Seven years is a long rest period for any franchise. In OlliOlli World‘s case, though, it appears to have been time well spent. Why? Because it’s clear that for this third go-around developer Roll7 intends to go all out, broadening the concept of what a side-scrolling skateboarding sim can be while still being brave enough to infuse it with a charming new art style. It does all this without forgetting to build upon the existing foundation set by the first two OlliOlli games, avoiding the need to throw out the skating bible entirely. World might aesthetically look very different to what’s come before, true, but this is still the same “Skate. Score. Repeat.” formula writ large – and this time there are plenty more reasons to keep doing so.
The first thing to mention about OlliOlli World is, despite the addition of an extra half dimension, zooming through the skater’s paradise of Radlandia (or the first three areas available in this preview, at least) feels as tight and responsive as it ever did. Much like before, ollies, kickflips and most other air tricks are performed by simply flicking the left analogue stick in any desired direction. However, whereas before the key to landing any of these tricks successfully meant tapping X at the precise moment your skateboard hits the ground, in the effort to speak to a wider audience this is no longer the case. In fact, you can now complete stages without touching any face button at all; you’d just have a far tougher time building up a successful combo as a result.
This is just one of many ways Roll7 has decided to give players a lot more freedom and choice in OlliOlli World in the effort to make completing challenges less of a grind. There really is enough wiggle room here to treat it as much of a hardcore skateboarding sim as you’d like. Failing to hit X upon landing no longer sees your run come to a complete end, you see, with World having the foresight to recognise the potential frustration this could result in for players simply craving a good time on a skateboard. Instead, it’s generous enough to let you press on, letting you learn the layout of whatever stage you’re in, so you are able to do better (or complete a particular challenge) during future attempts.
Any restart thankfully occurs almost instantly, as expected, making it easy for you to repeatedly dip back into the action should you choose to try and build up a much higher combo score before a particular level ends. This touch is appreciated since many of World’s stages can be double the length of those seen in the original OlliOlli or its sequel Welcome to Olliwood. Were instant restarts not a thing, World would lose a lot of its moreish qualities. Does implementing more lavish level layouts mean there are more opportunities to fumble? Sure, but again Roll7 has been kind enough to accommodate newcomers with the addition of mid-level checkpoints. Such an inclusion could be at risk of irking series purists, but you don’t need to use them if you don’t want to.
OlliOlli World wrings a lot more mechanical fun out of the switch to a 2.5D perspective, too. It’s what allows new mechanics like wallriding, vert ramp switches and multiple routes to breathe amidst the typical gamut of rail grinds and manuals. Fresh elements like these help to break up the rhythm of levels by forcing you to accommodate any potential obstacle; they also justify the increased scope and encourage you to experiment. Of course, having new tricks to perform does also require you to remember exactly how to pull off each new manoeuvre, but with the exception of air grabs (done using the right analogue stick), they’re all pulled off using similar combinations of left analogue stick flicks and well-timed button taps. It’s just about the context in which you do it in.
As already alluded to, OlliOlli World offers a good amount of stage variety found in its first three areas. Ranging from a sun-kissed beachside resort to an almost fairy tale woodland, there’s a definite sense that the sight of, say, bench-pressing seagulls wouldn’t have been possible in previous games. And not only does heelflipping over giant bees or trying to avoid popping inflatable cats further feed into the game’s Adult Swim-esque visuals, but they’re also often core to completing challenges needed for beating your rivals in Radlandia. How else can your prophesised skate wizard hope to ascend to true Gnarvana? If you hadn’t already guessed, there’s a real attempt here to give your skating actions meaning through irreverent side characters and the lightest of narratives.
The last thing to mention about our brief time with World on the topic of personality is its character creator. Now, this isn’t necessarily something the OlliOlli formula was crying out for, but we’re amazed at how much influence it has in encouraging us to repeat stages. Every level’s set of challenges features a new helmet, kneepad set or top for you to unlock if completed. There’s a generous suite of gear to customise your skater with anyway, yet if completing challenges for completion’s sake isn’t enough to compel you to replay stages, you can bet that a particular set of boxer briefs probably will be.
It genuinely is astounding just how well Roll7 has managed to maintain the essence of what made the original OlliOlli games so compelling, while still finding certain areas in which to creatively expand on the formula. This is about as accessible an indie skateboarding game has ever been, offering up enough mechanical depth so that long-time fans will be appeased and yet doubling down on simple button inputs so that newcomers aren’t put off. The fresh art style only adds to the idea of you wanting skateboarding stardom rather than take away. Our only worry currently, is the number of hours we’re bound to lose trying to achieve it. So far, OlliOlli World promises a very different type of grind.