It's true mastery that makes any activity look effortless. In real life, within moments of setting foot on an actual skateboard, I'll be two front teeth fewer.
OlliOlli 2 brings a new setting for throwing down the board and grinding some rails, on a movie set. Those familiar with OlliOlli will find something familiar yet recharged while those unfamiliar will discover a shocking realizm for such a simplistic approach to skating.
I took a good long look at this side-scrolling, score-chasing, skateboarding action game and managed to put it down long enough to write this up.
Olli once, shame on me...
There are a number of things at first that strike you about OlliOlli 2. The first will be its minimalist style; while the menus have many vibrant contrasting colors, the scenes against which you'll perform your tricks aren't busy or distracting.
During the beginning levels, where you warm up and learn some basic moves, much of the land is flat with few obstacles in the way. As you learn how to pull off tricks, you can begin to chain moves and create combos, which provide huge point rewards if you land well. But OlliOlli 2 starts you off slow, and gentle. The first lesson is an introduction to moving and performing an Ollie trick while maintaining momentum. It takes practice, but in the grand scheme of things, it's relatively simple. All of the tricks are simple in essence, they're nothing more than the moving of a stick, or pressing a button, but the timing, and pulling off certain moves is hard.
Chaining moves and creating huge combos is essentially the point of the whole game. From the start of a course, right through to the very end, it is possible to combo the entire stage in one long move, snaking your way through the course. I've tried and succeeded on almost every level, kickflipping over traps into a nose manual into a grind back into a manual to ollie over a ramp and grind... you get the point? There is a massive sense of accomplishment when you land a 175+ move combo at the end of a stage with a perfect landing, and you can keep repeating tracks to beat your score. If you end up bailing, Y will restart the level.
This isn't set in a polygonal 3D world, though. No, this is a 2D, side-scrolling world where your character's only definition is the color of their clothes.
I was very appreciative of the soundtrack having a really generous selection of electronica artists, with chiptune elements, or chilled dubstep tones; it makes a nice change to play a skating game that doesn't have a rock or punk theme. A new track is unlocked at the start of each new themed area, you start off pulling tricks on the back lot of a movie set, moving on to Western, Aztec, horror and space. Within the first hour, I already had some favorite tunes I liked to skate to, and hitting right on the right stick lets you change the song which is something I really like.
Welcome to Olliwood
OlliOlli 2 relies on near perfect button control in order to successfully pull off some of the longest combos. This isn't nearly as easy as it looks in later levels.
Where early stages don't offer much in the way of difficulty, later stages up the ante by putting obstacles in your way or breaks in the path. A level I failed on the most is one later in the Horror segment of the game - you have to grind some roller-coaster rails hanging precariously over a burning floor, timing it perfectly to jump from rail to rail while avoiding the cars still on the track and get to the other side again. The placement of one of the cars right on the edge of the track where you would jump from makes timing crucial, and I failed repeatedly and miserably. I made the jump eventually by realizing you can land on different layers of rails only to fail later down the line anyway, but the adrenaline from smashing the combos keeps you trying again and again. There are no checkpoints, which players may be accustomed to from games like Trials, so starting again means starting again from the beginning of the level.
The thing is, you can incorporate almost every direction and trigger into a combo, so it's hard not to get greedy and see if you can't fit in a 720 spin as you've just come shooting off a ramp; but you'll have loads of fun trying.
That said, there is a brilliant fluidity in controlling the game once you're used to it. Pressing down on the left stick prepares you for the trick, and rotating it in various ways will pull it off, to land and propel yourself further with A. Grinding rails with perfect timing grants a speed boost as well, so not only do you feel like the controls are fluid but you feel like a skating genius for flying through in one huge trick. Mess up the final landing just before the end of the level will see your score, and heart, plummet back to the floor.
Having grown up playing games like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, muscle memory is hard to replace, and I would often find myself hitting the button to restart the level when I meant to grind. I think this speaks volumes for how well Roll7 pulled off such smooth mechanics, that it can call back decades-old memories and reactions to games that were the pinnacle of their genre.
But wait, there's more...
That already sounds like enough to be getting on with, but with five stages at five locales and multiple things to achieve on each, this extends the playtime considerably. Crossing off all of those on each Amateur stage then unlocks the Pro stages, making a total of 50 levels in the Career mode.
Free Skate has a track for each of the movie themes, and each track is a slightly longer combination of those in the Career Mode. It also relaxes on being quite so strict on the landings, so you can skate and practice without ever landing sloppily.
Spots are stages to complete in one long trick. The highest score 'claims' that stage, player's contributions across Xbox Live are saved to compete against others. There are an additional 50 levels here alone.
A "Tricktionary" has a visual dictionary of all of the tricks, while the Skatepark will let you practice each one.
OlliOlli 2: XL Edition is a stripped back skating game, having removed the glitz, glamour and sponsorships we've come to know from more mainstream titles, and developers Roll7 have clearly focussed on the key ingredient to making a game. It's kept the core of fun, with impeccable control and a well-paced learning curve. It's never a chore to play.
- Addictive gameplay
- Brilliant soundtrack
- Fluid controls -Over 100 levels to skate
- Initial difficulty may be off putting
This review was conducted on Xbox One with a code provided by the developer