There are few games that you can both love and hate at the same time. Games such as Super Meat Boy and Trials do just that, add to that list OlliOlli a skateboarding game that is so much more.
The to aforementioned games are ones that will test your patience and reaction skills to the limit. Forcing you to be at your limits the entire time you play. With Super Meat Boy it is about pixel perfect reactions, whereas Trials is all about taking perfect lines and judging your positioning to perfection. OlliOlli is somewhat of a mix of the two.
You basic goal is to get the best possible score at the end of each run, performing various well known tricks from the skateboarding world. Added to that are various goals that can be completed, such as collecting items, performing certain tricks, getting set score combos, no grinding an entire level, not hitting the ground in an entire level, not grinding at all while hitting a set score, plus much, much more besides.
Unlike other games the controls aren’t natural and easy to grasp from the start, instead it requires you to relearn everything you know about skateboarding games. Tricks are performed entirely on the left stick, but there isn’t a jump button as such, you ollie by initiating a trick on the left stick. You do use the x button however and that is for landing, hit it just right and you’ll get a bonus perfect score. Mis-time the landing and you can ruin an entire run, or at the very least blow a combo.
It can be very daunting to start with, it doesn’t feel right to hit a button to plan a landing, nor does it feel right to perform an entire trick list on the left stick alone. However this is a game about challenging your credentials as a gamer, to adapt and master something new and OlliOllu does this to absolute perfection.
Early levels are simple enough and whilst not easing you into the game, they do give you time to get used to the control system, even if you won’t master it until mush later on in the game. The first time you nail a proper combo feels uplifting, as you hit a flip trick followed by a grind and a perfect landing, you think you have the game in hand.
However, it isn’t as simple as that, as the further you progress, the more complex the levels become, the line between getting a solid score and failing becomes ever smaller. What you think you know already, you find you don’t know at all. All of a sudden levels require pixel perfect timing, making sure you start a trick at the perfect moment, to land that grind, before landing on a flat surface, That flat suface gives you but a fraction of a second to then perform the next trick. Don’t get that timing perfect and you will faceplant…and trust us, you will faceplant a lot. A Lot!
Play this in public and you will look like a crazy person, you may well find the men in white coats escorting you away. Why? Because the average person will find it more than a little odd, that you are screaming and swearing at a small bit of black plastic. They will find it even stranger when you start laughing uncontrollably like a maniac when something does go your way. But that is the effect the game will have, much like Trials and Super Meat Boy. Those games though could only be played in the relative privacy of your own home. On the Vita, you do risk being outside in public, on a bus, in a fast food establishment or in the loo at work… yeah, that might cause a bit of grief if the boss hears those noises coming from the restroom.
It does that rewarding frustration right, you know that when things go wrong, it may well be your fault and you know you can get it right next time, or the time after that, well maybe the time after that? Luckily, it has the instant restart ability, where you aren’t waiting for a loading screen, you fail, you start, you fail, you start, you fail…well you get the idea.
Each level has a set of standard goals and also pro goals. For those who can get through all of those will get hit with a set of Rad goals, which will test you abilities even further, pushing your skills all the way to the limit and beyond. If you don’t hit perfect grinds and landing, you fail. You literally need to be perfect all the way through and that is far from easy. We promise you that after a decent session, your hands will hurt, you know this, but still you will go back for more.
Aside from the main levels, you can also take on Spots. Where you must take on much smaller levels and grind to get the best possible score. Hit the ground and it is over. You can however go back again and again, taking your new found skills to try and get a better score. These are but a mere distraction, a fun distraction though.
What is brilliant though and something that appears to be coming more of a thing in gaming, is the daily challenge, or Daily Grind as it is known here. Each day a new level is produced and everyone in the world gets access to this same level for 24 hours. The idea is to go and get the best possible score and be at the top of the leaderboards.
What can often be the issue with leaderboards on score attack games, it that someone somewhere will find an exploit that means they will pretty much top it all the time. What OlliOlli does is pretty clever though, you can practice a level as many times as you want, learn the best line, find a way to get the best possible score. However, you get but one chance to post a score to the leaderboards. That’s it, one chance. Make a mistake after a few seconds, that’s it, game over, you have posted your score and that is it, no do overs. It’s brilliant, as it levels the playing field, you could get lucky and post a huge score one day, but the next time out mistime a landing and blow that days effort. Whilst initially sounding a bit frustrating, it works really well and if anything makes you more determined to go back day after day to do better.
By having simple graphics on a 2D plane means you can see clearly what you should be doing, you aren’t distracted by a camera needing to be in the right place at the right time, there is no chance of a run being ruined as you struggle to see where you are landing, or where you should be doing next. They aren’t bad graphics by any stretch of the imagination, the visuals are stunning as is the music, seemingly hitting your subconscious and aiding your focus.
The only issue with the game, and it is a minor gripe, is that the leaderboards aren’t all that intuitive. They do show you who is at number one, they also tell you where you sit in the world rankings, but there is no way to see how you compare to your friends. It really is missing that ability. Being able to get proper bragging rights would have just been the cherry on the icing on the cake.
You will be frustrated, you will swear more than you have at any point in your life before, but you will have one amazing sense of accomplishment when you complete goals and levels. OlliOlli is one amazing game, it is an instant classic. If you own a Vita, you need to pick this up right away.