Last week I noticed that my hand hurt. I didn’t think much about it, mostly because I wasn’t sure why it would hurt. On Monday, while playing OlliOlli World, I found my reason. I’m not sure there’s a better way to recommend World than that; it pushed my hands to the limit.
Compared to the previous two OlliOlli games, which could be prohibitively difficult, World is simultaneously an easily approachable 2D skateboard game with an impossibly high skill ceiling. In the beginning, the game does a great job teaching you the basics of its trick systems (usually tied to swiping and turning the left and right thumbsticks) quickly and then getting out of the way, dropping you in levels, your goals give and let you skate. Within minutes I was making bigger and bigger combos, and more importantly had a good time with it. Although I never really got the hang of the first OlliOlli in World, I felt compelled to continue learning the systems because the game isn’t full of frustration. Players of all levels should be able to find something fun here.
As the game progresses, that exacting challenge reveals itself – in the best and worst ways. As levels get more complex, as you might expect, so does your bag of tricks. There is an undeniable thrill of beating a level in one long combo – using grinds, grabs, flip tricks and guides on different verticality and secret routes.
If you do this, you should get good at playing OlliOlli World very quickly. Keeping up a long combo in later levels means you have to constantly pull up new tricks and be ready for what’s to come. It’s fun and exciting to have barely any control over what my hands are doing, yet impressed myself for doing it at all – even as the complexity of the controller input started to wear off on my hands.
This is enhanced by a fantastic level design from both layout and aesthetic point of view. While the game’s cel-shaded, colorful veneer may seem simple and minimal at first glance, there are levels in World that are monstrously large. The camera pulls out at times, leaving your player with a tiny dot on the screen as it reveals the mess of rails and ramps around you. The different explorable paths of each level also mean you can replay them to discover new experiences and combination possibilities. Often I went straight back to a level to see how other routes piled up and what challenges I could find there. The fact that the whole game looks like a watercolor coming to life adds to the overall charm of the world – wacky characters and exaggerated designs were fun to glimpse as I rushed by.
But a major sticking point with World is when it stops that speed. On several levels, I got stuck on a particular ramp or jump, trying over and over to find the apparent single pixel I had to launch myself from to make the next clearing. On the one hand, this may well be part of the challenge. On the other hand, repeating these sections to nausea while repeatedly trying to find the precise place to jump into the game broke the overall flow of levels. Thankfully this isn’t an issue at every stage, but I found myself getting more and more stuck in certain pain points, especially as the endgame approached.
All in all I really enjoyed my time at OlliOlli World. It’s a beautiful and wacky game that brings new players on board well and also gives veterans a lot of challenge. There’is even a stupid thingry involved in the search for the mythical skate gods of “Gnarvana” in the world of “Radlandia.” It’s stupid enough in an endearing way and completely skip it if you’re not interested – which I wasn’t after an hour or so. Despite some headaches that came with it, I welcomed all of OlliOlli World’s challenges, even if they came at the expense of my own hands.