Can I make it any more obvious?
I never was a skater kid when I was younger. Not out of disinterest, I thought skating seemed quite cool, but mainly from an internal understanding of how rubbish I’d be at it, and how worse I’d look doing it. Skateboarding games didn’t click with me much either, except the ones where I could cut about suburban neighbourhoods decking boomers like it was Left 4 Dead. I did enjoy OlliOlli 2: Welcome To Olliwood in a loose way, as it was a little more of the indie arcade style I was getting into. But, as I’ve recently discovered, I think everyone in the world should play OlliOlli World.
This colourful side-scrolling skateboarding adventure places you in Radlandia and sets you on a righteous path to Gnarvana, as you meet new people and gradually become a better skate messiah. Before you’re hitting the road ahead you create your own character, with some very fun UX/UI design giving you a plethora of choices to spec out your skater of choice. Things like challenges and online leaderboard wins unlock hundreds of items, and it was always fun to occasionally switch up my look.
Once in the 2D levels you’re immediately met with incredible colourful environments and bold colour palettes adapting to the region of Radlandia. Adventure Time-style is the best way to describe the backdrop, with smiling cacti and vacationing donuts hopping around stunning background art. Every level is a treat to the eyes, but as you’ll be warned in the intro screen, OlliOlli World is a very fast game, so a lot of it is lost as you streak past it.
As someone never into the appeal of the complex tricks and infinite combos of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, OlliOlli World is a breath of fresh air that’s accessible to any player. Most of the work is done with the left analog stick, your main organ that controls your type of trick and whether you wallride or grind. It builds these techniques gradually, starting with simple flicks on big ramps, but leading up to spins, grabs and wallgrinds. On PS5 this combined with the Dualsense made for a very satisfying gaming experience, the stick feeling like an extension of myself I moved naturally to either do something specific, or just waggle it to do whatever.
What’s also wonderful about the system is the freedom of choice on how you’d like to play the game. Sure, you need to occasionally do grabs to break crystals and use grinds, but if you don’t want to do the special tricks and never-ending combos, you’re free to ride out every level at your own pace. It can be challenging at times, don’t get me wrong, but if you take the simplest method there will be much less pushback. I found myself failing levels just because I wanted to complete it hitting that combo I knew was possible, or nailing that grind trick to beat one of the level challenges. It goads you into getting creative with what sort of skate game you’d like it to be.
What sets OlliOlli World apart for me is how it builds an addicting side-scrolling skate game as the backbone for what felt more about exploration and sight-seeing. As the game continues you’ll be taken off the fixed 2D track and split into various lanes, sometimes coined ‘gnarly routes’. These routes were often trickier paths with some lightning-fast jumps, but were also part of the challenges set for the level. Optional challenges don’t feel like something tacked on: they’re not only built into the design of the level, but sometimes feel like the whole point of the level. OlliOlli World became less about completing the skate challenge without using checkpoints, and somehow more about hitting that grind to take me to a secret crashed UFO.
NPCs are also a part of this, with your main band of friends meeting a variety of charming folks throughout the lands. Not only would challenges let you find fun things in the backdrop, or high-five some big bumblebees, but you can even go off-course to meet NPCs who would direct you back to a previous level, saying a new path had been opened up. This not only gave me a reason to revisit levels, but it made Radlandia feel more alive, and the levels always seeming more than meets the eye. Your journey to Gnarvana is not a complex story, but meeting the mysterious skate gods of each region it does give a satisfying sense of progression, and all of this is boosted by the small joys of each community you pass through.
Behind the joy of OlliOlli World is of course it’s soundtrack, a chill playlist of consistently lovely tracks changeable easily with the shoulder triggers, making it feel part of the game. Its plucky and floaty tunes fits perfectly with the vibrant theme park happening around you, and adds a comforting lid to the game allowing you to jump and trick in your own little zone. It’s definitely one I’ll use on Spotify whilst working to trick my brain into thinking life is fine.
Challenging myself is something I thoroughly enjoyed, and because the tricks are so simple to pull off it seemed almost a shame not to go for the riskier ones taking more bold movements to get that special impossible flip, or that last-minute grab tweak before you land. The game pushes back just as much, later levels really forcing you to hit the perfect timings until you’ve mastered them, and want to come back to try it just that little bit fancier. There’s something unbelievably satisfying about hitting a combo from start-to-finish on a particularly long or complex level, and seeing that score rack up. This combined with online leaderboards and seeing your friends scores adds a competitive angle that made me launch back into levels just to beat Jordan Middler’s score one more time, for good measure.
While I adore the skating, Olli Olli World should be remembered for its vibrancy, accessibility, and the setting it builds around you. It makes you wonder how to get to that secret route you can see behind you, how to vault that group of insanely giant frogs just right, and invites you to try it in one go. If you didn’t want all that, you can put your foot to the ground and take it easy. Leave the 360s for the try-hards: you’re on vacation in skate heaven, and a halfpipe is just the beginning.