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OlliOlli World review (2022 updated)

By Luke Albigés,

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My hands hurt. Despite having played (and loved) the previous two OlliOlli games, it’s been so long since I last got involved that I had completely forgotten the intensity of the finger gymnastics that goes into posting a decent score in these games. Just watch the screen while someone is playing OlliOlli World and it will all look very clean and calculated, but look at their hands and you’ll see a frenzied blur of digits dancing from buttons to sticks to triggers, frantically trying to keep that big combo alive. It’s a lot, but as demanding as it is, it’s worth every bit of that concentrated effort when all four wheels finally hit the ground with a perfect landing to bank a killer seven-figure combo. The pain will soon pass, but your name will be up in lights at the top of that leaderboard until somebody steps up to post a better run.

The most immediate change from the previous games in the series is OlliOlli World’s colourful new art style. The old games had a certain charm to their simple look, and it really did speak volumes of the game’s substance-over-style approach — sure, they looked like basic Flash games to the untrained eye, but the simple presentation belied a pair of extreme sports games comfortably as complex as any other. OlliOlli World is a major step up in terms of visuals, and despite the new Adventure Time-esque bold and colourful look, it still manages to retain the same crisp and clean feel that was so important in its predecessors. High-contrast colours map out what is skateable and what is only there for show (or to hurtle into at speed when you mess up), and it’s incredibly rare that visual clutter makes it difficult to see what is going on. Only on the most complex endgame courses does this really happen, when you’re dealing with multiple layers of ramps, rails, pipes, and other gimmicks… there’s an element of trial and error as you feel out these crazier stages, but they’re generally short enough that it doesn’t feel like too much of an issue.

It’s worth expanding on that ‘layers’ part there too, as that’s something else that’s new to OlliOlli World. The previous game introduced the idea of branching routes, but usually in a more high road/low road manner akin to classic Sonic stage design. World takes this to a whole new level, with a host of ways to switch things up and break free of the game’s typical linear flow. Quarter-pipes may transition you into either background or foreground, as well as reversing your direction; breakable objects might be hiding a lucrative new path if you can find a safe way to smash them; unassuming tiny rail segments could blast you skyward on an aerial adventure if hit with enough pace. Simpler yet, World also introduces basic junctions in some stages, where all you need to do is tap the X button where prompted and you’ll swerve off onto the alternate path. Many of these optional areas are known as Gnarly Routes, typically meaning they’re risky but also often rich in scoring potential, and these harder paths will generally be where you’ll find many of the special items or characters required by Mike’s Challenges, too.

Mike’s trio of stage-specific tasks are far from the only things to concern yourself with when taking on a new spot, either. At a basic level, there are goals for simply beating the stage and for doing so without a single bail, the latter of which promotes easing up on the constant tricking to play a little safer, but it can be challenging to get out of that score-chasing mindset. Then there’s your overall score for the level, tracked across local, global, and friends leaderboards… based on previous games in the series, expect things to get extremely heated on the friends board. There are also three score targets to beat, set by the Local Heroes — these start out so small that I questioned why they were even a thing, but fast-forward to the end of the game and these AI legends suddenly go from posting five-figure scores you can beat before the first checkpoint to dropping runs in excess of five million points that will take some serious skill and stage mastery to trump.

All of that is on the more traditional side for a score attack game like OlliOlli, so Mike’s Challenges serve to mix things up a little. Some of Mike’s requests are very basic — nail a particular trick at a set point in the level, or simple cumulative things like busting out six unique flips — while others can get pretty specific and even quite cryptic at times. Often, you’ll need to explore all available routes to work out what some of the more obtuse ones even expect from you, but getting a feel for a stage like that will almost always lead to new opportunities to score big, so it all pays off. Finally, you have Radysus’ Challenges, a single extreme goal per stage unlocked by beating the game, so don’t worry too much about cleaning up as you go as you’ll need to return to every level after finishing the ‘story’ anyway. Beating an area also unlocks Mastery challenges… another reason to push through quickly then mop up later. Radysus’ tasks can be very demanding, but as the ultimate test of stage knowledge, you’d kinda hope they would be. Even when everything is ticked off, you’ll still find yourself coming back to levels time and again in search of bigger scores — whether it’s squeezing in a few more cheeky grabs or trading rail scores for a higher multiplier via quicker grind switches, there will always be ways to eke out a few more points and bump the player above you down the leaderboards.

