Skate And Destroy…Your Controller
OlliOlli made some big waves in the indie gaming scene when it first hardflipped onto the PlayStation Vita in January of 2014. Developed by London-based indie studio Roll7 (responsible for last year’s pixel-punishing bloodbath, Not A Hero), it delivered a potent mix of disarmingly simplistic visuals combined with devilishly challenging arcade-style gameplay to test the mettle of even the most seasoned players. OlliOlli demanded nothing short of perfect timing and machine-like reflexes to overcome its many trials, but despite the game’s board-busting difficulty, the retro-inspired take on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series’ combo-heavy formula ultimately to be a resounding success for the fledgling studio.
Flash forward to 2016. Roll7’s unlikely hit has gone on to shred asphalt and ride rails on a number of platforms, even earning the the studio a prestigious BAFTA award. Now, publisher Badland Games has brought OlliOlli, along with its sequel OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood to retail in one radical PlayStation 4 exclusive package with OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition. In addition to the aforementioned pair of over-the-top street skating extravaganzas, this collection also comes packed with a handful of videos detailing the development process of both titles and the studio’s successes, along with a deluxe full color booklet filled with art and other interesting tidbits about the games.
Don’t let the game’s seemingly rudimentary visuals fool you: behind OlliOlli’s simplistic aesthetic lies a game that demands patience and precision. Players control a nameless sprite-based street skater as they progress through a serious of increasingly over-the-top courses. In order to complete each stage you’ll have to meet a certain number of criteria such as match a pre-determined score, collect random items scattered throughout a course, and perform certain trick combinations. This sounds simple enough, but you’ll quickly learn there’s a whole lot more to OlliOlli than mere button mashing. Pulling off tricks requires finesse and flawless timing, as you’ll need to time your button presses perfectly to both execute and land tricks, and one failed tap at the end of a lengthy combo chain can turn a would-be perfect session into a complete failure.
This uncompromising challenge initially comes across as a bit of a kick in the teeth, and you’ll more than likely make steady use of the handy “retry” button until you come to grips with the game’s fundamentals. However, eventually things will click and you’ll find your rhythm, and the feeling of exhilaration that washes over you after pulling off a perfect 50+ trick combo across a rail-laden wonderland is nothing short of incredible. Landing a nollie bigspin to boardslide after clearing a sprawling gap provides a feeling of zen that few games in recent memory can rival, and you’ll find yourself retrying stages countless times even after completing them just to experience that perfect run.
The original OlliOlli is a bit more restrained than its off-the-rails sequel, pitting players with four unique locations including an urban street course, a perilous junkyard, a port and even a military base. Each of these stages consists of five starting courses brim with curbs to grind, rails to ride, and numerous hazards to trip up hapless boarders. Completing each of these stages’ various objectives also unlocks an additional quintet of pro courses for each area to further test the resolve of both you and your poor DualShock 4’s analog sticks. Despite it being a few years since OlliOlli first rolled out the game is still just as fun today as when it first released, and players looking for an immensely challenging and fast-paced experience that’s perfect for score attacks will certainly find what they’re looking for here.
At face value, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood may look like a case of more of the same, but it manages to meaningfully expand on the combo-focused philosophy of the original game by giving players access to a few new tools to rack up those precious points. The most major addition to the sequel’s pacific pilgrimage is the the manual, which allows players to keep combos going indefinitely throughout a level by riding on two wheels. Performed with a simple button press and a flick of the stick, manual combos demand even more precision from players but are vital tools for sending your score multiplier into the stratosphere. Grind switches work to spice up OlliOlli’s street skating formula, presenting players with another new way to score some extra points. These are performed by landing a Perfect Grind and rotating the left stick, which will execute a second type of grind. Another notable shakeup to the existing formula is the inclusion of branching paths. These alternate routes greatly expand each stage’s replayability while giving players a further tour of each locale, which now include such fittingly movie-inspired hazards such as searing pits of scorching flames, belching lava pits, and vats of toxic waste. Simply put, OlliOlli 2 does everything a good sequel should by further refining the things that made the original release a success while bringing a variety of rich new features to the table to keep series veterans entertained.
When it comes to content, you’ll be hard pressed to find another package that justifies its $29.99 price tag more than OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition. Both games crammed into this burgeoning bundle are sure to deliver hours of entertainment to armchair extreme athletes looking to test their mettle. In terms of bells and whistles, the included digital soundtrack is a great bonus. The eclectic mix of hard-hitting electronic anthems and down-tempo grooves that accompany both releases are simply fantastic, and will permeate your brain long after you’ve powered your console down. As for the rest, the two behind-the-scenes development videos and BAFTA footage and the accompanying booklet filled with info and art are nice bonuses celebrating the studio’s success with the series, despite being a bit self congratulatory.
Still, with a combo of games this incredibly satisfying under their belt, it’s not hard to see why Roll7 feels the need to give themselves a well deserved pat on the back. If you’re looking for a pair of games that will test your thumbs’ dexterity as well as your patience to reward you with pure gaming zen, look no further than this curb-crushing compilation.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Badland Games ; Developer: Roll7 ; Players: 1-4 ; Released: August 09, 2016; Genre: Arcade/Sports ; MSRP: $29.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on retail copy of the game supplied by the publisher, Badland Games