Sticks the (Perfect) Landing
Originally published February 14, 2019 at Doublejump.co
Although they’re built with the same bones, the two games included in Roll7’s OlliOlli: Switch Stance are – remarkably – very different beasts.
Released barely a year apart, both OlliOlli titles are completely distinct, with their own identities that go beyond surface-level differences and reach down into the roots of the gameplay. They’re as impressive as they were back at release but now, with the Switch-only bundle (if you couldn’t tell by the title), the original OlliOlli and OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood have found their best home yet.
Set on a side-scroller 2D plane, OlliOlli is a skating game that plays somewhere between Tony Hawk Pro Skaterand endless runner Canabalt. You skate from left to right across its fixed, intricate levels, pulling off tricks to complete level objectives or beat high scores. Your little skater dude is fragile and is wrecked by most falls, necessitating a (painless) restart. OlliOlli’s controls are the highlight, however – still wonderfully intuitive years after release.
You pull off tricks through motions on the left analogue stick (or d-pad), similar to moves in Street Fighter. Flicking the stick straight up performs an ollie, flicking to the right pulls off a kickflip and the left a heelflip. The more complex tricks, like a laserflip’s left-to-down-half-circle command, earn more points but are naturally tougher to pull off consistently.
Almost every stick turn is attached to a different move, which means that pulling off any trick can feel like mashing directions, and since tricks are easy to pull off individually, OlliOlli focuses on variety. Similar to the style meter in the Devil May Cry series, consistency and variety earns the highest scores.
Aside from basic tricks, players can grind on railings, add rotation mid-air, make perfect landings and maintain a combo (multiplying your final score) to earn more points and boost your overall high score. It all adds up to a system that’s fun to come back to again and again, whether it’s to push through the campaign, beat high scores on a Spot or play the Daily Grind.
OlliOlli’s campaign is made up of 25 Amateur levels and 25 Pro levels across five themed worlds. Completing any Amateur level unlocks the next, and beating all objectives on a given level unlocks the Pro version of that level. It serves as both a tutorial mode, pushing you to really learn the tricks and their timing to complete the objectives (five per level); and as a pseudo-2D platformer, becoming genuinely harder and more complex over time.
OlliOlli also includes 50 Spots, which are each unlocked after beating any level once. Spots make up the arcade mode of OlliOlli, an addictive score-attack mode built for short bursts. They complement the main campaign very well (especially for portable play); where the campaign becomes increasingly platformer-focused and less about free-form skating (this is also true of the sequel), Spots are tight shots of arcade goodness that simply let you skate for high scores, either against yourself or the online leaderboards.
Lastly, there’s OlliOlli’s Daily Grinds, Roll7’s answer to the daily modes in Spelunky, Binding of Isaac and all those other popular roguelikes. Randomly selecting one of the game’s 50 Spots, each player has 24 hours to practice the Spot and, with just one attempt, set a score on the daily leaderboard.
An indie-jazz-electronica soundtrack rounds out the game, this blend of relaxing, funky tracks (with a couple of faster, heavier tracks) that matches the chilled mood of the gameplay itself. Even at its most hectic, the slow-building grooves of artists like Qemists, Dorian Concept, Flako and DFRNT keeps you centered, motivated and in-tune with the rhythm of OlliOlli’s grinds, landings and constant faceplanting.
2015’s OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood
All of the above also applies to the sequel, OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood, a near-perfect follow-up that builds upon and polishes the foundation that the original laid. With a ton of quality-of-life upgrades and an update to the game’s aesthetic, OlliOlli2 changes the core gameplay just enough that it doesn’t kick the original out of the conversation.