olliolli world

Let’s dive into the scoring system and how it makes your poor hands work for their millions of points, shall we? The basics should feel instantly familiar to anyone who has played a skating game before — land tricks to score points, with flashier moves earning more and values decaying based on trick repetition, while combos increase your score multiplier to potentially boost five-figure base scores into the millions. But it’s in its unique nuances that OlliOlli truly shines as a score attack game. Unlike, say, a Tony Hawk game, individual grab and grind tricks have set score caps, so there’s no value to simply holding these for the duration of a jump or rail. Instead, you’re invited to add in even more showboating, whether that’s by adding late flips or spins to your air moves or transitioning between different grinds to drive up that multiplier. The latter can be risky as it comes at the expense of speed, so an element of level knowledge is required in order to maintain enough momentum to clear some gaps. Further playing into the greed-friendly gameplay is the fact that rail and manual balance is all perfect and flip tricks (performed with unique analog stick gestures as you launch them) will never bail, pushing you to squeeze in as many of these as you can while fishing for riskier moves like tweaked grabs that add big chunks of base score to a combo. Interestingly, manuals cannot be used indiscriminately as you can only land up to three before you need to refresh that counter by hitting a grind or wallride — once again, we come back to stage awareness, as otherwise you may end up adding in an extra flip into manual that will kill your combo should you hit a flatland-heavy area.

As ever, OlliOlli also rewards timing, both in landing grinds and landing from air tricks with a tap of the A button. Perfect landings help maintain speed and are crucial to some of the game’s more challenging routes, while perfect grinds also seem to change up how the tricks are scored. The better the bite as you hit a ledge or rail, the quicker the points tally up to the cap for that particular trick, in turn letting you transition into another variant that much sooner for even bigger scores. There’s a wonderful flow to the fast-fingered flipping of OlliOlli World, and it’s almost always greed that kills a combo rather than anything the game does wrong. The only things I found slightly inconsistent were wallrides, which feel extremely reliant on finding a sweet spot of approach height, speed, and angle, particularly on a few Gnarly Routes where they are mandatory and sometimes a little fiddly. With everything else, you should know exactly what you did wrong after a bail — pick yourself up, give the checkpoint another few goes, then go for that full combo run once you’re a little more experienced with the level in question.

olliolli world

Even when you’re done with all the main game’s content and only have leaderboard dominance to worry about there, OlliOlli World still finds other new ways to keep you entertained. Well, one way, but it’s a big one. Enter Gnarvana, home of limitless randomly generated levels and daily online competition. The two are interconnected in that a new stage is used for each day’s trick-offs, each inviting a pool of up to ten randomly grouped players to fight it out for ownership of the spot and promotion to the next rank. It’s still early days so even the best players are still working their way out of the Bronze ranks, but once it all shakes out, this should prove a brilliant way to face off against players of similar skill levels — chasing leaderboard greatness in the main game can be a daunting prospect with players throwing up score in the millions, although it’s awesome that you can watch the replays of the best players to see which routes they used and where they squeezed in those extra tricks. If you’d rather something a little less competitive, you can have the stage generator create something tailored to your liking, with the option to tweak setting, style, size, and complexity and even share favourites with others via that level’s unique seed. There’s plenty to do even just in the base game, but thanks to Gnarvana, there are absolutely no concerns over the potential longevity of the game here.

Achievements are a little trickier to talk about as we don’t have the full list yet, so I can only really discuss the one’s I’ve seen and unlocked. Most have been pretty straightforward cumulatives for clearing areas, landing perfect tricks, beating bonus levels, and completing challenges… well, ‘straightforward’ in the task they present, at least, although later ones will prove extremely skill-dependent. Some test precision and timing (complete an optional level with all perfect tricks), others general skill (rack up a multiplier of 100, or land a million-point combo), while a few would have you get involved in the daily Gnarvana contests. I’m intrigued to see how deep they’ll go with this in terms of achievements — reaching the top ranks, for example, would likely prove beyond the skill ceiling of some players. I’m only about 600G deep but can tell it’s going to be a pretty demanding completion, even just based on some of the Radysus challenges I still have left. You just know there’s going to be an achievement for finishing all of those, and some of them are brutal.

olliolli world

Summary

OlliOlli World takes the tight, rewarding gameplay of its simple predecessors, dresses it up in a beautifully colourful and quirky new art style, and layers on a bunch of new systems that make it even more satisfying to master. It’s a masterclass in how to make score attack games that can have players attack the same spot for hours at a time in search of those vital few points that would give them the lead over a rival, with dozens of awesome hand-crafted levels and countless procedural ones on which to chase those big numbers. The manual dexterity required coupled with the breakneck pace of the game can be a little scary at first, but once muscle memory starts to kick in and you find yourself going for timely tweaks and greedy grabs without even knowing you’re doing it, you will have finally transcended and achieved Gnarvana. Now, just one more run…

9 / 10
* Luke played around 25 hours of OlliOlli World on Xbox Series X, unlocking about 30 achievements as he tricked his way to the top of the leaderboards. A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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