Tuesday, January 18, 2022
If there's one thing that the original OlliOlli and its sequel, Welcome to Olliwood, excelled at, it was making you want to keep playing without ever wanting to stop. From the very get-go it's abundantly clear that OlliOlli World is poised to repeat the trick, its stick-twiddling ollies and kickflips proving frighteningly moreish, albeit in a slightly more accessible guise than its predecessors, without compromising anything that made the original games so challenging and uniquely alluring.
Adopting a vibrant, appealing art style and 2.5D levels, OlliOlli World is also a far prettier game than its forebears, whisking you away to the sprawling world of Radlandia, where each region boasts its own fiendish skating routes to master and five powerful 'Skate Godz' to impress, as you strive to reach the hallowed realm of 'Gnarvana'. Having gone hands-on with three of the game's five zones, I’ve tackled dozens of courses, each of which has its own platforming challenges to overcome, with score milestones to attempt, and the same brand of “flow state” gameplay that has come to define the series.
From the game’s humble beginnings in the oddball seaside resort of Sunshine Valley, you're presented with the basics of skateboarding in OlliOlli: holding down the left analogue stick to prepare for a simple ollie, then letting go to jump up. Using different directions enables you to perform easy tricks like heelflips, kickflips, and such, while half-circle twists unleash advanced tricks. Unlike the first OlliOlli and its sequel, however, timing your landing with a press of the A button is no longer necessary (although doing so will boost your score and keep your combo going), meaning far fewer sloppy landings and horrific face-planting bails. Also, checkpoints at certain intervals ensure you don't have to complete a level in a single, flawless run; although you'll be rewarded if you can.
By the time you've passed through the bee-infested forests of Cloverbrook (where you'll learn the art of the wallride) and reached the scorched deserts of Burntrock, you'll be executing grabs and using them to smash through route-blocking crystals, spinning through the air with the grace of a feather on the breeze, then – all being well – not landing in a heap on the ground. Acquire deft enough fingers, and you may even be able to graduate to even more intricate 'special tricks' and 'special grinds', like a Backside Fandangle, Corn Dog Noseslide, Sal Flip, or Strawberry Milkshake. Make no mistake: OlliOlli World has a whole slew of gnarly tricks to master.
Unlike OlliOlli and OlliOlli 2, World also takes a crack at delivering a story, as you put yourself forward to become the next Skate Wizard, replacing the soon-to-be-retired current wizard, Chiffon, who's seeking a successor. To become Skate Wizard, you'll have to best every level across Radlandia, meeting the aforementioned, omnipotent Skate Godz along the way. The first of these is Technicolas, a Skate God with a sandcastle bucket for a head, his face a starfish splayed across it. Levels are nicely varied, too, with the new 2.5D perspective allowing for split-paths – sometimes to trickier 'gnarly routes' – available at the touch of a button.
As well as taking your custom skater on a ride through various narrative-driven objectives, you also have a plethora of other modes to partake in, including Leagues, where you can engage in challenges to determine your ranking, and asynchronous multiplayer with real-time leaderboards. But perhaps the best thing of all is the new cross-platform Gnarvana Portal Mode, wherein you're able to set your own parameters, then share the unique 'post-code' the game generates to then challenge your friends. Alternatively, you can type in random codes to see what the game spits out.
Chuck it all together and you've the makings of a killer threequel: a game that takes all of the best parts of the first two games, pumps up the personality with offbeat characters and an inviting, stylish cartoon world, and does away with some of the previous games' more unforgiving aspects. And it seems to do it all without compromising a shred of what makes the OlliOlli games so unique in the first place. With intuitive controls, deep character customisation, a slew of rewards to unlock without microtransactions, and the promise of DLC adventures to come post-launch, OlliOlli World could well be the OlliOlli game that finally garners the series the attention that it's always deserved.
OlliOlli World is heading to Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and PC on 8th February.