Since the 1990s, gamers have been crazy about skateboarding video games. We've loved to grind and flip and grab to our heart's content; until the wheels fall off and our thumbs have gone numb from trying to input combos into our controllers. But by 2010, we were overwhelmed with the amount of skating games available with Tony Hawk: Ride proving that Activision had exhausted their options (it featured a plastic skate peripheral and received the lowest critical and sales reception of any TH game) and EA's Skate 3 pushing that franchise to the limit.
In 2014, though, along came OlliOlli, a skateboarding game developed and published by Roll7 for PS Vita (and later released on PC and home consoles). Instead of the gimmick-heavy gameplay of the last TH game, OlliOlli was a return to skating's roots. It combined the combo trickery of the original Tony Hawk games and the control scheme of the Skate series (where tricks are mapped to an analogue stick rather than a combination of button presses) for a thrilling experience that recaptured what made us all fall in love with virtual skateboarding in the first place. In OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood then, Roll7 had a big job on their hands as they needed to change enough to make the sequel worth it.
Have they succeeded? Well first of all, fans of the original OlliOlli will be happy to know that the core gameplay element hasn't changed. The idea with the game is that player's unnamed skater whizzes through a level on their board, flipping, ollieing and grinding about the place with simple flips of the stick, while also trying to rack up points to the best of their ability. Moving the analog stick directly up and down will see players pull off the basic ollie while wiggling in various directions will get more advanced, impressive sounding flips (Laserflips, anyone?). Similarly, moving the analog stick right before the skater connects with a ledge or a bar will see them grind along it with a satisfying 'plink' and a 'scuuurch' of a board on metal and the bumper buttons also allow for variations of grinds.
Furthermore, there's the all important OlliOlli USP, which requires a press of the X button as the skater lands on the ground. Fail to time that button press correctly and the landing will be sloppy or players will lose out on the points and speed bonus gifted to Perfect landings (the skater can actually halt to a stand still if players don't time your landings and grinds well enough). Sloppy grinds can also cancel out a combo, which is a biggie. Not to worry too much though, as pressing X will soon become second nature.
Building off of that premise, though, Roll7 has stuffed a handful of new features into OlliOlli2. There are now manuals (which are vital for keeping a combo up between grinds and jumps), reverts, revert manuals and grind switching which is where, as players might have guessed, the skater switch their grind type mid-rail to get extra points. They've added more flips to the Tricktionary too, including Darkslides, an impressive skating feat where the board is flipped upside down on a rail. All of these are certainly welcome and massively fun additions, but does an expanded trick list really give players of the original OlliOlli a reason to buy the new game? Not really.
However, it's the new modes and levels that OlliOlli 2 players will be able to test those new tricks on that really make a difference. Per the Olliwood suffix, this time around players will be skating through a fictional Tinseltown, including levels inspired by its greatest hits as well as the glitz and glamor of being in the limelight. There are five different themed levels (including a Western, an Aztec blockbuster and a theme park set screamfest) each segmented into two dimensions, where players can ride their board in the foreground as opposed to grinding on a rail.
Each level that Roll7 has crafted here is gorgeous. While some are certainly frustrating in their gameplay design (there are various obstacles including trash cans and death dealing spikes for players to avoid, lest they kill the skater and make players restart) they all look magnificent. For example, the Western features a train that chugs on alongside the skater in the bakcground and the theme park is decked out in eye-popping neon. And there are giant ramps too, which launch players into the air for a a glimpse at more of the level before they head back down to earth. It's just a shame that players don't get to experience much of it as they're trying to blitz through a level as fast as they can. Gamers can replay a level with a quick press of the triangle button though, so they can always relive the thrill and the beauty in an instant.
OlliOlli2's new modes also give gamers extra excuses to play the game (not that you'll need one, really) as Roll7 offers a career mode along with the Daily Grind, Spots and RAD Mode. In career mode, each of those themed levels are split into five Amateur and five Pro variations (there are 50 of these, combined). Each level has five objectives to complete (e.g collect several movie tickets or reach a specific score), which reward players with shiny stars for completion.
Daily Grind, meanwhile, gives players one chance to set a high score on a chunk of level, looking to beat out OlliOlli2 players from all around the world. Spots ts also gives players a small section of level and tasks them with setting the highest score. There's also a local, splitscreen multiplayer mode called Combo Rush which will be released after launch but in all honesty, OlliOlli2 isn't any poorer without it; as a single player experience players will have more than enough to keep them hooked and beating their own high scores as it is.
It also wouldn't be right not to acknowledge OlliOlli2's truly incredible soundtrack. With catchy electronic beats and pulsing tunes in the background, players will be nodding their heads as much as they will be trying to frantically push up and down on the analog sticks. Not only does the soundtrack make the game a delight to play, it also helps to make OlliOlli2 the least frustrating game of its kind and as a game that will have you addicted after the very first level, 'not being annoying' is a key strength.
So, although OlliOlli 2 doesn't reinvent the wheel as the original game did, as a continuation of last year's skating brilliance it definitely succeeds. Wonderful for newcomers and satisfying for those already invested in Roll7's brand of skating, OlliOlli 2 is highly recommended.
OlliOlli 2 is now available on PS Vita and PS4. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.