Grind, Kickflip, Ollie, Other Skateboard Type Words
Remember the old-school skating games back in the day? (God, I’m old). The genre was dominated yearly by the Tony Hawk franchise, which offered players an authentic skateboarding experience, with expansive trick lists and great locations. The later entries in the franchise may have lost their way, but no game since has come closer to offering an authentic skateboarding experience. Until now. The developers at Roll7 have made clear their desire to revive the authentic, hard-as-nails skateboarding game, with their PS Vita debut, OlliOlli.
At first glance, OlliOlli is as basic a proposition as they come. The player guides a small pixely skateboarder from one side of the 2D plane, to the other. On his ride across the screen, our little skateboarder can grind, flip, and ollie his way to a high score. You aren’t limited to just a few moves though, scratching beneath the surface of the game reveals a plethora of tricks and grinds, all held within the aptly named “tricktionary”.
Pulling off a trick requires a quick flick or rotation of the left analogue stick – gamers familiar with Ken or Ryu from Street Fighter will feel right at home here. Different degrees of rotation can be added by holding either the left or right trigger. OlliOlli’s real difficulty stems from landing the tricks you pull off. Before your skateboard touches the ground you must quickly tap the “X” button. Depending on how close you are to the ground when you press it, you will be awarded a grade for that trick. Ratings go all the way from “sloppy” to “perfect”. A perfect trick or grind will award maximum points, a sloppy landing on the other hand will award very few.
As well as a comprehensive list of tricks, OlliOlli features a huge number of levels. Each level includes five different challenges, from pulling the perfect kickflip, collecting all the spray paint cans, or maxing your combo. There are lots of fun objectives to complete. We found ourselves replaying our favourite challenges repeatedly to break our high score record.
Every stage features a much more difficult “pro” variant, which throws even more treacherously placed obstacles at you. Also included are a number of “spots”, where players must max their score within a single combo. And then there is the Daily Grind, a new stretch of land generated daily for everyone to trick their way across, in hopes of reaching the top of he leaderboards. Should you become skilled enough to master all 100 different challenges, you will have proven yourself worthy of RAD mode – the most difficult challenge in the game.
Visually, OlliOlli is basic; we are reminded of the retro-styled graphics of Canabalt but with a much fresher coat of paint. The Vita’s capable GPU will be in no way taxed by the game, but its colourful presentation and crisp sprites are pleasing to look at. We must also give mention to the slick, easy to navigate menu screens. Although these can only be navigated using the touchscreen, they are a joy to use, and are very nicely designed.
OlliOlli’s audio is largely forgettable, with a slim mix of tunes playing a variety of genres in the background. We found ourselves tuning it out, in favour of the satisfying friction of our board grinding against the scenery.
Whilst we have had a lot of fun with OlliOlli, we also have a few issues with it. Over the course of playing the game, it has crashed on us more than a handful of times. This was especially frustrating when it crashed just after completing a large combo. The issue has been affecting other players too.
One feature we would have liked to have seen in the game, is a chance to practice and perfect each individual trick. Perhaps, in some kind of practice mode. Arguably, this could also be achieved during normal play, but a dedicated practice feature, or training school would have been a welcome inclusion.
OlliOlli is a fantastic skateboarding game. It may be punishingly difficult for the first few hours of play, but soon enough you will find yourself flipping and grinding over its huge number of levels.The completionists among you will also have lots to do, with literally hundreds of challenges to complete and 12 trophies to unlock. Less-skilled players will also have a blast as most levels can simply be grinded through, to get to the next stage. Despite our grievances with the game, we can’t help but recommend it. OlliOlli is truly the best kind of grind.