OlliOlli 2: Welcome to OlliWood Review – Express Yourself (PS4)
Before it kickflipped onto the scene in January of last year, Roll7’s side-scrolling skateboarding title OlliOlli was pegged as a marriage of Tony Hawk-styled gameplay with the unforgiving, tear-your-hair-out nature of Dark Souls. A foreboding elevator pitch, sure, but the studio’s sophomore game proved to be one of the understated gems of the year, carving out a dedicated and passionate fanbase in the process.
Fast forward to 2015 and we have the arrival of its direct sequel, OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood, which dials the showboating and super-slick skate-‘em-up skills to 11. For the uninitiated, Roll7’s pixel art title has you hitting the rails in the vein of an infinite runner, weaving across and over various obstacles in your path all in the effort of reaching the finish line.
Welcome to the House of Fun
But what lends OlliOlli and its wonderful sequel that cutting edge is their decidedly arcade set-up. A single error, whether it’s losing control completely or missing a platform by a fraction of a second, results in an instant failure, jettisoning you back to the beginning.
And therein lies the addictive replay loop.
Among all of the factors that transitioned from originator to sequel, this high risk, high reward sensibility is arguably the most important. Manuals, reverts, revert manuals, grind switching; all of these new-fangled additions bolster a combo system as rich and deep as any 2D fighting game in the business.
For OlliOlli 2, the skatepark is your oyster.
But what’s a brimming repository of skills without a platform on which to show them off? Thankfully, Roll7’s sequel builds upon the foundations of its predecessor by ushering in ramps to launch from, hills to hurtle down, and split-route levels that allow you to skate the path less traveled.
Like Riding a Bike
Put simply, OlliOlli 2 gives you the power to run the gamut. Yes, newcomers will spend a fair chunk of time wrangling with the controls, but it isn’t long before you’ve turned a simple Push and Kickflip into an ostentatious 360 Inward Heelflip with the perfect landing to match.
Moreover, the skatepark serves as a fantastic practise area outside of the Career, allowing you to add to your growing repertoire of skills as you progress. Because in a skateboarding game inspired by Tony Hawk, Skate and the like, flamboyancy is paramount if you want to rub shoulders with the frontrunners on the leaderboards.
Nailing some of the latter, more challenging levels will not only require you to be well versed in the Tricktionary, it’ll also have you throwing caution to the wind. But even when the going gets tough — and believe me, it does — OlliOlli 2 is still a blast to play. Heck, during my time with the game, I hit a seemingly insurmountable brick wall in the form of Skate or Die (a nice nod to EA’s Spectrum title), a level within Carnival of the Dead that took me a solid two hours to complete.
Practice Makes Perfect
It’s a credit to Roll7’s well-balanced game design, then, that even when difficulty spikes put your skills and indeed patience to the test, you can’t help but say “just one more go.” Take nothing away from OlliOlli’s 2 infuriating, challenging tenets, but for every ten failures, that single success is enough to warrant hitting triangle for another whirl, even when your playtime stretches into the early hours.
What also helps matters is the sequel’s unquestionable production values. Animations are fluid. Gameplay is slick and responsive, allowing your “skater dude” to flow seamlessly across the arena. Couple this with the punchy soundtrack and revamped art style and you have a sports title that isn’t only a joy to pick up and play, but one that’s also easy on the eyes and ears.
Speaking of which, environments boast a tremendous amount of detail too; with everything from weather effects to lens flare adding that extra layer of sheen. In Gunmetal Creek, for instance, the heat shimmer at the backdrop is a wonderful yet understated addition that lends OlliOlli 2 a real touch of class.
Level-wise, stages are divided across five distinct environments, with the difficulty skewing between amateur and the near-impossible pro. Inspired by cinema’s greatest genres, the locales encompass everything from the Wild West to a sci-fi metropolis, and even though level design leans toward repetition at times, there’s no doubting the visual flair on display.
That said, the sequel’s reworked aesthetic is just the cherry on the cake; OlliOlli 2’s inherent value resides in the wonderfully addictive gameplay. With Daily Grinds, numerous challenges, RAD mode, Spots — short, combo-specific modes built with the PlayStation Vita in mind — and an array of secrets all vying for your attention, Roll7’s labor of love boasts copious amounts of replay value, too.
However, one absent feature is Combo Rush, with plans to patch the four-player local multiplayer mode in after launch.
For the curious passer-by who may not latch on to the high-risk gameplay, Roll7’s follow-up will only offer so much, but for those willing to assail the steep learning curve, OlliOlli 2 will be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve played in some time. An experience you’ll keep coming back to time and time again for that one “final” try in an attempt to claim what is undoubtedly a platinum trophy to marvel.
Cinematic in name and in nature, OlliOlli 2 nails everything that a sequel should aspire to be: iterating on the core concepts of its predecessor by offering a more refined and enjoyable experience. Not only that, Roll7 has crafted a second album to be proud of, one which takes seconds to learn and possibly an eternity to master.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got a Daily Grind to try our hand at.
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