Skateboarding games have gone through an evolution. Where the early 3D skateboard games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater tasked players to complete a set of goals in a given time limit, games have progressively opened up, giving the players much more skateboarding freedom. OlliOlli is perhaps the de-evolution of the sport in video game form, but wrapped up in an addictive little package that begs to be replayed over, and over, and over again, until you manage to nail all five goals per level.
It's actually surprising that a game that presents itself as a completely minimalistic, 2D experience has way more depth than is apparent on the surface. OlliOlli might be the perfect example of easy to pick up and tough to master. This is thanks to its fantastic yet slightly complicated control scheme.
Even though OlliOlli borrows its goal oriented levels from Tony Hawk, which task you with goals like "nail a certain amount of grinds", "pick up a certain number of spray cans", or "reach a given high score", the controls have much more in common with EA's Skate series. After you get yourself up to speed with the X button, your jumps and air tricks are all done with the thumbstick. When you hold the thumbstick in a direction, your skater gets ready for a jump, then by flicking the stick to another direction, he'll perform a trick. The key to scoring the most amount of points is to chain these tricks together through jumps and grinds. The longer you can chain tricks the together, the higher the multiplier goes, and naturally, the more points you'll bank when you land. However, there's a catch.
To bank the points from a combo, you actually have to also nail the landing by pressing the X button as soon the wheels touch the ground. Fail to press the button, and that multiplier is gone, essentially putting your hard work to waste. It's this mechanic that makes OlliOlli such a challenge. Nailing that perfect timing when you land will certainly take some time to master.
The levels themselves offer some really impressive runs, once you get used to the layout of each one. That usually means a few trial and error runs until it clicks, and you realize the exact places to ollie, grind, trick, then grind again, ollie off and land and repeat until the end of the level. That's not to say that there's one perfect way to have a good run per level. Therein lies the beauty of OlliOlli's design, which proves that even if you just spent an hour perfecting a run on a single level (that usually lasts about 30 seconds mind you) there will be another player who scored a few points higher, and the game will constantly remind you of that.
Though there is no built in multiplayer (thankfully), the game does a good job at keeping you aware of how your friends and players around the world are doing in each level, nudging you ever so slightly to continue to strive to do just a bit better than them. Never have I been so glued to the leaderboards and trying to figure out various ways to increase my score by even just a few extra points to knock down a fellow PSN friend from his higher standing above me. The best part is that restarting is extremely easy and immediate. Thanks to an on-screen button on the top left, as soon as you realize you missed a good trick opportunity or failed to land a jump just right, pressing that button will take you right back at the beginning of the level.
What doesn't get a do-over is OlliOlli's Daily Grind challenge. This challenge presents players to score as much as they can on a single run. Once that score is banked, that's it for the day. This mode actually reminds me a lot of Spelunky's Daily Challenge, and works pretty much the same way too.
To round off OlliOlli's enticing package are the pixel graphics, which lend itself to its seemingly simplistic nature. I also recommend plugging in your headphones and let that smooth soundtrack soothe those ear drums. It's pretty fantastic.
What works against OlliOlli is its price. Players browsing the store and seeing the game's screenshots will easily mistake the game for an endless runner/skateboarder and won't see the justification behind its $12.99 price point. With that said, the amount of depth and challenge the game holds – and that's not even taking into account the Pro stages and the RAD difficulty level – the game has more than enough content to warrant a purchase.
For those who dare to enter the wonderfully difficult world of OlliOlli, just remember to resist the urges to throw your Vita. It will probably break.