Olli Olli World takes the templates set by its predecessors and Spinal Taps them to 11 by throwing in a very daft story mode, a bucket load of cosmetics to unlock for your customisable character and adding more challenges than you can shake a stick at.
The story is some wonderfully hokey bumf about a world called Radlandia, a place where EVERYONE skateboards. The verts are bodacious, the spots are gnarly and there are no police to tell you to move on. The world is overseen by the 5 Skate Godz and as the potential new Skate Wizard you need to go on a roadtrip with the current Wizard and her crew, all set up as thoroughly unnecessary yet ace narrative devices for checkpoints on courses, the gear you receive, the challenges you acquire and the replays of your best runs.
It’s glorious nonsense. All puns and clumsy cludging of words together and it’s brilliant. It’s also entirely disposable and if you’re that curmudgeonly grump Roll7 have made it so you can skip the whole of the exposition. You just won’t be totally gnar, man.
The character creator is straightforward and has enough options to make a variety of avatars and the cosmetics are abundant ranging from fashionable to ridiculous. The whole aesthetic has a wonderful (or terrible, depending on your stance) Adventure Time meets Jon Burgerman thing going on. All bright colours, simple textures and long limbs.
The soundtrack fits rather splendidly too, with an array of lo-fi, laid back beats laid over the excellent vibe of the visuals and provides the perfect soundtrack to you stacking it onto your face. Repeatedly. Because the jovial, colourful, friendly exterior belies a game which, while easy to pick up, has a skill ceiling so high it’s stratospheric.
At its very core the gameplay is fundamentally the same as in Olli Olli 1 and 2; basic tricks and grinds are performed by pushing a direction on the left stick and letting go, advanced tricks need a more Street Fighter-like input, manuals are a face button and stick left or right.
The button tap to stick the landing is still present but they’ve done away with the huge red SLOPPY notification and the stagger animation which, in hindsight, seemed a bit heavy handed and a oddly hostile. Now you just have Good and Perfect for landing the trick on the floor, for grinds and for manuals.
The trick system has been expanded with a whole slew of new moves in the form of Special Tricks, Special Grinds, and Grabs. Grind Switches are back and there’s the final addition to the move set in the form of Late Tricks. I’ll not go into detail about these additions because this review is going to be too long anyway, but it makes the move set an astonishing size. If I’m honest, it’s intimidating. A little too intimidating.
Each area has approximately 20-ish courses, each one different and having 3 scores to beat, 3 different challenges to do plus some bits unlocked at the end of the story. You can get through the game just by going a to b on each course but you won’t complete many of the challenges without serious dedication and multiple plays to learn each course. The early levels are generous with the difficulty but when it comes to the ‘end game’ it really does ramp up immensely.
It’s telling that there are two tutorials in the final area of the game. The game drops them in periodically across the story mode, as the replayability lies in going back to the start to clean up the absolute mass of challenges and scores that will be left when you finish touring Radlandia and have met all five of the Skate Godz.
Olli Olli World is the very definition of ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’. The barrier for entry is very low, as Roll7 wanted to make it as accessible as possible to any skill level. I think in the main they’ve succeeded and should be commended for it. But the top end of this game made me feel old, man. Not because of its aesthetics or theme but because it reminds me that my reflexes are not what they were.
One problem I have in the quest to be good at this game is that the game is a step up in speed from Olli Olli 1 and 2. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s too rapid and my reactions are shot to hell or if there’s an invisible ‘sweet spot’ I’m missing to make jumps off rails and ramps to be able to land them. I think it’s a bit of column A and a bit of column B.
The game requires precision, sometimes to a fault, and I’m just a decrepit middle aged idiot that can’t seem to shake 20 years of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater muscle memory. There were many instances where I didn’t make it to the next rail or platform and a few definitely felt like I should have. It’s the same with wall rides, I never felt like I really figured out the way to consistently get out of a wall ride with enough height to make gaps. Plus the Late Tricks require holding one button plus the stick to perform, the manuals another button and the stick, the spins are on the triggers and my brain started oozing out of my nose.
Should you fancy a bit of help and want to see how the courses should be played there’s a handy dandy feature built in where all leader board scores all have a replay of the run to try help divine how they managed to get the millions. Just don’t expect it to magically stop you from being a cack handed dolt. It might help you learn the best paths to choose as there’s frequently more than one throughout each, mind.
Olli Olli World is a fabulous game. It’s charming, gorgeous, fun, satisfying and offers a vast chunk of entertainment in its high score chasing, challenges and ongoing League mode. But to truly get the most out of Olli Olli World you need to commit entirely to learning the myriad tricks and systems in play. To learn how to chain tricks from beginning to end of each course without breaking combo, and learn the courses so you know when to manual, when to grab, spin, and do a firecracker down some stairs. If you manage that, you will get a lot out of it and truly reach the state of Gnarvana.