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Review

OlliOlli Review (PS Vita)

Flipping off.

OlliOlli is a frenetic, hardcore game which has one goal: to make skateboarding cool again. It’s a genre which has fizzled away in recent years, with the Tony Hawk series dwindling in quality and Skate going missing in action after its third instalment.

But OlliOlli isn’t your traditional skating game, instead taking the tricks, jumps and speed and placing it into a 2D side-scrolling template, which borrows from many conventions of endless runner games. Though to think that OlliOlli would work as a mobile game is underestimating what it really is – this is a full skating experience, with dozens of tricks and grinds, just sideways and flat.

It’s in the trick system that the game excels, as the left stick is used for a multitude of flips and grinds, while the shoulder buttons modify these with spins. You’ll have to hold the left stick in a direction, or give it a twist and then let go in order to start your jump, and then by holding one of those shoulder buttons while in air you might go from a standard ollie or kickflip into something much more impressive. And dizzying.

From there, it’s all about landing the trick perfectly – or as near as possible – by tapping X as close to the ground as you can. You’ll be rated on how stable your landing is, with everything from sloppy to sick (the good kind) to perfect, and that, along with the multiplier which increases as you chain tricks together will give you your final score for any given combo.

The key to those combos is grinding (there’s no manuals, so when you land, the combo finishes) and this combines both the mechanics of trick pulling and landing – you’ll still use the stick to activate different grinds, but it’s once again about how close to landing on the rail you can pull these off.

It’s a great system, which is only let down by the Vita itself. With its small sticks, less than forgiving shoulder buttons and cramped feel, the game doesn’t quite work how you’d like it to all the time. Pulling off tricks which require a twist of the stick before lifting off can prove challenging, and then trying to use the left shoulder button for spinning can be quite uncomfortable.

While OlliOlli might seem like the perfect formula for an endless runner game, each level has a designated end point, as you skate into a cheering crowd. It’s much more complex too, due to the tricks and scoring system, so you’ll be replaying levels to try and better your score and perhaps even get to number one in the world. And that’s not the only reason to replay – there are five challenges per level, which include getting high scores, high combos, collecting items, grinding section X, landing perfect tricks and so on, which net you stars for the level and unlock Pro versions when completed.

olli1

With core mechanics based entirely around scoring points, it’s extremely odd that there are no listed leaderboards. After each level or spot, you’re able to see your position in the world and the top score, but you can’t compare with friends or anyone else directly. It’s even more strange when you realise that the functionality is obviously there if the game manages keep track of your position.

There’s still a lot to do in OlliOlli, with 25 Amateur campaign levels, and 25 Amateur spots, each of which has Pro variations and then Rad mode, which only allows for perfection in landing and grinding rails. There’s even the nifty Daily Grind, which sees you practising before taking one – and only one – attempt at getting the highest score in the world on a specific level.

It’s not about how much content there is however, but the fact that you’ll want to play it over and over again; there’s a suitable degree of challenge which simply makes replaying to beat your score or complete a star quite addictive. Progression does not have the same sense of reward however, as you’ll have the set of tricks from the start, rather than building up your repertoire as you go.

It’s great for pick up and play too, as the levels are often very short. Just don’t expect to be able to put it down very quickly – OlliOlli hooks you in for a long time once you’ve began playing.

And the music can be just as catchy as the gameplay, with a superb and varied soundtrack which ranges from a chilled beat to an upbeat and frantic tune. It’s very modern and electronic, far from the chiptune that you may expect from the game’s visuals. The graphics are really nothing special, although there are some lovely parallax scrolling effects and the aesthetic is often spot-on, varying from section to section.

We found it quite prone to glitches and crashing however, which means that the game might just throw you back to the Vita’s home screen completely mid-level, or that the restart button will stop working completely, with finger presses failing to register far too often for a menu system that’s exclusively controlled through touch.

What’s Good:

  • It makes skateboarding cool again.
  • The trick and combo system is superb.
  • There’s a lot of content, and it’s hard to put down.
  • Just the right balance between challenge and fun.

What’s Bad:

  • No proper leaderboards.
  • Let down by the Vita’s cramped controls.
  • Prone to crashing with annoying bugs aplenty.

OlliOlli is a great game, with a brilliant trick system which is clearly well thought out and has had a lot of development time. It’s unrelentingly fun, and at times unforgivingly hard, but you’ll find it hard to let go as you trick, grind and spin your way through the plethora of levels included, trying to get the highest score.

It’s just ultimately let down by how it feels on the system it’s made for, and the fact that there’s no sense of challenge against your friends, which is arguably the draw of an arcade-y high score challenge game such as this.

