Roll7, the team behind the highly successful and critically acclaimed skateboarding side-scroller OlliOlli are back with a sequel. Released early last month, with a few new mechanics, the same highly addictive gameplay and levels of skating insanity that would make Tony Hawk blush, this is OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood.
For those of you that somehow missed the original game (where have you been? It’s awesome), OlliOlli 2 is sort of the skateboarding equivalent of Trials Evolution but with a little more realism to the physics of the game. It’s a 2D side-scroller in which you work your way through a series of levels racking up a skill based points system using flips, grinds and the tricks. As you progress through the game, the difficulty increases to the point where quick reaction times and a good memory are essential.
When I say you’re going to need a great memory, let’s face it, there will be a restart or two (or about 500 in my case) as you learn the lay of the land and work out how to overcome the challenges that the game presents. Restarts are insanely fast and simple though with one-click of triangle and you’re back at the beginning of the level, when frustration begins to turn into anger, this function is essential. Controls wise, the entire game is built for efficiency, it’s basics taking only moments to learn and before long you’ll be chaining grinds and tricks together with ease.
That’s said, those coming over from the previous game will not master Welcome to Olliwood immediately as Roll7 have introduced a few new mechanics to the sequel. You now have the ability to launch yourself off of a ramp, hit the jump perfectly and you’ll go flying into the air, in fact, this is essential for some of the later levels. Another major inclusion is the ability to hit a manual on landing from a jump, this allows you to keep your combo going between jumps and grinds.
Even with experience playing the original, this game still felt new and fresh because of the new mechanics, you literally have to go through the learning process again. Some might find this annoying, especially those that have honed their skills on the original but for the rest of us it adds a lot of value, proving that this isn’t just a rehashing of the original. The majority of players will start this game on a level playing field, which is great because how many franchises have that elitist group that makes the rest of us feel like noobs?
The difficulty lies in going back to the original after playing OlliOlli 2, the bar has been raised somewhat with this game and as a result OlliOlli is left looking like a poor imitation. Roll7 have done such a superb job of refining the controls and physics that the original game just feels old and worn out by comparison.
Despite all of the new mechanics on offer, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach has been taken with Welcome To Olliwood’s career mode structure. Following the template set by its predecessor, the game features five unique areas, each with five different tracks, all of which increase in difficulty as you progress. As the name may suggest, the theme for the game is Hollywood and more specifically movies and so each area has its own take on a specific genre. After the initial area, which is set in Olliwood itself, you get to skate your way through an ancient Aztec world, the wild west, a zombie invested theme park and a futuristic sci-fi setting, all with their own unique look.
This is where OlliOlli 2 really comes into its own against the original, the game is so much better looking, the visuals really stand out in comparison to OlliOlli. Instead of dull monotone backdrops, we are treated to well-polished, colourful and vibrant environments filled with life and no two areas look alike.
It’s not just the playable setting that has had a make-over here, it’s the whole experience. The menus, the hud, everything has been polished to perfection, it feels like it’s been designed from the ground up to surpass the original in every way, add to all of this an awesome soundtrack and it’s very hard to ask for much more from this game as a sequel.
Despite that, there is more.
The improvements continue outside of career mode with a few features returning after a spit and polish. Daily Grind and Spots both return, the former being a daily challenge where you challenge the world for the highest score, the latter being shorter versions of the main levels with the goal to complete the track in one combo. Both modes have benefitted from the improvements made to the career mode, with a new hud and progress bars making the challenges a much more enjoyable experience.
OlliOlli 2 also does a much better job of tracking your progress compared with the first game, in a number of different ways. While in game, you now have a status bar which appears above your combo meter to allow you to see your progress towards completing a specific challenge, it’s subtle, unintrusive and extremely useful for the competitive gamers among us. The trickionary now gives you a quick indication of what stunts you’ve managed to pull off in your career and you now have a fully fledged profile page to track overall progress through the game, if statistics are your thing then this game has you covered brilliantly.
One of my favourite things about this game is the cross-platform synchronisation. Welcome to Olliwood lets you the sync your progress between the PS4 and PlayStation Vita, allowing you to carry on the game on the move. I’ve said this before in other reviews, this is essential for the future of gaming, it’s what the Vita was built for and it’s the way that Microsoft are taking the Xbox platform moving forward. Most importantly, it’s the indie community that’s driving this, so hats off to the developers for the including that function.
Whilst on the subject of the handheld, I’ve been lucky enough to play this game on both the PS4 and the Vita and the transition is fantastic. Ignoring the novelty that is the touch-screen and focusing on the same basic gameplay on the Vita was the right decision to make and it serves the game brilliantly. When playing this on a PS4, it feels like a PS4 game. When playing this on a Vita, it feels like a Vita game.
Overall, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood is the perfect sequel, every aspect of the original has been improved upon and yet the essence of the original still lives on. This game is aesthetically pleasing, has an awesome soundtrack and much more importantly is insanely enjoyable to play, seriously, writing this review was delayed slightly because I couldn’t stop playing the game, it’s addictive.
Though I doubt the improvements have done enough to win over those who didn’t like the original, fans of OlliOlli will be pleased with this game, as will those new to the series. Definitely one to find time to play.