Whether you're grinding a rail in real life or pulling off a 900 with a gamepad, skateboarding is all about vibes. Many of the best skating games dive into the devil may care attitude that defined the heyday of the X Games, but more recent works have tried to tap into a more mellow generation to mixed results. Developer Roll7 follows in the footsteps of Ubisoft's Riders Republic with OlliOlli World, a relaxed version of their arcade franchise that turns up modern sensibilities to the max. OlliOlli's core remains as smooth as ever, but that finely tuned gameplay ends up obscured behind an overzealous style that makes the path to Gnarvana harder than it needs to be.
OlliOlli World serves as a functional reboot of the series, dropping the conceit from the first two games in favor of the world of Radlandia. You quickly meet a gang of colorful characters that single you out as the heir apparent Skate Wizard, and your mastery of complicated tracks across the landscape solidifies that position as the game goes on. For players who've never picked up a skate deck before, Roll7 has sanded off some of the harder edges of the formula by making landings optional and adding in a lot of friendly tutorials. This whole setup charms at first glance, but it gets long in the tooth once OlliOlli's difficulty ramps to a point where those same new players find themselves left in the dust. I love the idea of a camcorder mascot, but constant twee dialogue gets in the way of the skilled play the franchise demands.
There are some concessions to players who really just want to get to skating. Each level starts off with dialogue describing the backgrounds you barely notice as you wallride past at high speeds. The player always has an option to skip this section, but it comes via a comment that feels rude to this group of skating enthusiasts. It often feels like a pushback against those who might want to just play the game, but it feels unwarranted. There's never anything of substance in these conversations, just a few lame jokes and a heap of praise that comes no matter how well you perform out on the halfpipe. By the second world, it was extremely tempting to jam on the skip button whenever possible and just get to the skating.
If you can get past OlliOlli World's Gen Z pandering (or if you find the whole enterprise charming for whatever reason), the rest of the game is a white knuckle delight. Just like in past entries, pulling off tricks with a flick of the joystick feels great, as does combining grabs, spins, and grinds for a long combo string. The campaign slowly rolls out all these concepts over each world, but veterans can start grabbing from the start to build their high scores. Level challenges and alternate paths provide more incentive to play each stage over and over, and those who really want their money's worth can generate new tracks and challenge their friends in OlliOlli World's asynchronous multiplayer mode. There's a lot of extreme action to take in, and I wish that the overall package worked alongside that action to make nailing each trick less of a grind.
As it is, OlliOlli World's pacing gets in the way of the gameplay at every turn. The campaign features a world map and a few side missions that are harder than the rest, but that one factor doesn't justify the wasted time it takes loading in and out of missions over and over. Perhaps the load screens exist solely to show off OlliOlli World's hip clothes and hairstyles. This player customization fuels the game's progression systems, but it seems superfluous in an experience that feels geared toward high score chasing and exploration. I was never motivated to change my getup past the first level, but perhaps there's a whole audience of players who come to a skating game looking to dress their character in a man bun and shirts featuring logos from fictional companies.
The inane banter of the main cast and the lame progression are ignorable problems when you're pulling off tricks across OlliOlli World's five hub worlds and discovering secrets. However, there's one problem with the presentation that can't be ignored. OlliOlli has always bucked the musical trends of games like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater with its soundtrack, but World introduces low-key tunes that would do better in an elevator ride than a skateboarding adventure. Each track sounds less intense than the last, and the soundtrack plays throughout the entire experience. Tracks aren't even tied into certain levels, and the game wastes two prominent controller buttons on skip functionality. It's typical that reviewers stick to the presentation provided by a game during their playthrough, but I played through a handful of levels with a more traditional punk rock soundtrack, and that seems like a much more sensible alternative than what Roll7 cooked up.
That's not to say that there's nothing to keep you coming back to OlliOlli World's intricate skatepark layouts. As mentioned, most tracks have alternate paths that can hide more challenging stunt opportunities that generate higher scores. They can also hide side quests that unlock new tracks or collectibles for the game's challenge system. Whatever the objective, nailing these paths are the most fun to be had across the entire experience. You need to build momentum and stay on top of the action, playing things like a veteran Sonic The Hedgehog speedrunner going for a new record in Green Hill Zone. This is where getting in the zone can be so important. Switching between all the different types of track at light speed is the only way to see everything OlliOlli World has to offer, and it's a challenge that long-time skate fans will really appreciate.
OlliOlli World is not successful in its attempts to reboot for a new generation, but it also doesn't lose anything vital in the transition. There's still a great skating game on offer, but it's obfuscated by a lot of fluffy worldbuilding meant to feel inviting to those who'd never try out a score-focused arcade challenge on their own. The vibes clash in such a way that it leaves the game feeling lesser than its predecessors and other recent skating experiences. Instead of embracing the type of audience that wants to Skate or Die, OlliOlli World feels like a Simpsons short advertising Disney franchises. From my perspective, that's not the feeling most people will want from an extreme sports game, but maybe that's just my take as someone who saw the first wave of these games hit so big. For a younger generation, the Fortnite-esque customization and low-key soundtrack could make OlliOlli World a momentary hit, but it will never make the same impact that the original did so many years ago.
TechRaptor reviewed OlliOlli World on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series XIS, and Xbox One.
- Dynamic controls that still feel great
- Long campaign supplemented by procedurally generated levels
- Momentum challenges that require skilled play
- Soundtrack filled with elevator music and press conference bangers
- Unnecessarily twee worldbuilding that goes nowhere
- Lots of loading screens that break up the action