OlliOlli is not a game for the faint of heart. It starts out being pretty difficult, and only gets harder from there. Reaching higher levels requires incredible thumb dexterity and near-flawless timing, and calls for you to pull off each and every move in rapid succession, leaving barely any time to breath, let alone think. I say this having only played the game on Amateur difficulty, so I can only imagine what horrors await anyone skilled enough to unlock the Pro levels. While I’ll admit that’s probably a category that encompasses most people, my point still stands: OlliOlli is hard, and it wants to see you fail repeatedly.
And you know what? I love it for that. Much like, say, Hotline Miami (which with the game also kind of shares a certain retro aesthetic), OlliOlli knows how to punish you, while at the same time keep you coming back again and again and again. (I should quickly add that OlliOlli in no other way resembles Hotline Miami.) It accomplishes this just as any other highly addictive game does: by making the way through each level painfully obvious — even if not very easily achievable — and by adding in all kinds of extra achievements to push for to unlock stars…and, with them, those aforementioned Pro levels.
What’s really impressive about this is that OlliOlli achieves this while basically being an endless running game without any real back story. The levels get progressively harder, of course, but the basic design is pretty constant: you’re always moving forward and down, across a level with all kinds of grindable obstacles in your way. Nearer to the end, it ramps up the difficulty by giving you fewer and fewer flat surfaces on which you can land, but really, the skills that you obtain in the first level could, in theory, get you all the way to the end.
(Though if you’re anything like me, the more likely progression is that you’ll grind — literally! — through OlliOlli’s levels to become more comfortable with the more challenging moves, and only go back to the early levels once the later ones start getting really difficult and you’re in the mood for a palate cleanser.)
I don’t want to give the impression, of course, that this sameness is in any way a bad thing. It probably could be in lesser hands, but Roll7 clearly know how to make a simple premise endlessly replayable.
It helps, too, that their game looks and sounds fantastic. I may have complained recently about retro-inspired 2D graphics being done to death, but OlliOlli clearly never got that memo, and thank goodness for that — with its vibrant backgrounds and environments, the game is actually pretty dazzling. As for the music, forget the skate-punk plague of the late ’90s/early ’00s; OlliOlli features some gorgeous electronic music that does a great job of attuning you to the game’s rhythms.
Ultimately, though, it all comes back to the gameplay, and on that front, OlliOlli delivers: it’s hard, it’s addictive, and it’s got tonnes of replay value. If you own a PS Vita, it’s most definitely a must-own.