(Pocket-lint) - Skating is one of those pastimes that can seem incredibly mysterious if you've never tried it - a world with fashion of its own, language and expertise that are hard to crack. That is until you play something like OlliOlli World, a game that pulls out every stop to make sure you can get on with its vibe.
Its intricate levels and amazingly vivid world beg to be explored and mastered, while its wry and zany tone make it a joy to check out what's over that next grind-rail. It's well worth checking out even if you've bounced off skating games in the past.
We enjoyed the first two OlliOlli games, but both were challenging in a way that killed off our desire to finish them. With OlliOlli world, developer Roll7 has taken a wonderful leap and made things more characterful and welcoming.
If you like platformers of any kind then you should give it a try, but if you're into skating at all then OlliOlli World totally shreds.
- Gorgeous art style
- Amazing character creator
- So many layers to learn
- Smart checkpointing
- Gets increasingly tricky
Ascend to Gnarvana
OlliOlli World, unlike the more restrained and pixelated look of the previous two games in the series, is set in a poppy, bubblegum land called Radlandia, home to a joyful array of skating enthusiasts.
They're on the lookout for a new skating sage to commune with the gods of their sport, and you might just fit the bill, regardless of who you are. You'll start the game by diving into an unexpectedly superb character creator that offers nearly endless-feeling options from body types and skin tones to layers of clothing and protective gear.
Once you've created your weird little skater, safe in the knowledge that you can edit every facet of them whenever you like down the line, you'll jump onto a world map reminiscent of classic Mario games, offering an ever more complicated series of levels through a series of areas.
Each has its own distinctive look and feel, and as you go you'll start off with gentle mechanics that have you performing simple tricks and learning how to gain speed before more and more options get layered on over time.
It's a familiar difficulty curve, but as well-judged as anything we've tried recently, and you'll soon be pulling off trick combinations, wall-rides and grind combos as you speed through amazingly rendered environments.
Each level starts with a short conversation between your loveable companions, tour guides through the world, and while they're amazingly assured tidbits of writing, you can also skip each and every one of them if you're more interested in cutting to the chase.
Kicks and flicks
OlliOlli World, if you strip away the skateboard you're using to get about, is akin to a side-scrolling platformer at its heart, one where you have to quickly react to upcoming obstacles, gaps and more to make sure that you make it through a course.
Finishing the course is always your first objective, and gets you access to the next level in line, but each also packs in sub-objectives that vary from finding optional side-routes to completing a certain number of a particular trick, or even being sure not to use a move at any point.
You'll quickly get sucked into these challenges, which reward you with new cosmetic items, but even once you complete those you'll still be able to take the next step and think about your actual score for the level, which is always racking up in the background.
Chaining together complex moves and timing your changes perfectly can see your numbers skyrocket, and the leaderboards are already eye-wateringly competitive, so there's no real end to be imposed if you're drawn to high-score chasing.
If you prefer to cruise through and keep going, though, the game makes that easy. By the time you've cleared a couple of dozen levels you'll be stringing together moves that look masterful compared to where you started.
But the game never lets up on teaching you new mechanics. That means it has a low entry-point but a super-high skill ceiling, which is always worth appreciating. In fact, the game that it most strongly reminded us of was Celeste, weirdly enough - another excellent platformer that smuggled in some really complicated techniques.
The world of Radvania (and eventually Gnarvana) is just amazingly well-made too. It's got a cartoony aesthetic that feels entirely of its own creation, with a cell-shaded colourful look that's inclusive and makes it so easy to have fun.
Your character can look amazingly zany, but they'll probably pale in comparison to the funky figures you'll meet in each location, and the hilarious little touches in the background of levels. Each part of the world has a broad palette that it sticks to, for a bit of visual distinction.
Take the cacti in the screenshot above and you'll see exactly what we mean - they're hilarious, but in the context of how you play the game you might never notice them in the first place, and that's indicative of the amount of care and attention that's gone into the game.
There's also a delightful soundtrack to enjoy as you play, with mellow tunes that set the mood perfectly, and on PlayStation 5 the DualSense controller is used well. It has subtle haptic feedback to reward you when you nail a trick or grind, but more noticeable is the way it uses sound: its speaker is where most of the sounds of your board's actual wheels will come from, giving you a sense of connection and rootedness that's satisfying in a way we can't quite explain.
As if all this wasn't enough, there are two multiplayer modes to sample as well: Gnarvana League and Portal. These let you asynchronously compete against your friends or strangers to complete levels and post new scores for each other to beat, and they're already demonstrably rewarding.
This is a skating game that plays like a genius platformer and metes out its complexities smartly. With beautiful looks and a zany tone, it's a great evolution for the OlliOlli series.
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