1. Olli Olli Review

    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.

     

  2. Transistor Review

    Did you play Bastion, the 2011 game from then new studio Super Giant Games? If you did, stop reading this and go download and play Transistor. If you didn’t, do that anyway, for while Transistor’s story isn’t as good, the visuals and combat are brilliant and make for a an excellent game.

    Transistor is a action game, viewed from an isometric perspective, where you play as Red, a singer who obtains the titular Transistor, a comically oversized sword like device at the start of the game. The Transistor becomes the semi-narrator of the game, much like Rucks, the narrator of Bastion, but it is cool how due to Red losing her voice for some reason, she can only communicate by typing comments into terminals, which The Transistor then picks up on and responds to.

    But it also flashes whenever the soul not contained inside talks, and you can just image the talkative sword responding to faces made by Red and actions she takes. It is a cool way to establish the relationship between the two central characters, and shows how this is a SuperGiant Games title.

    I say that because the similarities to Bastion are pretty clear, but not so much that it is the same game with a different setting. It’s things like the narrator (played by the same voice actor - Logan Cunningham), the viewpoint, the outstanding soundtrack, the way the narrative builds, the way the world isn’t explained, it just acts like it was always a thing and the stunning artwork. It is really a Super Giant game, and if Bastion made you a fan of theirs, then Transistor will only add fuel to the fire.

    The most fun part of the game is the combat. The Transistor has various slots for various functions, ranging from things like Crash(), a slash that also stuns enemies, to Void() that will make them more vulnerable to attacks. That might sound fairly normal, but each function has three different abilities - active, upgrade and passive, and can be added to any other function assuming you have the memory and slots available.

    So combining Crash() and Void() will result in a more destructive Crash(), while the other way around will result in  a Void() that also stuns opponents. That are hundreds of combinations, and discovering which is best for your play style, and which combinations do what, is a lot of fun, encouraging experimentation and letting you change up combat every few minutes if you want.

    You also have the ability to enter Turn(), a kind of turn based mode that allows you to run behind enemies, or get of sticky situations and retaliate. This operates on a timer so cannot be spammed, and can really help in certain situations.

    Of course, there are some very over powered combinations, but that is part of the fun, and if you recuse the story (think new game +), the enemies respond to your new levels and abilities by being more powerful, allowing you to try all new combinations.

    The biggest downside to Transistor is the fact that the story isn’t as good as what we know Super Giant can do. That’s not to say it is a particularly bad story, I just found it to fall a little flat, as while it is a good thing to assume the world it creates has been there for years, it never fully explains what the enemies are and why they are attacking the city, except to say that someone ‘lost control’. It is easily overlooked though, and doesn’t diminish the fact that the game is excellent in all other respects, so good in fact, I played through it twice.

    It isn’t a long game, but it is a lot of fun, and as I said at the start of this review if you enjoyed Bastion, play Transistor as soon as you can. If you haven’t heard of Bastion before, play Transistor anyway, it might not push  your system of choice to the limit, but it still looks great and plays even better.