Monday, 23 March 2015

OlliOlli Review (3DS)

Written by Dan Gill

Falling over hurts, as anybody who's ever fallen over will tell you.  The shock of taking a misstep, the ever-approaching ground waiting to meet with your fragile body, and the final impact with the deck all make for a rather unpleasant experience.  It's for this very reason that I am not - nor will I ever be – a skateboarder.  That, and my balance is awful, but that's another story.

Thankfully, game developers have me covered.  From 720 through Skate or Die to the Tony Hawks series, my virtual meatbag has always been the one to take the risks and suffer the cuts and scrapes that I'm too soft to bear.  Yet since the decline in quality of Neversoft's aforementioned series (at least at time of writing), no new titles have provided me the opportunity to spin, kick, grind and faceplant all in the name of score chasing until OlliOlli.

For those unfamiliar with Roll7's game, it's a 2D amalgam of Tony Hawk's and Adam Saltzman's superb indie runner, Canabalt.  It's presented with minimalist visuals reminiscent of the latter's style, and adopts the sense of constant motion too (albeit with the aid of a little push-off here and there). 

As well as sharing similarities with Canabalt's appearance, OlliOlli keeps a tight control scheme, making use of the analog stick for tricks, shoulder buttons for spins, and the A button to land.  This all seems basic in theory, but in practice things become tricky as you try to string combos together.  Several times during my early playthroughs my fingers seemed to operate independently of my brain – not the game's fault of course, more the fault of my dulled twitch-gaming senses.   

Over time, my reflexes returned, and the scores began to rack up as I 360 kickflipped into a 5-0 grind, heelflipped into a nosegrind and gracefully landed a 360 hardflip.  It seems my digital boarding skills had returned and that's OlliOlli's first victory– it gives you a control system that's straightforward to learn, you just need to think about how you can get the most out of it in a continuous stream of inputs.

Your control skills will need to be honed as you attempt to take down each level's challenges.  As with the Hawk series these range from collecting markers to racking up huge combos and add to the replay value of each level, which is something you'll most probably be doing.  A lot.  OlliOlli has a nice difficulty level, keeping you coming back for more.  If you're pretty good at the game you'll be attempting to complete all the challenges or smash your last high score.  If you're not able to finish the level (when you fall off your board you have to restart), you'll return again until it's done.  The game keeps things just tricky enough to antagonise you, but always remains fair, meaning you never feel like the game's cheating you.

An added bonus of the 3DS's dual screens is that the tricks you can perform are displayed on the touch screen for reference.  Not the fanciest use of the screen perhaps, but for OlliOlli it's a practical one and anything more would have felt tacked on.

One of the game's nicest/most masochistic features is the Daily Grind mode.  Each day you have a chance to play through a level with the aim of being the highest scoring player for that day. You can practice the level as much as you like, but you only get one shot at racking up a score.  If you fall off your board, game over.  If you perform an ollie and score ten points because of a sloppy landing, that's your score and it's game over.  It adds a real tension, making for a brilliant yet infuriating challenge, but even racking up a decent score fills the player with a sense of accomplishment, mainly through the satisfaction of knowing your fingers haven't let you down at the most crucial moment.

All in all OlliOlli is a tight arcade game, definitely worth your time if you're a fan of score chasing (and let's face it, which self-respecting retro gamer isn't?), and its clean 2D graphics are stripped down yet clear to make out (your boarder is pretty expressive given their size, especially when bailing).  It's a neat little package and its appearance on Nintendo's consoles is long overdue.  Here's hoping Curve brings its recently released sequel to the big N's machines in the near future, as OlliOlli manages to remain on the board and pull off plenty of tricks with style.

Overall 9/10

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