Score: 7/10

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17 Comments
  1. tactical20
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    As a skateboarder of nearly 20 years, this review made me feel a little bit sick (the bad kind)! :-p

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 13:19.
    • freakyhijiki
      Member
      Since: Jan 2014

      Is there a good way to feel sick? Usually when a person feels sick it’s the bad kind. Something can be sick and it’s a good thing, like this game for example, completely sick! As a skateboard of over 20 years myself, this game is amazing. It is very technical and requires precise input, much like real life skateboarding. Nothing will ever duplicate the feeling of riding a board, but this game is almost as fulfilling. Highly recommended, aside from the random crash, the game is 100% worth every penny.

      Comment posted on 28/01/2014 at 20:10.
  2. Peter Chapman
    Team TSA: Editor
    Since: Forever

    Can’t wait. Shame about the technical issues but hopefully those can be smoothed out. I’ve been looking forward to this for ages.

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 13:43.
    • R1MJAW
      Member
      Since: May 2010

      Me too. I’ve been impatiently awaiting release ever since I first heard about it.

      Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 14:13.
    • Adam Guest
      Member
      Since: Apr 2010

      The team have tweeted to say they’re “aware” of the crashes and will be patching it ASAP.

      Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 14:34.
  3. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Sounds like my worst nightmare of a game. It’s just not for me at all, I’m actually amazed by the 9/10 ratings it seems to be getting. Obviously I’ve never played it, but it sounds massively difficult in the latter stages, the graphics are straight out of the 90s,as is the control scheme.
    I just know it isn’t for me.

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 13:48.
  4. hol
    Member
    Since: Oct 2009

    A bit of a no brainer price wise if you have plus? Will be getting it :)

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 13:55.
  5. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Pixels, so no from me (it looks awful). It also seems to have very jerking scrolling, at least in that video above.

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 14:05.
    • nofi
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      Game runs at 60 FPS. It’s definitely not jerky.

      Also: every game is made of pixels.

      Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 14:37.
  6. ArrebatoTarugo
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    Not for me. I dont like skateboarding, games were the challenge comes from difficult combos, and I think that pixelated games are just pretentious.

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 14:13.
  7. leeroye
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    I really dont understand the fascination with all these indie games on the VITA. I must have payed about 10 different ones now and none have really held my attention for longer than 30 minutes. They all just throwbacks to early 90’s gaming with the same fidly control schemes. Gaming needs to move forwards, all these indie games seem to be going backwards, yet people lap them up.

    Just my opinion, i guess im not cool enough to understand the Indie craze.

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 16:02.
    • freakyhijiki
      Member
      Since: Jan 2014

      Or just to jaded to see a good game when they see one. Is it not shiny enough for you? I’ll admit shiny things do fascinate me from time to time also!

      Comment posted on 28/01/2014 at 20:14.
  8. Cron_13
    Member
    Since: Sep 2013

    I’m surprised (and a bit disappointed) with the score – a good read though thanks. Was going to buy it tomorrow but might have a look at some other reviews first now. I guess if there are issues and you say the team’s aware here’s hoping for some quick fixes.

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 19:06.
    • Cron_13
      Member
      Since: Sep 2013

      LOL, I see what you mean about the bugs… Played for less than 2 minutes and it crashed! hah.

      Comment posted on 22/01/2014 at 15:34.
  9. Lieutenant Fatman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    Sounds like fun, but I have so so many games to play, including some big ones on Vita I’ve not touched yet so might pick this up if I see it going nice and cheap in a few months time.

    Comment posted on 21/01/2014 at 22:42.
  10. Roll7tom
    Member
    Since: Jan 2014

    Hey All, tom from ROll7 here, first off thanks to TSA for the review! They’ve been really supportive of us since we first announced OlliOlli

    Massive thanks as well to everyone reading, commenting and downloading. As you may have seen we’re working on the patch as we speak, literally about to test it in the next few minutes, I’m not sure how long the process takes with Sony but we’re moving on it ASAP. However, we know it can be mega frustrating so we do apologise for that!

    However we reckon the problem is to do with Pop Ups and connectivity,if your Wifi signal is in and out or week you’re going to get more pop ups then more likely to experience the issue. In testing we literally played the game on one Vita for 9 hours and never saw it but we were right next to the router.

    We’ll keep you in the loop as we progress, but I do hope you enjoy the game!

    Thanks

    Tom

    Comment posted on 22/01/2014 at 16:07.
    • Cron_13
      Member
      Since: Sep 2013

      Good news on the patch Tom, let’s hope that Sony turn it around quickly.

      I had a lot of crashes when I started playing today (did use the report function). After I got all of the very first amateur stage done I’ve not had one since and probably clocked up about 2-3 hours this afternoon. What sort of play testing goes on when developing a game like OlliOlli?

      Apart from the crashes, its a really great game and I’ve found it very enjoyable so congratulations on getting it out there at last and good luck with the sales.

      Comment posted on 22/01/2014 at 21:59.

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