In a world bereft of good Tony Hawk titles where Skate, too, has been an absentee, Olli Olli filled the void for gamers keen to strap on the old brain bucket and drop in. Although Olli Olli World remains true to what has helped the series stand out, it feels like a natural evolution of the formula. Most noticeably, the game enjoys a healthy dose of personality and charm.
This personality is driven in large part by the game’s new aesthetic which is a departure from the series’ original pixel-art stylings. It’s more cartoonish and animated now and looks like a marriage between Adventure Time and Scribblenauts in a lot of ways. With characters like Dad, an over-the-hill skater with retro knee pads, and Gnarly Mike, a brick wall in stature and intellect, there’s a bit of wonderment that bleeds through what was a pretty tame and straight-laced series before. It leans so hard into skate culture and building out its titular world with absurd characters that it’s hard not to smile with each new encounter.
I particularly love the business-oriented frog who offered up the demo’s biggest challenge. The expectation of completing what seems like, when in isolation, four basic objectives in a single life is a trickier than expected task and certainly tests your mastery of what Olli Olli World has taught you up until that point.
Olli Olli World might have the look and feel of an auto-runner, the player maintains total control. By using both sticks to pull off flips and grabs while using the triggers to spin, the game handles a lot more like Skate than most might think. Although the skill ceiling is rather high if your goal is to tick every box and scratch every objective off of the list, Olli Olli World maintains the series’ easy pick-up-and-play core loop that keeps it accessible for all.
It honestly just feels like the Olli Olli you know with a brand new personality injection, thanks to its vibrant, cotton candy world and the gnarly skate culture at the heart of it.
Each level has a number of objectives, though your progression doesn’t hinge on checking them all off. It appears that as little as crossing the checkered line of a stage opens the next, making it a fairly simple task to do the dash and see all of Radlandia. Of course, seeing everything a level has to offer is likely going to warrant return visits as alternate paths are often essential in uncovering secret cameos and finding collectibles.
It feels a lot like the Runner series in terms of how the world, its levels, and what they ask of you are laid out. Although I feel like most of what I saw in the hands-on demo felt like a tutorial aimed at players at the bottom skill level, I liked a lot of what I saw in Olli Olli World as a returning player. The levels with checklists I did play I chewed through, but it does look as though there’ll be plenty of worlds that’ll offer up a suitable challenge.
Radlandia is made up of several regions which are represented by obvious and noticeable biomes, they don’t change how the game plays but it’s a nice visual flourish and a mark of player progress. Sunshine Valley serves its purpose as the opening area of the demo and has a vibe worthy of the name, it serves as a beachy nod to the early days of “sidewalk surfing” in California. Its successor, Cloverbrook offers a thicker, wooded track complete with enormous bees and frogs that await the noisy rattle of your trucks.
The game itself runs smoothly and feels extremely crisp, it just breaks down in a major way when it comes to the interval cutscenes which see your entourage of misfits explain the stakes of each level. It’s a frame rate dip so hard, it’s bound to give you whiplash, although I expect these things are still in fine-tuning due to the alpha nature of the build.
It’s not regular to refer to a game as a “feel-good hit” but that’s exactly what Olli Olli World feels like. Its soaring and swelling synth score is the perfect backdrop for the next step in one of the industry’s most under-appreciated skateboarding brands.
Sure, it has gone under the knife and its face-lift and newfound confidence will get people talking but it’s the same Olli Olli you used to love, only better.