Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
February 8, 2022
Private Division, Take-Two Interactive
Skateboarding games are incredibly hard to get right. Typically they take one of two routes: go heavy into the arcade or heavy into the sim. Putting a game in either camp can have varying results. There are certainly instances out there where they give it a red hot go but its landing isn’t perfect. Or, there’s your absolute juggernaut, obliterating everything else in its path. OlliOlli World, the latest skating affair from Roll7 is certainly the latter, while somehow simultaneously dipping its toes into sim and arcade. The result is something amazing and worth checking out.
Finding your inner Gnarvana
OlliOlli World provides quite the journey for the character you create. You are an up-and-coming skater, settling in with an eccentric crew known as The Meltas. With this cast comes oddballs such as Gnarly Mike, a portly aging punk who loves conspiracy theories second to nailing some gnarly tricks, a young girl by the name of Suzie with a camera always at the ready and Dad, an older gentleman (with no familial affiliation). Completing this main cast is the most important figure, Chiffon, a pipe-smoking, third-eye-having ‘Skate God’ near retirement. Eager to pass on the throne to you, you must venture out into the game’s five worlds. Though not before you impress the four other ethereal skating beings in the process, joining them in their ruling of Gnarvana!
This bonkers, off-the-chain premise matches well with the world and 2.5D environments you’ll find yourself in. The first area situates players in Sunshine Valley, an L.A. adjacent theme where you’ll dip in and out of lanes on a boardwalk, grinding on rails and kickflipping over inflatable pool toys, stairs and gaps where river channels flow beneath. Ice cream mascots and humanoid, flexing muscular pigeons will be walking around in the back and foreground, just further creating that curious wonder on what on earth kind of world OlliOlli World is positing.
It’s clear the art team at Roll7 had complete free range and fun behind the scenes here. Even when you’re moving at fast speeds, blurring by the scenery, there are plenty of oddities to take in. Other areas include Burnt Rock, a desert biome where you’ll find Burning Man-Esque festival-goers in alien jumpsuits and Cloverbrook, the forest zone home to walking and talking trees and bumblebees.
The preview period I experienced some weeks ago only permitted me to talk about those first three areas I’ve just covered. Though I now can talk about both Los Vargas and Sketchside, two especially exciting zones. The former sees players in a mindboggling blend of ancient history and future technology, skating through temples but passing hovering platforms and train carriages shaped like cats. Sketchside however sees you in dodgy urban settings, skating through factories that pump toxic sludge in and out of their walls.
Once clearing the worlds on offer, I couldn’t help but take away the harsh but creative art blend of being half grounded in realism and half being absurdist. A lot of the areas you’ll cruise through (especially the earlier ones) are entirely plausible, yet they have some of the biggest weirdos you’ll ever meet in-between the multitude of colourful levels. Chatting with The Meltas, my eyes would often wander to the striking sun-kissed orange of the esplanade. Similarly, Burnt Rock instead offers deep purples in its desolate grounds, rather than your expected soft oranges or yellows. This art style feels incredibly akin to something you’d find in a cartoon from the 90s or an animated psychedelic music video. I’m in love with the design and am incredibly here for it.
Backing all of this is a licensed soundtrack, pulling in a plethora of electronic musicians to further realise the vibrant and vivid vibes. Each track compliments just this. Listening to tracks such as Adam Swim’s Can’t Sleep while I pull off gnarly tricks and dodge obstacles, it’s apparent OlliOlli World is meant to be a game you can get a hell of a sizzle reel of footage out of, both audibly and visually.
I cannot overstate the weird and cosy factor that goes on here. That comes across just as well in OlliOlli World’s extensive character customiser. No clothing item is off-limits to any body type in the game and no gendering of them occurs. You can be a zany hero in a bee jumpsuit, sport a silly 80s style moustache, or maybe you want to take my approach and make them look more like you. As a trans woman, I felt incredibly seen having a character match my body type, sporting a stocky figure with broad shoulders, tattoos and a dress. Outfits that suit a punk, dork, slacker are all present. The addition of other wear such as headscarves also does well to boost that inclusivity and have even more players feel seen, no matter your look. Modelled conservative, weird or just after plain old you, your skater will feel right at home and in-universe.
Racking up those points, or seeing it all come crumbling down
Where OlliOlli World differs from other entries into the genre is the more railroaded approach. While you traverse across the 2.5D plain, travelling up and down, closer or further to the side on camera perspective, it plays essentially like an endless runner. You’re barrelling down a course, controlling the speed you skate and this axis movement, never entering the 3D plane. This may be an adjustment to those wanting to explore more and more, but there is still plenty to see and do in-game.
