OlliOlli World arrived earlier this month, offering up a decidedly different look and feel to its predecessors. Where Roll7’s past indie skateboarding outings tended to focus on precise arcade tricks and platforming, OlliOlli World chooses to highlight flow and vibe. With a softer colour palette, deeper character interactions and a more whimsical level design, it not only puts forward an excellent skating game, it absolutely nails a part of skater community and culture often overlooked by its peers. By being inclusive, supportive and bursting with positivity, OlliOlli World is the first skating game in years to really capture the essence of why people skate.
If your experience with skateboarding has largely been filtered through movies, TV and games, you’d be forgiven for thinking of the skatepark as an intimidating place. Hard concrete, sheer metal slopes, graffiti and cigarette butts, how could a place so ugly possibly be at all welcoming? I remember the day I dragged my newly purchased Tony Hawk-branded skateboard up to the park for the first time. I’d made sure to wear just the right clothes, brought just the right swagger and attitude, prepared to have to fight for a chance to learn. Funnily enough, I spent most of that first day alone, trying and failing over and over to drop-in on one of the smaller ramps. I’d gone home defeated, ready to accept the fact that I may not have it in me after all.
The next day, I resumed my position on top of the ramp. I fell over and over, watching my board slip from under me and roll off and clunk into a nearby wall. After a while, a group of older boys had come over to watch. I was petrified. After yet another hard fall, one of the boys picked up my board and walked over to me. He sat me down, took my board apart with a tool in his left hand, chatting as he went. The wheels had been loosened, the trucks given better tension, and the board was handed back to me. I tried a few more times, but failed once again. This time however, words of encouragement and cheers when I fell.
Eventually I landed the drop-in, and the older boys cheered and beat their boards against the floor. They congratulated me and went back to skating, making sure that I knew to come and get them if I wanted to try some other tricks. This sense of comradery, of group spirit and community was not what I had expected at all. I soon began to learn that passing down information, tips, and helping new skaters was an ingrained part of skater culture. This is something that the majority of skating games seem to miss, choosing instead to focus on attitude and injury, rather than triumph and community.
OlliOlli World is welcoming from the get-go. You’re introduced to a cast of characters that spur you on to succeed, giving you tips on how to beat levels as you go. You receive new gear for impressing them, in the same way you might be handed down a ragged hoodie or skate tool by an older skater at the park. The idea of passing the baton is prevalent in OlliOlli World’s story, with a ‘Skate Wizard’ looking for someone to succeed them. The group of misfit skaters that make up the core cast never doubts you for a second, and are completely set on helping you become truly great. Small cutscenes before runs allow for playful dialogue between your character and those showing you the ropes. You even meet more along the way, sometimes hidden throughout levels.
Despite being tough-as-nails at times, OlliOlli World never scolds the player for falling down. Quick resets and checkpoints give you the opportunity to make your way through harder levels piece-by-piece. Skateboarding is an extremely difficult thing to learn, but the way OlliOlli World lifts you up is a far cry from the more aggressive and pointed criticisms often levelled at players in games like Skate 3 and the Tony Hawk series. There’s no breaking of bones, no blood and gore, just positivity and another chance to try again.
The character creator is another place where OlliOlli World’s message of positivity and inclusivity is conveyed. There are so many styles, most of them free from gender-coding and other restrictions that modern games tend to overlook. Jumpsuits, crop tops, and dresses can all be matched together, along with a great selection of hairstyles and tattoos. For the first time in a while, I was able to create a character that really felt like me, which only made me want to engage with OlliOlli World’s characters and wackiness even more.
There’s a character simply called ‘Dad’ that you’ll meet at the beginning of OlliOlli World. He’s noticeably older than the rest of the team, and shows up to each level decked out in a helmet and other safety gear. Helmets are often scoffed at in skating games, and in general skating culture of around 20 years ago. In more modern times, it’s common to see people putting on safety gear at skate parks. Times have changed, and it’s great to see OlliOlli World include a character like Dad in its core cast. For the first time in years, a skating game has captured modern skate culture, rather than looking back at the 90’s for inspiration.
There’s a clever way in which OlliOlli World charts the journey that many young skaters go through, in that it deals out its tricks and mechanics slowly over the course of the campaign. At first, you’ll be able to ollie, grind, and land tricks. As you play, you’re taught to grab, spin and add flair to your tricks, though it’s not simply a case of unlocking new skills for the player. You see, all of the skills are available from the very start, you just haven’t been told about them yet. It takes other characters telling you about more advanced techniques for you to reach for buttons and combos you never thought to use before. You had all of the advanced tricks and skating talent in you all along, it just takes teaching and encouragement to bring it out and into your regular repertoire.
I’m happy that OlliOlli World chose to go in a more positive and wholesome direction, one rarely seen in other skating games. By cultivating a welcoming and inclusive setting, I’m motivated to get better and aim higher with my tricks. More than anything, it’s great to see this side of skating culture represented, in a modern and authentic manner. Make no mistake, this is still a skating game, with technical tricks and difficult skills to learn. Though it’s a much easier ride when you have a ragtag group of weirdos as lovely as OlliOlli World’s core cast cheering you on.