Roll7’s latest embraces abstraction more than previous OlliOllis, in fact, and elopes with it to a land of make-believe. Your customisable skater wants to reach ‘Gnarvana’ by impressing the skate gods across five themed areas, each containing around 15–20 tracks and side distractions. The world’s a pastel haze of lazy rhythms, cartoon friends, and smiling wildlife – exactly where you’d imagine rad skaters grind out eternity once they’ve face-planted off the big half-pipe. It’s a lush playground, only marred by the crew of skate fans who bookend each stage with dialogue you’ll likely skip.
Back on the tarmac, things largely feel as they did on the Vita eight years ago, albeit extra smooth. Pop your board over gaps with a left analogue flick, add rotations to flip it in mid-air. Staying upright is easier now, as you don’t have to time a press of X (cross) to land successfully, although you still should in search of ‘perfect’ touchdowns that boost your score. And, as ever, level-specific challenges such as collecting inflatable cats or landing tricks in particular places provide impetus to try again, along with the ever-present drive to break your personal best score. It’s all good, but a known quantity.
Roll7 isn’t playing it safe, however. Rather, it’s easing you in gently. The stick-focused control scheme is merely a base on which to slowly stack a teetering tower of techniques, giving you time to work on one before the next arrives. So, for example, you may already be familiar with ‘manuals’ – landing and balancing on only the front or back wheels – from OlliOlli 2, and you can still do them at any time, but they aren’t officially introduced via a tutorial until deep into the game. This comes to feel like a good decision, because once the full buffet of tricks is laid out, well, there’s a lot to take on board.
The great plot twist in OlliOlli World, you see, is that all those redundant control pad buttons are silently waiting to make unreasonable demands on your fingers. They want you to string together power pushes, spins, grabs, advanced tricks, late tricks, wall rides, firecrackers (riding down stairs), and so on. And while many of these moves were present before too, they become increasingly dense in conjunction with World’s three-dimensionality, as optional lane changes fork you towards ‘gnarly’ routes, platforms tilt or elevate, and quarter pipes transition you into background or foreground then send you in the opposite direction. Late area tracks become warrens of splits and loops, and even some early stages evolve with newly unlocked paths, giving you a reason to return with a full bag of tricks to smash your previous scores.
By the third area, then, a pleasant walk in the skatepark has mutated into something scarily wide and deep, not to mention taxing. How quickly you might re-evaluate your ambitions, from acing every challenge to simply reaching the end of a course in one piece. Now you extract maximum speed from downward gradients, time the pop of the board to cross yawning chasms, or scrape along billboards hoping to spring off at the apex of your curve. Always – not compulsorily, but oh-so-temptingly – while trying to construct a score-busting combo with spins and grabs in between.
Is it too complex? Maybe. Respect to you if your brain doesn’t short-circuit at times, forgetting which finger does what. As if unlearning decades of X to jump and replacing it with X to land wasn’t a mammoth task alone, and muddling your grind and manual inputs an ever-present concern. Visually, too, some courses can be hard to parse at speed, at least until you’ve committed them to memory, as rails and platforms on parallax plains fail to differentiate themselves.
But what we’re really looking at here is a high-score chaser with a skill-ceiling stretching to the heavens, which also prides itself on being definitive. On the track and also off it, OlliOlli World is satisfyingly whole, with endless clothing items to style your skater, online team events, a track generator that coughs up seed codes you can share with friends, and extra challenges on every stage after completion.
This is a game that’s exactly what it claims to be – a world of OlliOlli. Even if you’ve never jumped on a board in your life, it’s a fine place to dwell