Levels are populated with lanes, rails, ramps and platforms one can wall-run against to change their trajectory upwards or downwards. This will result in a feeling of replayability, finding one of many routes in a given level that works for you to rack up a high score. Maybe you want to play risk vs reward and ride the more dangerous ‘Gnarly Route.’ After all, it likely will come with more spaces to perform tricks off, more rails to grind or potentially glimpses of some rarer, sweeter views. Juxtaposing this, a simpler route is always on offer, allowing players to just take in the world around them and deal with less hectic obstacles.
“Modelled conservative, weird or just after plain old you, your skater will feel right at home and in-universe.”
Instead of using face buttons on your controller, a focus is on manipulating the left thumbstick. This is how one leaves the surface, performs a trick midair or grinds. I’ll admit this took a bit of an adjustment but soon became second nature.
However, this movement method feels more accessible for players of varying skills and abilities. If a less able or skilled person wishes to perform a simple trick like a kickflip, it’s one quick sweep of the left stick. Need a more complicated move? It’s a little more involved of a stick flick but absolutely doable. There is still the use of the right stick to do a reversal or the triggers to do a grab or rotation mid-trick. However, combining this with the more readable levels and prompts, this is the most readable game in Roll7’s skating catalogue yet. Gone too is the awkward crab gripping of a controller for complex moves, a thing I hope persists in other games in the genre.
The gameplay loop on offer is pretty stock standard. It’s incredibly objective-based. That’s far from an issue and instead, Roll7 finds ways to have fun with this known formula you’ve seen before in skating games. The multiple lanes and routes in a given level are utilised well with these objectives. Say you want to complete the task that requires you to do a pop shove-it over a gap where bathers await in a lake below, this is only possible on one of the many paths you can take. Want to knock through ever destructible on a given path? Maybe this time you need to take the low road, baby!
These types of goals are what you’ll typically see in Gnarly Mike’s three objectives he has for you in each level. Adding to that, players will want to go hard on their scores and combos, beating the scores of the three skating heroes, along with attempting to beat the level in one run. However, all of these objectives are entirely optional. All that’s required to progress through the campaign is players reaching the finish line in enough levels to then unlock the next area. Completing objectives is truly rewarding, netting players cosmetics to deck out their character, but none of it alters your performance. Players can attempt a tough goal as frequently or infrequently as they wish.
Pass a checkpoint in a level and you then have the option to tap Y or triangle on your controller to be taken back to this spot by Skate God Chiffon. Considering the fact you won’t lose the challenge progression you’ve filled after this point, only score, I recommend utilising this often. Take a breather. Grind on rails. Don’t grind against your patience and beat your head against a wall. You’re here to have fun. If only more games were like that.
For those wanting to min-max their runs, this may sound frustrating and tiring but the fact of the matter is levels are relatively breezy and over before you know it. The only caveat is the quick ramping in difficulty the last two areas contain. Their setpieces, and the objectives within them, get more and more demanding quite quickly on their own. Sure, these aforementioned checkpoints do their best to remedy some of this, but I think I’ve grown to accept that there will forever just be some parts of the late game of OlliOlli World that will not reach 100% completion for me.
Making the slackers more social
OlliOlli World is also looking to offer more outside of its campaign. It’s aiming to jump a good means into the social gaming space. While you can’t play levels with other players, two online modes are present in-game. The Gnarvana League is a typical leaderboard based championship that occurs in seasons. Players play through a pre-determined course, hoping to rank higher than their foes. Higher rankings result in better rewards. The other mode is The Gnarvana Portal which allows for players to randomly generate their own levels. It’s here that the sense of community and social factor really has potential. Players can provide others with the code for this randomly generated level and get them to challenge their best score, creating more discussion and competition. It’s a bit of a personal pipe dream for me, but I would love to see this kind of social aspect of sharing scores in these social media channels reach Wordle level.
Rounding this off, loading screens between sessions provide images of other players’ usernames and their characters. It was a bit quiet for the time being, given the fact the only other people that had this early access were influencers or other media folk. Though, I can’t wait for this to fill out entirely. I live for seeing what other weird, cute and awesome avatars people have made in-game. Give me more of that feeling of community!
- Jaw-dropping scenery as you skate around unique and fun environments
- Controls feel great, by far the most accessible of Roll7's skating games
- Diverse and extensive character customiser
- Fun and engaging objectives that foster replayability through their nature and completion rewards
- Pretty substantial multiplayer offerings that can create a sense of community
- Last two areas' challenges quickly ramp up in difficulty
Without a doubt, OlliOlli World is going to be the skateboarding game to check out in 2022. It’s an adventure full of plenty of fun and is incredibly hard to fault. Where the challenge in the late game can be a bit much, plenty of accessibility options help you make do. On offer are luscious and vibrant levels to absolutely melt away into with rewarding easy-to-pick-up and at times hard-to-master gameplay. Roll7’s hard work refining their craft and genre niche over the years have well paid off, shaping one of the best and most joyous skating games in a long time. It’s well worth creating your own weird skating hero, diving head first into the wondrous weird OlliOlli World has on offer. You owe yourself that much.