You push off to get some extra speed. You jump, pulling off a great move in the air, maybe even working in a spin. You grind on a handrail, jump again, try to land, and…whoops. You hit the analog stick as if you were trying to grind instead of land, which sends you flying off your board and down several flights of stairs.
These moments can be frustrating, but with the tap of a button you’re back to try again, which helps make OlliOlli2 just as absorbing as (if not much different from) its predecessor.
Like the first game, OlliOlli2 is a 2D skateboarding game that sports simple controls but demands quick reflexes for success. Imagine a cross between the Tony Hawk games’ tricks and the sidescrolling action of Canabalt, and you’ll have some idea of what OlliOlli2 is like in motion. You automatically skate to the right of the screen and are unable to stop or go backward. As soon as you crash, your run is over, meaning that you’re always weighing the risk of longer combos with the reward of a higher score.
The majority of your actions are performed with the left analog stick. When on the ground, tilting or rotating the stick in any direction essentially “readies” a trick. Let go of the stick, and you’ll leap into the air and perform said trick. Grinding works the same way, with you moving the stick in any direction to perform different grinds on applicable surfaces.
Pulling off even complex tricks in OlliOlli isn’t usually too difficult; it’s landing that’s the problem. To land, you have to hit the X button right before you hit the ground, otherwise you’ll get a “sloppy” landing at best, greatly reducing any points you may have been trying to earn. Grinding requires similar timing, and the highest scores will go to those who can chain together jumps and grinds before pulling it all together with a perfect landing.
Imagine a cross between the Tony Hawk games’ tricks and the sidescrolling action of Canabalt, and you’ll have some idea of what OlliOlli is like in motion.
The biggest additions to the skateboarding action in OlliOlli2 are manuals, reverts, and revert manuals. Pulling these moves off requires even more concentration when it comes to landing, but doing so allows you to keep a combo going even when there are no grind-able surfaces in reach. This places a bigger emphasis on completing stages in one uninterrupted combo in OlliOlli2 than in the previous game, which is rarely easy but immensely satisfying when you finally pull it off. They’re small additions on the surface, but manuals and reverts add a lot of depth to the experience, allowing you to transform a run from a bunch of little combos to one long, fluid performance.
OlliOlli2 takes you to more exotic locations than the first game (like the wild west and an Aztec temple), but its structure is exactly the same. Simply completing a level without crashing can be tricky in and of itself, but eventually, you’ll want to focus on each stage’s challenges. There are five in each level, and while many of them are basic point goals or item collection tasks, others will test your abilities by asking you to chain specific tricks together or forcing you to make every manual, grind, and landing perfect.
There’s a particular headspace, a certain rhythm you have to get in to succeed in OlliOlli. When you’re there, the action is blissful. When you’ve nailed the timing and are performing perfect grinds and manuals through even the most complex environments, the chase for higher and higher scores is addictive. Levels are short, making it really easy to say, “I’ll just do one more of these,” over and over again.
But there are also frustrations to be had, especially when you’re not in that groove. It can be infuriating to struggle with a section at the very end of a level, forcing you to replay the earlier parts over and over again. There are also a few (fortunately not many) instances where level memorization is more useful than quick reflexes, which strikes me as antithetical to the rest of the experience. Being able to restart a level at the tap of a button helps alleviate these problems, but these issues can still hamper the enjoyment.
The biggest additions to the skateboarding action in OlliOlli2 are manuals, reverts, and revert manuals.
Even with its new tricks, it’s hard to look at OlliOlli2 as not just “more OlliOlli.” If you weren’t into the action the first time around, or if you’ve already had your fill of it, there is nothing here to win you over. One of the few features that could help differentiate the sequel, local multiplayer, isn’t in the game at launch (but will be patched in later), and, slight graphical improvements aside, you might be able to watch over someone’s shoulder and not be sure whether they’re playing OlliOlli2 or its predecessor.
If you missed the first game, though, this is the better of the two, and the tutorial will ease you into what its 2D skateboarding is all about. And if you loved it the first time around, “more OlliOlli” shouldn’t sound like a bad thing. Provided you can get over the difficulty hump, you’ll find a great high score chase in OlliOlli2.