Radlandia, a weird and wonderful skate-topia reigned by five skate gods. Joined by a small crew of friends you’ll make your way across five unique areas meeting a fun assortment of characters and kickflipping your way through forests, deserts, beaches and more. Levels are often bookended by a little chatter between your crew but this can be skipped if you simply want to get straight into the action.
The game’s main story is no slouch when it comes to content but the smartly executed competitive options add even more replayability to the mix. Taking a more asynchronous approach, every level from the story mode offers leaderboards to compete in against friends and others while Gnarvana League places you in a small group of ten and has you compete for the highest score on a random level. Perform well enough and you’ll move up to the next rank with further rewards being thrown your way. Again another great way to spend five or so minutes when taking a break from the story mode.
OlliOlli World simply oozes cool through its vibrant and at times psychedelic look, not to mention a soundtrack filled with chilled electronic beats. Worlds entice with a nourishing pastel colour palette and backgrounds are filled with plenty of minor detail while characters are goofy but packed with plenty of charm. As much as I enjoyed the simplicity of the pixelated visuals of OlliOlli and the flat, sleek look of its sequel, levels now actually feel lived in and thus far more exciting to skate through.
After playing the first two OlliOlli games, I walked away feeling satisfied but not exactly clamouring for another one. OlliOlli World surprises me then, as not only was my time spent enjoyable but easily the most fun I’ve had with the series yet. The skating itself remains just as challenging and fun as ever while the injection of a story, characters and more only serve to enrich the experience and world of OlliOlli further. This is one skateboarding game you’ll definitely want to grab your board and start shredding for.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Private Division