As we entered February, we all new it was going to be a fantastic month for games, with Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring set for release before long, this was going to be a costly one for your wallet. Even more so, this was going to be a costly month for your time also.
I needed a game to tie me over until Elden Ring (I have decided to put off Horizon for now, as it would immediately be shelved once From Software’s latest was released). For a few months now I have been looking forward to Olliolli World, and finally it has come out, just in time to fill a fortnight.
I have not been a particular fan of the Olliolii series, I tried both the original and Welcome to Olliwood, both to not much enjoyment. This was in part due to the intense learning curve which demand precision on every level. I also felt that there was a general lack of style, direction and identity. Well, Olliolli World is here now, providing a fresh new take on the series, and a lack of identity is certainly not an issue with Roll7’s latest output.
Is Olliolli World gnarly or ‘nah-ly’? Lets find out.
Mongo, fakie, switch or regular?
The first thing that got me pumped up to play Olliolli World and give the series another shot was the awesome art style. Roll7 threw out the old grey colour palette of the previous games in favour of bright, pastel colours, showcasing the fun and whimsical side of skateboarding. This is how I felt about the sport when I was younger, heading around my seaside home to kickflip every set of stairs I could find. In addition to the injection of colour, there has also been a complete rework of the character designs. No longer are you just some skateboarding punk, each character looks like they could be ripped straight from Adventure Time. Examples of this include, but are not limited to a fortune telling fish, a frog with an entrepreneurial ambition and girl with ice cream for hair.
Dissecting the art style and direction here, it really seems like they have tailored it specifically for me. Predictably, yes, I love it.
The graphics aren’t really much to write home about, you forgo any graphical criticism when you lean so heavily into your art direction. There are some rough edges for sure, but nothing to detract from the overall experience.
The overall UI is also bound tightly to the art direction, allowing the personality of the game to shine through in every aspect. One particular touch I liked is how the cursor moves around like a blob of paint on an old school desk. It’s so tactile, you can feel the stickiness, so playful yet friendly, again like the game overall. Apologies that I’m gushing about this cursor thing, and you can’t tell from the images in here just how neat it really is. I loved it, it’s the little things y’know.
Musically, the game follows the same direction as the visuals, promoting a relaxed, chilled and light-hearted approach to the sport. The tracks included in the game accompany you whether you’re browsing menus, or skating a sick line. Rather than being aggressive or intense, the soundtrack sounds like something more akin to “Lo-Fi Hip-Hop to Relax and Study to”, a decision which I wholeheartedly support.
The set up
The plot of Olliolli World is a simple one. The current “skate-wizard” of Radlandia is retiring, leaving an open position to become next in line. You obviously want the job, who wouldn’t want that on their passport? So, you set out on the most radical job interview of your life, heading out to commune with the five skate gods across each of the main levels and prove your skill. Once you have proven your worth to the gods (each of which have an affinity with particular hazards and skating styles), you will become the new mouthpiece for the lords above whom reside in “gnarvana”.
After a brief opening cutscene, you are then thrust into a surprisingly robust character creation screen. I was able to get a character I was happy with right from the off, boasting my usual garish shirt, beard and rolled up jeans teasing just a little bit of sock beneath, cheeky. I only changed small details of my character throughout the campaign, switching shoes every now and then, nothing major. The options you have from the start are more than capable of allowing you to showcase your personality.
Just have fun with it, man
Gameplay of Olliolli World revolves around the unique control scheme of all flip tricks being performed using the analog stick. This was first introduced in by the long-dormant EA Skate series, so I’m happy to see it picked up here. The nabbing of this control set up still feel fresh and new to this day. Because of the 2.5D perspective of this title compared to EA’s seminal proof of contest, it doesn’t feel like an Aldi version of those classic titles. It is completely its own thing.
The daunting difficulty curve of the previous Olliolli games has been smoothed out significantly, now gradually trending upwards, rather than being a vertical wall. This is made even more accessible due to forgiving timing windows for tricks, and no penalty for landing sideways from grinds or quarter pipes. Another nod to accessibility here is being able to input your manual long before you land, having it execute when you do. This goes a huge way to letting you be more daring with your tricks and have more fun doing so.
