OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood review: on a roll

Game Info
Box Art N/A
Platform PS Vita, PS4
Publisher Roll7
Developer Roll7
Release Date Mar 3, 2015

OlliOlli 2: Welcome to OlliWood is a video game for people who love video games — or, more specifically, people who love how video games are designed.

It's a testament to the unlimited power of One Game Mechanic, which can build billions-served franchises from scratch in the right hands, or bring an otherwise terrific game to its knees in the wrong. The original OlliOlli was composed entirely out of Good Game Mechanics, with virtually zero fat in between — the result was a masterfully crafted, if not slightly insubstantial mash note to skateboarding games.

But OlliOlli 2 has One Game Mechanic — several, actually, but one's a stellar stand-out — that serves as a bonding agent for the mechanics of the original. This time, you can perform manuals, letting you chain your tricks and grinds into level-long masterpieces; and as obvious as that addition may seem, OlliOlli 2 absolutely nails it.

You're going to crash a lot

OlliOlli 2, like its predecessor, is its control scheme. It's a bizarre combination of twitchy stick flips and perfectly timed landing inputs, with risk/reward spins shoehorned in wherever you can fit them. It handles like no other skateboarding game, has levels of mastery I'm still trying to scale, but is still simple enough to get into several discrete grooves in the span of a single level.

That idea, of getting into the groove of OlliOlli 2, is paramount to its design. You're going to restart a lot, because you're going to crash a lot, or miss that one collectible you needed a lot, or not stick the landing to your 90-trick combo a lot. With the press of a button, you're back at the starting line, meaning even when you land on a trash can and slide 30 feet on your face, there's very little friction.

There was a lot in the original OlliOlli to build on that flow — namely the superb soundtrack, which OlliOlli 2 has only improved on — but there wasn't much connective tissue to its tracks. You could still pull off high-flying tricks and chain them together with grinds, but if rails weren't present, your combo would die. In OlliOlli 2, that's not a concern, because manuals allow you to full-combo nearly every single course in the game.

And boy howdy, you'll need to full-combo nearly every course in the game.

Even if the course's challenges didn't require a seamless combo across a whole track (most of them do), my brain did require it, because it just feels better. Manualing isn't hard: It merely requires you to tilt the stick backward or forward when you land, at the cost of some precious inertia. I can chalk a lot of my failures up to manualing when I should have just landed, partially because I wanted those high scores, but also ... well, it just feels better.

Manualing is far from a new concept for a skateboarding game — Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 introduced them at the same point in that series' lifetime, and they filled the exact same combo-elongating purpose there, too. But there are a few other new tricks up OlliOlli 2's sleeve, like launch ramps, which shoot you forward with explosive force if you trick off them with precise timing.

There's a tutorial skatepark that quickly shows you the ropes, where you can brush up on the fundamentals and master new skills like reverts and grind-switches. You'll need to master those moves quickly, too, because even the normal-difficulty levels throw everything at you in unrelenting measures.

If OlliOlli 2 suffers from one over ambition, it's its difficulty curve, which could more accurately be described as a sheer cliff face, or, perhaps, a hate-wall. I remember when I hit the wall clearly - about halfway through the normal-difficulty levels, I hit a course requiring perfect timing on every grind, manual and landing throughout, something that only the most difficult stages of the original required. It only got harder from there.

OlliOlli 2 is, by its nature, a more challenging game than the original, and it's a good challenge, too. But its spikes come out of nowhere, hit you like a freight train, and then never un-spike. Admittedly, it feels really good to finally summit the few hyper-punishing difficulty jumps, but I found myself wishing they were a bit more spread out. It's going to sound like a joke, but they kind of harshed my mellow.

Wrap Up:

OlliOlli 2 never stops working

I had an overabundance of mellow to harsh, though, because OlliOlli 2 distributes the stuff generously. It has a feel that no other game really captures, and a flow that's hypnotic within mere seconds of starting up a new track. Every single drop of OlliOlli 2's aesthetic and every single one of its mechanics is built around accentuating that experience, and it never stops working, from your first push-off to your final, exhilarating landing.

OlliOlli 2 was reviewed using a retail PS4 code provided by Sony. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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