As far as skateboarding video games go, OlliOlli is certainly one of the better and more original titles in recent years. With addictive, side scrolling gameplay on a 2D plane, as well as the stick controls allowing for some smart tricking, it just fell short of the mark with some clunky control options, lack of leaderboards at launch, and a handful of bugs.
But OlliOlli 2 looks to fix all of that, and in the process it succeeds, making the original title look like an early prototype of what we have here. The first thing you’ll notice is the aesthetic changes – OlliOlli ran smoothly enough, but with the sequel’s streamlined graphics and animations, it makes it feel like a more fast paced affair, and one that flows superbly. The character represented as a 2D sprite rather than a blob of pixels.
Deeper down, though, there are plenty more changes which will either play out subtly or change the way you play the sidescrolling skate-em-up entirely. Those more subtle changes include new tricks to pull off, curved patches of ground, launch ramps, and split routes. It’s not that these go unnoticed, just that they feel like natural additions and as if they should have been there in the first place.
The combo system has been refined, which is a real game changer, in combination with manuals which allow you to keep your combo ticking over while between grinds and pulling off tricks. Now, you’ll be trying to complete every level in one smooth combination of tricks and moves, and it really ups the “one more go” factor as you press triangle to instantly restart after failing to perfect what you were trying to do.
Those fails will feel like they’re your fault though; the game will punish you, but you’ll never get to blame the controls as they’re pretty much spot-on in this second iteration. When you play the PS4 version it may feel somewhat clunkier with the bigger stick, and you’re able to notice just how useful the small Vita nub is for quick tricks, but each of these control options has its pros and cons, and it’s just a matter of getting used to them. There is a point where an environmental lighting effect may unnecessarily throw you off-guard, but aside from that it’s fair game.
OlliOlli 2, at its heart, is all about perfecting those combos throughout the levels, and getting the high score before moving on to the next one. These levels are all designed wonderfully to slowly introduce the mechanics, before making you use them all in quick succession in the later levels. It becomes insanely hard, and that’s just when playing the 25 Amateur levels, with a further 25 Pro levels beyond them taking it even further. Just as before, they all have five objectives to complete, ranging from big combos to pulling perfect tricks, or even tasking you with grabbing collectibles in the level.
You’ve also got another fifty Spots based on those initial levels. These are shorter, but must be completed in one combo, with your score registering as soon as you’ve landed your barrage of tricks. Daily Grind makes a return too, and in this you’ll be able to practice a new level multiple times, but only have one attempt to register a score and try to get to the top of the leaderboards. Beyond this, there’s RAD mode, unlocked by completing all objectives on all levels, which will be an even more masochistic experience for veteran players only.
That’s a lot of content, but it’s how these levels are presented that’s the best bit: rather than the somewhat less exciting environments – despite the last one showing promise – in the first game, these are based on more outlandish creations, with the titular OlliWood being the LA-like city that you’ll first tackle. Parallax buildings, palm trees, and your usual city attractions will be seen in these levels, as well as movie style posters for the other environments.
Those range from an Aztec land to a zombie-infested carnival, and provide plenty of new features as well as some rather amusing quirks, such as a giant bullet being fired from the revolver launch ramps in the Western levels. These environments allow for some extraordinary track design, not confined to what you’d expect in a skateboarding game. This is reflected throughout this sequel; it feels like you have much more freedom, particularly with multiple routes, and it feels like a better game for it.
It succeeds in presentation, aesthetics, and sound design, with a colour palette as varied as the soundtrack, which has a brilliant selection of electronic music and easily outdoes the original. Yes, some of the animations can be a bit wooden, and the template of the game does feel very similar to the original, but there’s very little else to complain about here.
It’s always good when you can see exactly where a game has improved over its predecessor, and even better when every part of the game has improved in some way. OlliOlli 2 fits into the latter camp, bringing some brilliant new mechanics to the table and creating a much faster-paced, better flowing, and downright addictive game with some slick presentation and awesome new environments.
Versions tested: PS4, PS Vita