OlliOlli isn't really a skateboarding game. The skateboard aesthetic provides a lovely minimalist visual style to navigate the tiny pixel skateboarder through, but there's no open world to explore and experiment in, nor is it filled with free-form choices. Mechanically rock-solid, OlliOlli is a 2D on-rails experience with meticulously designed levels and that 'one more try' mentality associated with score attack gaming. The addition of a skateboard just makes it all seem cooler.
The learning curve is steep at the beginning, so it's definitely recommended to take a run through the tutorial prior to diving in, especially as nothing seems to work quite as expected. For example, there isn't a jump button (holding a direction and letting go triggers a basic trick) and the timing involved in landing perfectly is difficult to judge at first. Expert tricks can be launched with more complicated motions of the analogue stick, and the trigger buttons add rotations into the mix.
Grinding is as simple as holding the analogue stick in any direction prior to landing on an object, letting go in order to launch out. Of course, there are further intricacies and techniques to learn (and more advanced grinds can be had in combination with the triggers) but the first step should be getting a handle of the basics and learning how to string a combo together.
The player is also judged on how well each trick is landed, ranging from 'Perfect' to 'Sloppy'. This rating is given on timing accuracy and is integral to high scoring, as well as keeping speed up.
Each level contains a number of obstacles - some to jump over or across, some to grind on. Quickly it becomes obvious that the way to succeed is by connecting grinds together and throwing out tricks in-between to add additional multipliers and points. There's no balance bar to contend with as in the Tony Hawk games, simply keep speed by tricking and utilising basic physics laws (a downward handrail gains speed) and don't touch the ground. There is a bit of a punch in the gut though; landing the final trick of a combo badly causes a penalty which reduces your score to pittance. No points are banked until a successful landing which makes for some nerve wracking moments, especially on the later combo-heavy levels. There is an excellent feeling of achievement to be had when landing huge combos perfectly and it's this satisfaction that promotes repeat plays. Note also that this is a one-life only affair; a single slam into the ground resets back to the beginning of the level.
The main career mode consists of 50 different levels set across 5 themed stages. Beginning with the run-down cityscape of 'Urban', progression unlocks more fantastical backdrops, culminating with tricking along dinosaurs and Gundam-style robots in the Japan-inspired 'Neon City'.
Split into Amateur and Pro difficulties, progression is initially linear; reaching the end goal of any Amateur level unlocks the next. However you'll need to complete 5 challenges associated with any Amateur level to unlock its Pro partner. These 5 challenges are based on overall score, combo score and then a further 3 challenges unique to each level. Ranging from performing certain tricks to locating collectibles and level specific tasks - a fair few of these will require learning the level layout to complete. Mercifully, you don't need to complete all the challenges in a single run.
Manage to complete all challenges on the Pro levels and Rad Mode is unlocked. Not for the fainthearted, in Rad mode every trick must be landed perfectly or it's back to square one. Rad Mode doesn't come with any new levels, it's simply an expert play mode.
Beating levels also unlocks different 'Spots' that appear in a separate menu. In this mode the objective is to aim for the highest score possible in specifically set-up levels using only a single combo; these are a nice little distraction but the career mode is where most time will be spent.
Finally, there's Daily Grind. Featuring a single spot that changes every 24 hours; it's an interesting incentive to check in every day. Practice runs are allowed, but with one chance to set a score only the most consistent players will achieve a high ranking on the daily leaderboard.
It's been a long time coming (having released over a year ago on other platforms) and OlliOlli arrives unchanged, with no truly exciting additions. There's the usual Off-TV Play on Wii U (press the minus button while playing), and there is the convenience of always having the Trick combos visible for reference on the GamePad screen when using the TV. Purchasing either the Wii U or 3DS version also nets the other for free, though, so owners of both Nintendo formats can at least pick up the set for a single, reasonable price when using one Nintendo Network ID.
Aside from the minor disappointment of lacking added features, the core game has translated across intact; thankfully it's as good as it ever was. Obsessive high score perfectionists will love the one-more-try gameplay together with the 'twitch' skills needed to top the scoreboards. For everyone else, career mode contains more than enough content to get stuck into, just be aware it can get difficult fast. OlliOlli is an addictive, unique and fun game that's a worthy addition to anyone's library, whichever format you own.