‘OlliOlli2’ skates its way to success

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

Skateboarding games kickflipped their way into obscurity after dominating everyone’s original PlayStation in the early 2000s.

The “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” series defined the childhood of many young boys, making them buy a board and pads for the first time. Then, the “Skate” franchise grabbed the torch in the late 2000s, being a more realistic skating-sim, but devolved into the jokiness of “Tony Hawk.”

However, “OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood” has found a way to freshen the skateboarding genre.

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“OlliOlli2” is a 2D game, where players ride their boards through a downhill jam. They will grind down rails and jump off ramps. Sounds pretty standard for a skateboarding game, but “OlliOilli2” makes every trick matter.

The game is all about linking together combinations of tricks and getting high scores. Each kickflip, heel flip and ollie adds up the combo counter, with harder tricks giving more points. Being able to link the terrific tricks with the rails sends your score over the moon. But now, with the ability to manual—riding on just the back wheels—players can keep their streaks going in stretches without rails or ramps.

It may sound easy on paper, but “OlliOlii2” is no walk in the skate park.

Not only do players control when they jump, but they also have to stick the landing by tapping the X button just before hitting the ground. It is a hard mechanic to comprehend at first, but eventually becomes muscle memory. Grinding must also be landed in a similar fashion. Instead of hitting X, skaters have to hold down on the left analogue stick, but at the last second in order to get a speed boost.

Hitting that grind boost is paramount, because some rails go on and on, and players will lose all of their momentum and fall off.

It has high rewards for high risks, and an adrenaline shot of speed provides each level with enough risky business to make Tom Cruise dance around in his socks and underwear.

There is a distinct learning curve, which is more like a 50-foot ramp with explosives on the end. This is not a game where you can just start it up and get the hang in an instant. Players will fail a lot, but a quick tap of the triangle button refreshes the skater and course.

As tracks get more complex, players’ thumbs and joysticks are in for a workout. Each trick sends the left thumb into a kind of frenzy. It jerks around like a golf ball hit into a bathroom, while the right one sits fairly motionless. The thumb stick wishes it was wearing pads and a helmet.

The controls are simple and easy to learn, even though they feel unnatural at the start.

But once players get into the groove of the game, they feel more like Tony Hawk. Being able to complete a level in one long combo is such a feat once first accomplished, but becomes habitual once gamers get comfortable on the highway to the danger zone.

“OlliOlli2” is greatly re-playable because there is always a way to improve your score. Swapping a double kickflip for a single could be the difference in a great four star or a boring one star run. As well as each course having specific, difficult challenges to accomplish.

My only complaint with this game is the amount of levels.

There are 25 amateur levels spread across five zones. Some levels go through ancient Aztec monuments and others go through a rollercoaster park in a big city. Then there are another 25 pro levels going through the same areas. “OlliOlli2” can’t be completed in one sitting, but more levels would have made me book a longer stay in Olliwood.

There are obvious comparisons to be made to the “Trials” series, swapping motorcycle obstacle courses for devious skate parks. Both games may be similar, but stand out independently. “Trials” is all about getting through a stage as quick as possible, and “OlliOlli2” is about doing it in style.

“OlliOlli2” is unlike any other skateboard game ever made, and with its predecessor, is the best to come around since “Skate 3” in 2010.

It is one of a kind and is one of my favorites of the year so far.

4.5 stars out of 5

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected]

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