The game-feel is simply superb. Everything feels snappy and responsive, and I barely felt like the game dropped any of my inputs despite how hectic later levels became. Each grind snaps satisfyingly, with a flash of colour and excellent use of the Dual Sense’s speaker. Similarly, the newly introduced firecracker move clatters in your hands just as you would expect, with flip trick ‘whooshing’ between your palms and slapping when you achieve that ever-satisfying ‘perfect’ landing.
It’s a dopamine feast when you get a new high score or breeze effortlessly through a level without bailing.
Heaven is a halfpipe
Every level in Olliolli World has a unique theme tailored to the skate god that rules over that domain. The overall design of these skate paradises is fun as heck. Each stage has branching paths, from which you can switch between at certain points, meaning that you’ll need to experiment and learn each level if you want to get the perfect line to maximise your score. You don’t just go from left to right either, you sometimes go from right to left, innovative I know. Over the plethora of stages you will grind on entangled metalwork, smash through extra-terrestrial crystals, leap down gargantuan stair sets and much more as you ping-pong effortlessly between the foreground and background.
Mastering these multiple pathways bared similarities with the early Sonic the Hedgehog games. After multiple runs through a level, I knew just when to switch lanes, when to avoid a rail, and when to trust my instincts. Getting to this level of mastery was always a rewarding challenge, I still have a long way to go, but I’m not ashamed to say that I have saved a few replays of those combos I was particularly proud of.
The multiple levels generously littered with checkpoints too, meaning that you’re not too far from an instant restart. Although sections can be challenging, they are bookended nicely by these save spaces. The tradeoff here is, that you only bank your points if you end your combo, pass a checkpoint without doing so, and you’ll lose that score should you bail. This risk reward mechanic means that there is an exciting push and pull between wanting to save your six-figure score, and keep pushing for that multiplier.
The levels also contain side quests from recurring characters if you manage to find them. They’re never too far out of reach and if you go down each path, you’ll bump into them all eventually. Nevertheless, these interactions are charming, opening up new levels and even new trick opportunities blocked off in previous levels.
So where is the gnar?
Now, I’ve spoken a lot about how accessible the game is, and whilst it is possible to finish the game just by reaching the end of the level, there are much more difficult challenges for those willing to seek them. This, is where Olliolli World really begins.
Each level has a set of three high scores to beat set by ‘local heroes’. Whilst these are simple for the first few worlds, they begin to ramp up significantly until in the last set of levels. Here, if you drop a single combo, you will have likely lost your chance to achieve that top score meaning you usually have to achieve a perfect run. None of these are mandatory to finish the game, but they are required to unlock certain cosmetic options. So you better get practicing if you want that propellor hat.
In addition to these score challenges, you have Big Mike’s challenges. These are much more specific and will require you to “pop every cat balloon” or “avoid squarking all seagulls”. These are definitely tricky in some levels, but thankfully they don’t often stray to being trick-specific. The loose feel of the analog stick makes it difficult to be precise with some flip tricks, so straying away from these kinds of objectives is ultimately a good thing. Much like the ‘local hero’ challenges, these are fairly straightforward to begin with and being utterly devilish towards the end.
The staying power of Olliolli World will depend on your dedication to mastering your skills and knocking out all of the additional challenges, with clothing options being the only real reward here you may not feel compelled to go after these rewards if you’re happy with your current get-up.
Once you reach the credits, you open up a whole slew of other, more devious challenges to pursue, should you wish. You also gain access to Gnarvana. This is a procedurally generated level, in which you can toggle length, difficulty and biome, each assigned a seed number. Here you could effectively play forever, very rarely encountering the same level twice. The issue here is that the way these levels are stitched together caused the repetition of several elements, and ultimately they’re less interesting for it. I would much rather master one of the more dynamic, tailor-made levels than spend time setting scores in a sea of mundane stages. It is a cool idea, but they just don’t hold up well next to the excellent hand-crafted stages.
Does it stick the landing?
Overall, Olliolli World is a wicked time. Although I feel like I’ve reached my skill cap and don’t feel any need to chase the scores and challenges of later levels, I have loved my time with the game overall. Even if I’m not chasing those challenges, I will certainly be jumping in every now and then simply because the game is so dang fun.
There is plenty of promotion for a season pass too, so I’ll eagerly await any content that is coming up over the next year and I will be jumping in again to shred some sick combos in Radlandia.