Breakdown: OlliOlli

I’ve managed to wait patiently for the PS3 release of OlliOlli to fill the void left in my gaming library for skateboarding games.  It’s a genre that was over saturated and left to die years back. But Roll7 saw a ripe opportunity to put an indie spin on it driven by refined conventions of the currently prolific runner-style games.  The result is a game that creates the same obsession to string along massive combos that earlier Tony Hawk games had, but in a streamlined fashion that lends itself to quick sessions or marathon play-throughs.  Let’s take a look at how the title has been composed.


OlliOlli looks and feels very much like a runner, but the player has some control over speed of the avatar through the level.  The most basic verb is to push off to gain speed.  Two pushes are enough to achieve full speed, but as you transition between combos, you will begin to slow down, which can ruin an upcoming combo before it even has a chance to begin.  Tricks are accomplished at the same time as jumping, by releasing a direction from the game pad after performing a gesture.  Any directional release will get you airborne, but pulling off more complex tricks means carefully timing the preceding gesture.  This, unsurprisingly will lead to a higher potential score.  Subsequent tricks can be performed while in the air, and kick off a combo multiplier.  Combos can be performed across several jumps though if they are connected with a grind.  This involves holding a direction while your avatar meets a grindable surface.  Once in a grind, you can queue up your next trick.  Of course, all of this work is dependent upon your ability to land the combo.  The closer to the ground you are when you attempt to stick the landing, the better.  Attempting to land too soon will result in a poor score.


Levels are composed of linear 2D courses that the avatar moves through.  They have three basic surfaces you’ll traverse.  Skateable surfaces are the most obvious and common.  You can launch combos here at will, but they are required in order to land and end a combo.  Grindable surfaces are also prevalent, especially in later levels which are used not only to string together combos, but to provide a bridge over hazardous surfaces.  Hazardous surfaces are neither skateable, nor grindable; they must be avoided entirely.  In earlier levels this is as simple enough as clearing the hazard with one jump.  It might be a pile of garbage, it could be a flight of stairs, or even a rough patch of snow.  In later levels, these hazardous surfaces are too wide to clear in a jump, and require you to combo across them with grinds and jumps.  An additional note on landing tricks: failing to land correctly will result in a penalty: the player loses control of the avatar for a moment while it continues forward.  That’s not a terrible price to pay in earlier levels.  In more advanced level though, this has the potential to ruin your timing in trying to make subsequent jumps to avoid hazards.  The game is broken up into collections of levels, each collection based around a locational theme.   They are also accompanied by an exceptional, if brief, soundtrack that runs continuously between levels and menus.


The most obvious way to make impressions in the game is to get high scores.  Scores are recorded and ranked on a list of worldwide players for each level, and can really push you to improve your skill at the game.  Of course, the scores are largely based on combos.  The game keeps you informed on what your best combo is for each level and let’s you know when you beat it.  Of course, actually clearing levels isn’t always a trivial task, and doing so will unlock further levels and collections of levels.  Speaking of unlocking levels, each one provides a set of challenges to complete.  Each one grants you one star for the level, and once you’ve gotten all five stars, you will unlock a more difficult pro level.  These goals aren’t required to progress to subsequent levels, but offer you a good opportunity to sharpen your skills and become better prepared for more challenging levels.  This was ultimately the pattern I followed when I got hung up on a difficult, later level and have found it to be a very satisfying way to play the game.

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