It’s been seven years since OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood, Roll7's 2015 skateboarding platformer. The skateboarding genre has seen some stellar releases in that time, including the highly customizable Session, Skater XL, and the remastered bundle Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2. There’s also last year’s minimalist meditative experience The Ramp, and looking ahead, a new Skate game on the horizon. All that’s to say, a lot is happening in the skateboarding genre right now, and that’s very exciting. Roll7's OlliOlli World does grind onto a slightly crowded scene, but it shines brightly with its striking visuals and impressive assortment of tricks. Honestly, OlliOlli World is my favorite skateboarding right now.
You play as a character you create, who is handpicked to succeed the current skate wizard Chiffon. Your goal: To reach Gnarvana, a higher plane of skateboarding, and take your place as the next liaison between mere mortals and the skate gods. Silly premise, I know, and the game is fully aware of this farce. With its laid-back, Rocket Power-like dialogue and vibrant, Adventure Time-esque aesthetics, it never takes itself too seriously. I’m expecting Marceline to show up riding her battle-ax as a board or Finn and Jake to high-five in the background.
OlliOlli World plays just the same as the previous two OlliOlli entries. Your left stick performs tricks like ollies and kickflips, while the right stick executes grab moves such as the Method (a crouching backboard grab in the air). You can also rotate your character’s body left and right with the shoulder buttons. Fairly standard skateboarding stuff if you’re familiar with Roll7's last two OlliOlli games, Skate, or even Room 8 Studio’s Skate City.
For me as a returning player, this familiarity is cool. It makes picking up OlliOlli World easy, as the muscle memory kicks in and you start doing wild combos through the colorful levels. It’s totally possible in these moments of bliss to get lost in the gameplay, which is tight and responsive yet exacting. But you don’t have to have played the previous OlliOlli games to enjoy this one. The controls are simple enough to grasp while also offering a substantial amount of depth. It requires focus and precision, and in that way, it’s like zen skateboarding. You get into a steady rhythm as you carve down snake paths, mossy terrain, and industrial platforms. It’s still a challenge, and you’ll bail. A lot.
But failure isn’t as much of a frustration here as it was in the previous OlliOlli games. There’s a generous helping of checkpoints you can activate during a level. Should you fall, you can just tap a button to spawn at the last checkpoint. Even if you get far and eat shit, the respawn is brisk, letting you jump right back in. I love this. It encourages continuous play by shortening the time between a crash and starting again.
The respawn does more than just reset you back to the last checkpoint. OlliOlli World is a 2.5D game with 3D modeling, and it uses that depth to sometimes offer alternate routes you can access to find side quests or complete challenges for points. These paths, appropriately labeled “Gnarly Routes,” are harder and more hazardous, but often lead to some of the prettiest landscapes in the game. It’s not that you need the respawn to access these points, but if you happen to miss an alternate route before reaching the next checkpoint, you can use the respawn to ensure you hit it the next time around. (You can also just hold the respawn button to restart a level, which is sometimes necessary if you wanna beat it without using checkpoints, a difficult undertaking.)
But OlliOlli World is all about the tricks. Sure, there’s a throwaway story here, but it’s really just a setup to bomb hills and trick over stuff. And wow, there are a lot of tricks! The game features many of the same ones from previous entries, but there’s also a smattering of additional moves. From riding down stairs with the back two wheels (firecracker) to newly added tricks such as the 360 pressure flip, OlliOlli World is a skateboard nerd’s paradise. It’s not entirely easy performing these moves, nor should it be. Pulling off more complex maneuvers like the backfoot laser flip involves a lot of rotating the left stick, kinda like playing Street Fighter does. If you manage to pull them off—there’s a tricktionary with guides showing you the required inputs—they’re incredibly satisfying and net you tons of points. And you need those points to unlock more customization items for your skater.
I’m having a blast with OlliOlli World. It’s the perfect game to get a quick session or two in while also having enough depth to warrant longer playtime. There are some bland objectives here and there, such as one that forces you to spin 3,600 degrees, but the moment-to-moment gameplay is fast and exhilarating. Couple that with the bouncy music from artists like French DJ Woodwire, and you’ve got a game almost any skateboarding fan will love.