Skateboarding games on Vita are about as plentiful as water in the Sahara. Even if there were a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and EA’s Skate on Vita, OlliOlli would still stand all alone as an original take on the genre. In fact, pinholing it to one genre is actually harder than it may seem when simply looking at the game from a distance or watching someone else play. It combines the most cliche elements from several games so well that it will have you uninstalling your other games because you’ve finally realized that OlliOlli is all you’ll ever need on your Vita.
I don’t mean to confuse you into thinking that OlliOlli is the reason why people would flock to buy a Vita, though that could be a possibility if Sony were to defy all odds and pre-install it in a Vita bundle at retail. OlliOlli certainly has what’s needed to shift mass appeal to indie games and make people looking over your shoulder stop you to ask, “what game is that?” Being demo material on a handheld is just about the ultimate goal of any game in this economy.
When thinking of how exactly to describe OlliOlli I find myself mentioning what it isn’t first. It isn’t an infinite runner because every level has a finish line with a cheering crowd. It’s not Skate although it use the same trick stick approach by way of flicking the left analog stick to do tricks and grinds. It’s not Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater because those similarities end at the first push. What is it to me? It’s a combination of things. OlliOlli is like the lovechild of Hotline Miami and Skate. It is a brilliant single-life, trial-and-error, skill driven, analog stick trick, pixel art game right where it belongs — exclusively on Vita.
Pro Tip: If the you find the advanced tricks too difficult to execute using the left analog stick, try the d-pad instead.
It is not an ad-hoc or online multiplayer game. You will be skateboarding by yourself for hours at a time each and every day of every week, because of the genius that is the “Daily Grind.” When connected to a network, it is the most punishing and rewarding way to prove your OlliOlli skills not just to yourself, but to the whole world. The Daily Grind allows an infinite number of practice runs, but make no mistakes during the final run or all that practice was merely for nothing.
The layout of a Daily Grind level is different every 24 hours and is usually one of the harder layouts in the game. I often found myself missing that illustrious #1 spot in the Daily Grind, and quickly remembered that there are worldwide online leaderboards for the rest of the over 100 career levels and spots. One big let down is that OlliOlli does not allow more than the top contender and your own ranking to be displayed. There is no way to see a full leaderboard or compare scores with friends. This is the number one failure of OlliOlli and one I hope Roll7 will see fit to address in an update.
Getting into the menus and hefty Career mode is where the real affinity for skateboarding comes through. From the backgrounds to the menu color palette, everything is meticulously design with excellent visibility and absolutely no need for adjustment while navigating. The entire front end is touch screen operated, so tap to select or swipe right or left to change between the five different themed worlds. Although, at times going in and out of levels to view your highest score or which objectives are incomplete can suffer from unresponsiveness. I can only assume it has something to do with each level attempting to load the #1 world wide high score each time.
Yes there are five worlds in OlliOlli, but everyone will start in the Amateur class Urban 1 with its courses made primarily of concrete and rails. Junkyard is where you’ll start to see obstacles that must be avoided and backgrounds you wouldn’t want to hang around too long in. Port becomes this relaxing place to skate, right by the beach with umbrellas and vendor booths to gap. Port 5 was the first level I broke 1 million points after one continuous grind combo. Base is where the game challenges you to perform perfect landings with grinding being almost secondary. And finally, Neon City with its neon lights and spike pits that the skater just bounces off of is hilarious.
In each Amateur level, there are five objectives to complete, five stars to earn. This is what made Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series so famous. There is the high score, combo score, and three level specific objectives. While you won’t be collecting the letters in the word “SKATE”, you will however be collecting cat heads, wrenches, fish, and other zany themed objects particular to each world. What made these rather interesting is that some collectibles are fairly well hidden. You may favor attempting to grind throughout an entire level but to pick up the cat heads, you’ll need to learn their location and bypass the grind rail with a perfect landing. One thing I really liked about the objectives is that several of them can be completed without finishing the level. Collecting all the spray cans and then bailing still completes that objective.
Thank goodness for that because failing is something everyone will be doing a whole lot of. And that is where I realized the second thing OlliOlli is lacking, a statistics screen. I would really love to see how long I’ve been playing the game, the total distance I’ve grinded, how many perfect landings I’ve accomplished, my highest scoring combo, or any other sort of stats. The more I love a game, the more I realize what it’s missing that would make it perfect. Fortunately, I quickly snap back to the reality that there is a ton to do in OlliOlli and I need to get back to it.
Reaching the end of a level unlocks the next level while completing all the objectives in an Amateur level unlocks the Pro version of that level. I found a more challenging set of objectives here, but nothing that couldn’t be completed with a certain level of trial and error. And there has been a mountain of trial and error throughout my time with this game. If all the Pro levels are completed, RAD mode should unlock. This mode is meant for the highly skilled OlliOlli experts and is needed to acquire all of the trophies.
Spots are another alternate distraction from the career mode. Just like the career mode levels, there are Amateur Spots and eventually Pro level Spots when all the amateur objectives are completed. Unlocking Spots is done simply by finishing the Career mode level before it. All this level unlocking is done very systematically and keeps the pace of the game moving forward much like the actual gameplay itself. It may take some quality time to before I finish up all the Pro Career levels and Pro Spots.
Pro Tip: Avoid performing lengthy board flip animations and extra spins close to rails and landings to assure the possibility for a perfect landing or grind.
On my rad quest, I’ve counted myself bailing and restarting upwards of 50 times on one level in search of an earth shattering high score only to be grounded by my personal inability to time stick flicks and X button presses. Frequent bails can be punishing at times, but I never once felt like I should throw in the towel. You see, that left analog stick is used to perform ollie’s and board flips by pressing or rotating and releasing. On the landing, the left stick is used to nail a grind rail as well as kick flip off of it. Pressing the stick at the last possible moment before the rail awards a Perfect Grind. This increases the skater’s speed. The X button must be well timed to perform a perfect landing.
OlliOlli is not about the character or customizing his board. It’s not about flashy graphics or fancy replays. It’s about pulling off tricks, timing the landing, and keeping a combo going for the most points possible. It has an amazingly good soundtrack and intense levels of replayability. I can’t wait to see what Roll7 will do next, but I also hope they address some of the things missing in their first console title.
In the end, OlliOlli may be one instrument shy of a full orchestra, one card short of a full deck, but it’s still one beast of an indie skateboarding game. I never imagined playing such an amazing skateboarding game with such old school graphics but it works. Part of me kinda wishes there was a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or EA’s Skate being released on Vita at the same time so the industry could see how this lightweight would do toe-to-toe with a heavyweight. Pixel for pixel, OlliOlli is a must buy, must play, and must show demo worthy addition to any Vita.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Amazing drum & bass soundtrack
- Excellent user interface with a nice retro appeal
- Beautifully contrasting pixel art color palette
- Spot on skateboarding mechanics
- Challenging one-life combo runs with Tony Hawk-styled objectives lists
- Tons of replayability: Amateur, Pro, RAD, Spots, Daily Grind
What I Dislike:
- No multiplayer modes of any kind
- No overall leaderboards to view more than just the #1
- No way to compete with or challenge PSN friends
- It's just your best vs. the #1 high score in the world, gets old fast
- No statistics screen