OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood Review: Tiny Hawk
Ben Sheene / Mar 4th, 2015 No Comments
OlliOlli was one of those gaming gems where all of the elements came together in such a unique, entertaining way. It was a skateboarding game that looked like yet another 8-bit indie title players on the PS Vita had come to expect. But despite not knowing what a salad grind or a laserflip was, Roll7 captivated me with enough addictive gameplay that made OlliOlli one of my favorite games on Sony’s handheld.
So how does a studio improve on the sequel of such a mechanically sound initial outing? Well, here we are with OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood. A game that, releasing slightly a year over its predecessor, ups the ante in virtually every way. And boy, does it stick the landing.
At its simplest explanation, OlliOlli is a 2D sidescrolling skateboarding game where players attempt to pull off tricks and grinds to string together ridiculous combos and rack up insane scores. OlliOlli 2 does little to deviate itself from the core foundations laid out in the original. It’s a formula that didn’t need to be changed: flick or rotate the left control stick in a certain direction to pull off a trick. Hitting the X button at the last possible moment before a landing translates to a perfect landing and maximum points. You don’t want a sloppy landing because that beautiful 360 backspin worth thousands of points will instead turn into a measly six or even zero points.
Players must also grind on various surfaces like railings, park benches, robot heads, and Aztec statues. The same rules of timing apply with grinds but instead of pressing a button to initiate a grind, a flick of the left stick in a certain direction is used. Going from a trick to a grind extends the duration of a combo and increases the overall score of the combination of moves. Additionally, using the left and right triggers or buttons can either rotate the skater during a trick or be used in conjunction with the left stick to start a complex trick or grind.
Okay, it may sound a bit complicated but it’s not. Those familiar with the first OlliOlli will be right at home when booting up Welcome to Olliwood. But the mechanics Roll7 use for executing the long list of tricks is painfully simple in nature. Players are given a step by step introduction on how to experiment with the game’s features through the skatepark, a basic training stage to help them acclimate to the controls. There’s also a distinct learning curve present in the flow of levels. A minimum amount of obstacles and difficult jumps are given to the player to ramp up the challenge in a natural way.
As mentioned, OlliOlli 2 is deceptively simple. A few flicks of the control stick can pull of a very basic set of moves but this isn’t the way to reach the top of leaderboards or even experience the depth the game has to offer. Players might be hesitant to jump into a “skateboarding” game but at its heart, OlliOlli 2 is a frantic, arcade-like score attack game. Not only does practice make perfect but so does patience.
OlliOlli 2 rewards players for keeping combos diverse and using as many tricks as possible rather than relying on an easy few. Though some of the more elaborate moves require more air time to complete, most tricks can be finished in a perfect landing with precise timing. But performing and landing those tricks in a perfect manner is not an easy task. Even before the start screen appears Roll7 warns you that this is a fast game and it isn’t a lie. I can’t even count how many times I had a sloppy landing because I forgot to press X thinking I was going for a grind.
The game requires rapid reflexes and it’s common for your brain to just get its signals crossed. For all its raw, genius accessibility, the controls can begin to feel limited as players become more confident and advanced. When the control stick is stationary, it’s easy enough to rotate it in an elaborate enough way to perform some of the game’s hardest tricks. Moving from a grind or a manual is a different story. If a player lets go of the stick during one of these moves they will jump again and likely throw off their timing. Requiring rapid movement means there is little time to think and little room for error. Tricks are meant to built off the current position of the control stick and wrapping your head around that can feel like a chore, especially when you want to constantly introduce variety.
When players aren’t pushing their control sticks to the limit, they are pushing their response times to a breaking point. Being overwhelmed in OlliOlli 2, especially when trying to get an even higher score, is a frequent problem. But rather than being a slight on the game, it’s something worthy of praise. More often than not, a cooler head prevails and trying to tackle harder levels might wear the player down but earlier levels provide just as many opportunities for grinding out million-point scores.
The Grind is Real
Manuals are perhaps the most important element introduced into OlliOlli 2. One of the biggest complaints with the original was that there were few opportunities to perform level-long combos. Unless a level was packed with surfaces to grind on, a player’s combo would eventually have to end. Now, moving left or right on the control stick while pressing X during a landing will perform a manual. Doing so maintains the combo and players can potentially end the level in one massive combo.
Coupled with reverts, revert manuals, and grind switches, the player’s repertoire feels expansive and fun while remaining cohesive to a pure skateboarding experience. Roll7 gives players enough tools to feel like a 2D skating badass. While these extra moves would be enough to justify a second game, there are some nice touches which further amplify overall enjoyment. Players now have the ability to see what tricks and grinds they have landed in the game’s comprehensive “tricktionary” rather than left to guess. The bottom of the score also shows a more detailed combo meter giving players an idea of what their score will be if they get a perfect landing.
While the additional feedback is appreciated, there are a few small gripes that limit its full potential. Because high scores and leaderboards are such a crucial part to OlliOlli 2’s design, it’s a surprise there isn’t a way to watch your own ghost or the performance of the top players on the leaderboard. As more and more people play the game, it makes sense to watch how top performers rack up those millions of points. Since the bite-sized challenges of spots and daily spots return, why not let other players practice by learning from the best?
Lights, Camera, Action
Welcome to Olliwood represents a developer fully confident in its core concepts and improving on them. The pixel art from the first was a great touch but the cleaner visuals of the sequel show finesse. As much as I would still enjoy at least one or two other skaters to choose from, the new art style makes the various tricks shine even brighter. The difference in a heelflip and a bigspin are even more obvious now and to nail that kind of detail on such a tiny character is impressive.
Challenges are scattered throughout levels and show off how Roll7 expanded OlliOlli’s gameplay past one set track. Not only do later levels and their pro counterparts test every skill players have, it begs for more practice and experimentation with score grinding. OlliOlli 2 asks you to get better rather than forcing you to. It makes me wonder what kind of hellish tracks players could create if there was a level editor.
Unlike many Hollywood sequels that build off a promising first entry, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood feels new enough while taking care to maintain the spirit of the original. This isn’t a sequel with just a fresh coat of paint, it’s the essential step in making a great formula unforgettable. There are plenty of new worlds and concepts Roll7 could deliver to players but aside from a ghost feature and possibly a way to let players make their own tracks, little is missing here. Anyone looking for a challenge or a game that gets better as your own skills improve won’t be let down by OlliOlli 2.
tags: OlliOlli , OlliOlli 2 , OlliOlli 2 Review , OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood , ps4 , Roll7