On a Roll
OlliOlli, Roll7’s first entry into the skate genre, was every bit creative and intuitive as it was aesthetically pleasing. The unconventional control scheme was a refreshing approach to an established breed of game design, the pixel art created a dirty vibe to match the sport’s street origins, and the music’s high production values took the overall package to even taller heights. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood adeptly improves upon the first game in every way by explaining its strict but deep controls, upping the quality of level design, adding more depth to its combo mechanics, and applying a sleek coat of paint with a new art style and better animations.
Upon first entering OlliOlli 2, the new art direction is immediately noticeable. The pixel art has been swapped for a more cartoonish approach, utilising rich colours that pop off the screen and command the audience’s attention. Each location features a different colour scheme, and every screenshot looks as if it has layers upon layers of inked cells.
Complementing the new aesthetic is OlliOlli 2’s upgraded animations. Every board flip is expertly crafted to portray motion. In a game that features a plethora of different tricks, I was blown away with how unique each one looked. It pushed me to try every trick in the tricktionary just so I could see how it looked. But the fresh animation doesn’t stop with the skateboard; the avatar got a makeover as well. Whether he is crouching down, anticipating a 360 spin, stomping on a rail, or even tumbling down the stairs, the player avatar possesses as much detail as his board, and all of his movements are discernible despite how fast the gameplay is. Overall, every bit of movement in OlliOlli 2 is more detailed, smooth, and distinct than its predecessor.
Looks aside, OlliOlli 2 plays brilliantly thanks to its clear tutorials. One of the biggest sources of my frustration with the original was its strict timing. Often, I couldn’t tell why my avatar wouldn’t spin, would miss a rail, or refuse to kickflip. OlliOlli 2 remedies this with the ‘Skatepark’, a place for players to practice each specific game mechanic. This allows players to memorise the timing and visual queues for each trick. Rather than feel confused at my failure, I understood where I went wrong and was able to improve with each passing trial.
What fuelled my ambition to master the mechanics was OlliOlli 2’s revamped combo system and a long list of new game mechanics. Out of all the new iterations, the augmented combo mechanics stand out as the most important reason to play the sequel. Combo chains used to stop when the avatar hit the ground, but now they can continue across the entirety of each stage. This is thanks to a laundry list of new mechanics such as manuals, revert manuals, and rail switches. Roll7 took all the glaring holes in its previous game’s tricktionary, filled them, and made them feel as if they belonged from the start.
Roll7 also made it easy and eye-pleasing to keep track of your enormous combos as you sail through levels. The on-screen UI now has a bar that slowly fills as you add tricks to your combos, tells you if you landed sloppily or perfectly, and tells you how many tricks you’ve chained together at any given time. It’s all simple and intuitive. There’s a bevy of information that is digestible with a simple glance from your peripheral sight, allowing you to focus on the action at hand.
Lastly, OlliOlli 2 features much improved level design. When boiled down to its essence, OlliOlli is about surviving whatever is thrown at you until you reach the end of the stage. However, the original often times came across as unfair, especially in the final Russian locale which felt like a random collection of tough obstacles. Thankfully, the level design in OlliOlli 2 never feels arbitrarily difficult. Instead, the solution to each challenge is lucid, and requires adept fingers, not luck, to clear. Stages also feature branching paths, creating another dimension of replayability.
Inside OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood’s sleek, cartoon-styled package is a bevy of new game mechanics, smart and challenging level design, a longer tricktionary, and beautiful animation. Running alongside all the improvements is a soundtrack every bit as impressive as the first, and enough replayability to keep you in front of the television or PlayStation Vita for hours. Three different versions of difficulty exist for every stage, leaderboards allow for score competition, and ‘The Daily Grind’ offers players a chance to compete against others in a new location each day. In the end, OlliOlli 2 offers improvements and augmentations to every aspect of the original, and has built in enough to do to keep players occupied until a third one comes along. If you want to see a shining example of how to execute a stellar sequel, pickup a copy of OlliOlli 2 and enjoy.