OlliOlli was released on January 21, 2014 for the PlayStation Vita. It was developed and published by Roll7, and later released for the rest of the PlayStation family of consoles, Steam, and will be released on Xbox One, Wii U, and 3DS next year. I gravitated towards the game because of its design and because its gameplay revolved around skateboarding. When I first started playing it, OlliOlli felt like the great skateboarding game that we never got for NES.
Growing up in those days, we had Skate or Die!, Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, and T&C Surf Design. All of which were very mediocre and easily just cashing in on the fad at the time. As we entered the second half of the 1990s and the sport increased in popularity again, we got the famous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, which is arguably the first great skateboarding game. OlliOlli is that lost NES cartridge, so long as you look past the fact that it isn’t true 8-bit.
The quick description of OlliOlli is that it’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s addictive. But you should know by now that I never do anything quickly…
OlliOlli is the perfect blend of what I look for in a game. Primarily, the game is designed in a way that teaches you how to play it. When you aren’t landing a jump, when you bail halfway through a grind, when you clip the board on the lip of some object- it’s your fault. OlliOlli is built with a very simple to understand control scheme, but one that takes some practice to really shine at the game. When I first started playing, I could not get the balance of the controls. I think my brain may have defaulted to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, which uses a series of directional inputs in combination with buttons in order to perform tricks. OlliOlli opts for a single joystick to perform every trick in the game, including a simple ollie. A few complex tricks can be done by adding in a combination of either the “L” or “R” button with a direction, but largely the work comes from the left stick alone. The other difficult part to grasp at first was the landing system in the game. In order to land a trick from the air to the ground, you must press “X”. The closer you are to the ground without touching when you press the button, the higher the points you will earn. A similar system is used for grinding, requiring you to be as close to the rail or other object as possible before triggering the grind.
It took me a solid night or so to really understand the way that the game wanted me to play, but once I did I began to feel like a king. Because the level design in each stage is so perfectly crafted, learning the controls really well allows you to pull off really impressive combos and reach high scores that you once thought impossible. I found myself playing the game every moment that I could, constantly trying to improve my score and of course doing my best to knock out each of the challenges and pro challenges within the stages. Not only are there 25 levels with obstacles to skate around, there are 5 challenges in each level that range from reaching a certain score to grinding a certain number of objects in succession to never grinding at all. Completing a stage will unlock the next, but completing all of the challenges will unlock even more difficult ones to attempt.
OlliOlli is also one of those games where failure is nothing more than motivation. With the convenience of the restart button, not reaching the end of a stage or completing a goal only means a fraction of a second before you can start again. Earlier this year, close to the release of the game, I was driving my mom back and forth from doctor’s offices and I spent most of my time in the waiting rooms just playing OlliOlli on my Vita. I remember tuning out the sounds of the elderly who surrounded me with the outstanding soundtrack in the game and just losing myself in the endless loop of restarts brought on from challenge. When I started to partake in the Daily Grind challenges, it opened up an entirely new way to play the game.
The Daily Grind was my one shot each day to look impressive, and while I never really tend to chase high scores in games, the Daily Grind was a chance to exceed my own personal bests and climb to the top of the leaderboards. It became quite depressing when I would check the high scores on certain levels and on the Daily Grind only to discover that Justin Massongill of the PlayStation.Blog was at the very top each day. It became a new, one-sided battle that he was never aware of for me to dethrone him. There were a few times where I was able to reach the number one spot on the board, but to be honest I never checked back by the end of the day to see if anyone had topped me.
OlliOlli is a game that I have continued to return to when I need an arcade-styled fix and when I need a little bit of fun (and frustration) in my life. Revisiting it again for Game of the Year purposes has been a lot of fun, and it gets me even more excited for its upcoming sequel and everything else that Roll7 has coming up.