In OlliOlli, the side scrolling sporting platform game on PlayStation Vita from Roll7, you play as a skateboarder jumping and grinding for points and prestige. Stylistically, it’s less Tony Hawk and more California Games, if you remember the BMX section; that’s definitely not a bad thing. So you press X to jump on your board and push, then you hold down the left stick to prepare for a jump when you release it before hitting X again to land. Whilst seemingly simple on the face of it, when you scratch the surface during the tutorial you soon begin to realise how much depth there is to the control system in the game. You can perform more tricks by moving the left stick in other directions, swirling it, or combining these actions with shoulder button presses; add grinds into the mix and you have a ‘Tricktionary’ containing some 120 moves that can be performed. By stringing these jumps and grinds together you score points and build up a combo multiplier, but it’s even as easy as that… timing is critical in OlliOlli; hold you nerve and grind or land at the last possible moment and you’ll be rewarded with higher scores and a sick rating!
The game features five stages, each containing five amateur and five pro levels. The amateur levels are unlocked sequentially as you play through the previous ones and the respective pro level will unlock for completing all five challenges in each amateur level. These challenges include beating a certain score, collecting items and performing certain tricks amongst other things, which really encourages you to get to grips with the controls. In addition there is Rad mode to be unlocked by completing all 125 pro challenges, which is no mean feat. This mode punishes players who don’t perform perfectly and was originally intended to be way the whole game played. Thankfully Roll7 had a good rethink about how this might impact the accessibility of the game, for which my thumbs and I are eternally grateful.
When you complete a level you open it up as a spot, where you must attempt to perform the best single combo that you can by stringing together tricks and grinds for as long as possible, before finally landing to lock in the score. It’s an interesting and competitive take on the game which I can see being great fun, going head to head in the leaderboards with friends; this asynchronous action works really well on the Vita and has worked before meaning I got to play a lot more Motorstorm RC than I would have otherwise. Expanding on this is the Daily Grind competition, where you can practice as much as you want but only have one go at posting a score; if you faceplant that first grind on your scoring attempt, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.
Overall the game is stylish with a simple, vibrant and colourful 8-bit look that is suitably supported by a strong control system and an excellent ambient house soundtrack. The price doesn’t feel right for the type of game, and the social aspects don’t fully justify it either. It’s not an easy game by any means but if you invest some time getting used to the controls and studying the Tricktionary, it’ll pay dividends when you trash the points posted by your friends on the myriad of scoreboards. Fun, if you like that sort of thing.
Review copy of OlliOlli for PlayStation Vita was provided by Roll7 and is released in the US on the 21st January ($12.99), and the EU on the 22nd January (price £7.99).