Although Skate is a franchise on the mend thanks to the revitalising powers of an EA realising the potential their dormant IP holds, OlliOlli has been the last decade’s most enduring skating franchise. Although it maintains the series’ accessible and fun control scheme, OlliOlli World enjoys a totally rad coat of paint that serves to completely reinvent the game’s visual identity and attitude in fitting with what most stereotypically think of when they consider skater culture.
There’s plenty of lingo, baggy shorts, big grinds, and even bigger slams. And although the game can be hard to a hazardous degree, especially if you’re trying to clock every level’s toughest challenges, OlliOlli World doesn’t demand it of you. In fact, you’re able to experience as difficult a game as you choose as the pass mark, in most cases, is simply beating the level. In that sense, and coupled with its easy-to-pick-up controls, OlliOlli World pretty deliberately feels carefree and a perfect representation of that cruisy, laid-back skateboarding ethos that’s all-inclusive, non-competitive, and promotes growth at a steady pace.
The point of OlliOlli World is to determine whether you, through your gnashing and shredding mastery, and with the help of a ragtag group of friends, are capable of easing Chiffon into retirement by taking over her nebulous, and apparently godlike, role as a ‘Skate Wizard’ of Radlandia. It’s an absurd premise that serves as a pretty outlandish backdrop for the game’s main event: good old-fashioned skating.
Impressing the other, positively cartoonish, deities of Radlandia’s handful of regions is a towering task and requires you to skate through somewhere in the range of fifty levels that do certainly get tougher as the journey nears its end. Like previous entries, OlliOlli World’s levels play out in a side-scrolling fashion and require a certain aptitude for rhythm to chain together combos throughout the many obstacles you’ll face. The level design is layered, offering multiple paths that often lead to ‘gnarly routes’ that house the tougher tasks doled out by Mike, the brick shithouse dullard of the group. As they always have, OlliOlli’s controls borrow from the Skate playbook more than Tony Hawk’s. A controlled flick of the right stick determines the flip trick, grab, or grind you’ll pull off, while triggers control your skater’s rotation—a must for keeping those combos alive, along with wall rides and manuals. Quarter pipes are a new addition to OlliOlli World and, while they’re great for catching air and changing lanes, they create a certain unreadability to the level and, through constantly switching between left and right movement, makes the way forward harder to anticipate.
Straying from the main course is a great way to unearth the side quests on offer, most of which involve tracking down the strangest of people who call Radlandia home. Although reaching them can be tricky, there’s a certain, disarming charm that comes from chatting with a buff, roided out seagull.
While joining the Skate Wizard ranks and reaching Gnarvana is your skater’s ultimate goal, it serves as a bit of an endgame for those who reach it. Players who vibe with the chill, aimless act of skating can opt into the Gnarvana Portal and enjoy levels generated by certain parameters, like difficulty and length, by the player. It’s ultimately pointless and doesn’t quite hit like proper user-created levels might, but serves as a good means of practice. Each generated instance is given a postcode that players can share, creating a kind of competitive aspect to an otherwise meaningless aside.
The Gnarvana League, on the other hand, could be the beginnings of a more durable reason to return to OlliOlli after the credits roll. Although it’s in its infancy and feels rather bare-bones, existing only as a daily challenge at the moment with a rudimentary ranking system, I feel as though it could evolve into something pretty cool. Being able to watch the table-topping runs through a replay is a good way to learn a trick or two.
OlliOlli is like a rainbow-coloured fruit, now rich in colour and personality having shed its pixel art rind. As far as reinventions go, it’s hard to fault the game’s new direction. It’s a gorgeous hand-drawn approach that feels like it’s pulled from the pages of some coming of age, summery graphic novel—almost as if Bryan Lee O’Malley tried his hand at an Adventure Time, except it’s full of backwards caps and anthropomorphic ice-cream cones. The game’s soundtrack, a curated selection of warm and welcoming house music, fits the mood like a glove, including ‘Darling Gardens’ from Melbourne’s own Midflite.
I’d go so far as to call OlliOlli World a feel-good game and it’s one that’ll catch a lot of people off guard, despite the franchise’s more than confident beginnings. I hope, through a bit of post-launch support, it continues to grow, especially when it comes to the lighter competitive aspects of Gnarvana.
THE XBOX SERIES X VERSION WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WERE PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Courtesy of some really great hand-drawn art, it’s hard not to adopt the game’s most excellent and bodacious attitude through osmosis. But OlliOlli World’s strength, as it has always been, is in its low barrier to entry and the fact it’s just so damn fun to pick up and play.
I love the art style's reinvention
Gameplay is still super tight
Soundtrack is chill and bodacious
Very flexible in how it challenges the player
Gnarvana Portal feels like a rather pointless aside