OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita
Skateboarding used to the big thing those cool kids at the school were into. Grinding around on the local park’s rails and generally being cooler than you were. In recent years there’s been something of a paradigm shift in what the popular bunch at high school do. Most of them have turned into gamers. Popping a manual has been replaced with creating a 1:1 replica of the creepy science teacher’s face in Minecraft. Where we were once beholden to our social rulers and their conversations about the skatepark, youths of the world now discuss Call of Duty loadouts. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood capitalizes on this old fad meets new fad idea, bringing skateboarding back to gaming.
Well when we say bringing it back to gaming, that’s already been done by developer roll7’s predecessor to OlliOlli 2, OlliOlli. That game gave PS Vita owners a welcome taste of 2D skateboarding on Sony’s little handheld before bringing its majesty onto almost every other platform in the world today. It did this using a mechanical formula which luckily hasn’t been tampered with. OlliOlli 2 doesn’t try to break the mold, it adds a wealth of features onto the original. Think OlliOlli as a cake. It was delicious on its own, but the follow up has more sprinkles and those little silvery ball things that are putting your dentist’s kids through college.
OlliOlli 2 takes place through five utterly weird as hell worlds. There’s no story or lore linking them, mainly because if there was, it’d require more drugs than were taken throughout the 60’s to even comprehend. Luckily for us mere humans the gameplay is cohesive as a pair of LEGO bricks, slotting together all of its elements perfectly.
The aim of the game is, at its most basic level, to get from one end of the level to the other without falling off your skateboard. That’s all you actually have to do and if you’re that way inclined, it’s a more than adequate way to play OlliOlli 2. If you’re only trying to survive though, you’d be conning yourself out of the best content developer roll7 has to offer. Early on, you’re tasked with pushing yourself along the ground and not landing face first on it. Soon after, you’ll have to expertly weavegrinds and switches into the mix.
Then OlliOlli 2 grabs your by the neck. Somehow, a pair of digitized hands burst forth from the screen of your PlayStation 4 or PlayStation Vita and squeeze you with a stranglehold so tight your contacts’ll pop out. It then proceeds to pour tricks and challenges directly into your cerebral cortex. You are no longer your own person. OlliOlli 2 now owns you and your life.
Tricks like Manuals and their slightly more confusing cousin Revert Manuals start flying out left, right, and center. Their complexity is greater than that of your standard Ollie or Laserflip, and yet they are no more difficult to pull off than pushing a button. Going from Boardslide to Nose Manual to Hardflip Late BS Shove-It seems incredibly taxing at first. After a few attempts at some time with OlliOlli 2 you’ll be manipulating the analogue stick and tapping those buttons to get the perfect combo you need all the time, every time.
If the Thumb Olympics were ever a thing, OlliOlli 2 will be the workout every trainer suggests. On both Vita and PlayStation 4, roll7’s latest will demand that your thumbs move quickly enough to achieve every desired goal. As levels start to become more complex, even seemingly impossible, you’ll find yourself almost unintentionally entering a zen-like trance. There’s no air or no sound around you. Your senses are dulled to the outside world yet heightened in the pursuit of achieving at least a completed level in OlliOlli 2.
It’s not just about completing each level either. Every stage has five challenges upon it. These range from keeping a single combo running through the whole area, grabbing specific pick ups placed in challenging locations, or dishing out a particular selection of tricks. These challenges, when all five are completed, unlock a new layout with five challenges of its own. Defeat all those and you’re into RAD mode which is insanity in video game form.
OlliOlli 2‘s five zones, which themselves run across a broad spectrum between wild west setting to an alien mech factory, have new obstacles which you’d think would be hard to learn. However after your first mistake in any of the zones, the obstacles and grind points are very well telegraphed. Using some sort of – probably forbidden – color magic, roll7 have been able to make everything in OlliOlli 2 incredibly easy to spot. The only Grind Rails that are a little difficult to discern at times are found in the Aztec portion.
Every single level is designed to test your mettle while giving you just enough to go on should you be struggling. Later zones will require pinpoint precision in stark contrast to earlier locations which are more of a place to hone your skills than actually play through.
Even if you were to have any problems working out at a glance what environmental element is where, it’s almost too easy to commit every level in OlliOlli 2 to your memory with nothing more than a blink and a nod. That leaves plenty of time for you to delay frustration and focus on getting up those scoreboards.
From the outset, OlliOlli 2 seems to be a little light on content. Five different environments each housing 10 levels (five initially, followed by five unlocked after completing the challenges in each). Although it doesn’t sound like much, it actually winds up being plenty because the elation this game gives you doesn’t come from completing levels as such. It instead comes from just being a damn fun game to play. You’ll unknowingly find yourself playing the same level over and over again simply because it’s an enjoyable experience, not necessarily for any benefits.
There are plenty of other things to keep yourself occupied with should the initial levels bore you somewhat. Daily Grinds offer you a short and sweet level where you have as many shots as you like to practice your run, before having it count one final time for the online leaderboards. Fail in this single shot and you don’t get a change to make any mark on the scoreboards. Finish it though and, even if your attempt is a little impotent, you’ll get that satisfying surge of knowledge that somewhere on the leaderboards is your name with a score next to it.
Other short and sweet activities come in the form of Spots. Spots are much like the shorter levels presented in the Daily Grind mode, but they can be replayed over and over again. These provide a quick challenge for those moments where you’ve only got a minute or so to play.
Don’t think for a minute that you’ll be stepping away from OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood in a rush though.
OlliOlli 2 is in some senses a one trick pony. It only has one mechanic, but it focuses so intently on that mechanic while providing enough great content around it, that it just becomes one long – or short – pathway to happiness. It’s still a one trick pony, but that one trick pony is capable of doing a quadruple backflip while beat-boxing a hip-hop rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee.
OlliOlli 2‘s crisp visuals and joyous soundtrack take on the role of supporting godparents; not crucial to the goings on but still providing a huge boon to everything. It’s in the soundtrack where OlliOlli 2 really does shine out among contemporaries. The tracks chosen are good enough to be listened to alone, and yet don’t impede on your concentration in any way. Pausing the game and just sitting back to listen to the tunes isn’t a rare occurrence. Even after only one run on a level, you’ll be blinking only to see a complete map of each course etched onto your eyelids.
At launch, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood will be available on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. This review has been based upon both versions because there’s absolutely no difference between the two. Both are a visual explosion and control absolutely beautifully. With that being said though, the PlayStation 4 version is a little more difficult when it comes to landing tricks or completing analogue stick movements. That’s simply due to the size of the stick. Vita players can expect slightly stronger thumbs after playing OlliOlli 2, PlayStation 4 players should be prepared to lift 100 pounds with their thumbs come next week.
After 10 wonderful hours with OlliOlli 2 and taking in everything the game has to offer, there’s only one reason why you wouldn’t buy the game on release; if you don’t have a PlayStation 4 or Vita. While other games may offer a laborious grind to the end, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood brings you a new kind of grinding that never gets old and keeps the sparks flying for hours to come.