Skateboarding games have fallen out of a favour in the last few years. The last couple of Tony Hawk games weren’t exactly stellar, and few others have even tried to compete despite the Birdman’s poor showings. Enter Ollie Ollie, a game that is everything you would want from a skateboarding game, with a deceptively deep trick system, great visuals and plenty of content.
Performing tricks in Ollie Ollie is a bit weird at first. You have to use the left analog stick to jump, or Ollie, by pressing down then releasing. Once you have done this, various combinations of stick spinning and left and right shoulder buttons perform different tricks, spins and grinds, before it makes you press the X button to land.
The thing with that is that timing is everything. Getting it down so you hit X at the right time to hit a perfect landing will reward you with more points, but if you get it really wrong it reward with just a few points, slow you down and may even make you bail out, ending your run. The good thing about that is that each run is anything to a few seconds to around a minute depending on the level, so failing isn’t such a chore, and it promotes that most irritating of thoughts: Just one more go.
There is nothing more annoying in this game than to hit a really great set of grinds, spins and flips only to mess up the landing and instead of getting thousands of points, get thirty. But, just hit restart and try again. and again. and again, evangelising the old idiom of if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, Ollie Ollie never feels unfair, it is always you messing up, no matter how much you want it to be the game.
Each level comes with a set of challenges, which range from relatively expected things like get a score of at least fifty thousand, or get one combo with a score of fifty thousand, which sounds the same but isn’t. Then there are the most esoteric problems, like perform thirty spins, or grind a specific sign.
The great thing about these extra wrinkles is the fact that they also teach you how to play the game. There are ones that make you perform a certain combo of tricks, say a hardflip from a nosegrind, which makes you spend time trying to nail that set, making you better generally and allowing you to take on harder challenges as you get further into the game. Make no mistake though, you will restart, a lot, and that is just trying to get one challenge done, let alone the four or five others in the level.
The game is broken up in area’s, with five levels each. Each area is distinct, so you start in an urban city scape, but by the end you are skating though a neon skyline. The levels within each area steadily expand, but what you are actually tricking off remains the same, just laid out in a different way. It would have been nice to see a bit more variety, but it also doesn’t detract from the excellent mechanics of the core game, so it is easily forgivable.
Ollie Ollie also has plenty of content, as once you have completed all the amatuer levels, with each challenge performed, you unlock the pro version of that level, which comes with harder challenges and spans the same length as the amatuer set. On top of this, there are ‘spots’ which are levels where you basically try and get as high a score as possible and compete against everyone playing the game via online leaderboards. I am not very good at spots.
There is also a daily grind challenge, and all the trophies/achievements to unlock. I played on the Vita, and it really is the perfect game for that system given the length of each level, but the depth allows you to really master it.
The only real downsides are the fact that levels can get a little repetitive, and the difficulty can spike for no reason, then drop again. It can make it frustrating, but then again keep banging your head against a challenge and you will get better at the game, and the next level could be an absolute cake walk.
Other than those small niggles, Ollie Ollie is a fantastic game, perfect for a handheld system and a lot of fun. It offers as much or as little content as you want, and you genuinely get better as you play through, by the end achieving combos that score millions of points and last the entire length of the level, which is extremely satisfying. If you are looking to play a skateboarding game but can’t be bothered digging out your PS2, this is the perfect game, an absolute delight to play.