Murphy’s Multiverse was provided with an early review copy of the game by publisher Private Division.
There’s an evergreen charm to the video game genre of skateboarding. We have the Tony Hawk franchise to thank for the enduring legacy of the genre in the mainstream but also have smaller games like SKATE to thank for innovating and keeping it on its toes. This year’s OlliOlli World aims to celebrate the craft and canon of its predecessors and progenitors in one technicolored, whimsical, stylish, and challenging explosion of a video game.
OlliOlli World might as well be a Saturday morning cartoon. You, the protagonist, are trying out to be the Skate Wizard, the herald of the five skating gods in Gnarvana. The current Skate Wizard wants to retire and is looking for a replacement. With the help of a kooky cast that includes characters named Suze, Gnarly Mike, and a man named Dad, you must prove your mettle across the five gleefully hand-drawn regions of Radlandia.
It won’t take long for anyone to figure out that the game’s biggest draw lies in its vivid world and vibrant aesthetic. The regions of Sunshine Valley, Sketchside, Los Vulgas, Burntrock, and Cloverbrook have their own distinct looks. For example, Sunshine Valley is all about California sun and sand while Cloverbrook is nestled deep within lush green forests. Within these regions are creatures and beings straight out of a Pendleton Ward cartoon. You have to race a grizzly bear floating on a river at one point. There’s a fish inside a fortune teller machine that gives you challenges. There’s a group of hulkingly buff seagulls that you have to impress. All of these things are hand-drawn and colored to match one’s acid trip.
The game’s true secret flex, however, is the level design. Every level in OlliOlli World feels like an otherworldly roller coaster designed by a 5-year old in the best way possible. The way the game fuses staple skateboarding environments with wacky and maximalist layouts is so seamless. One minute, you’re skating downhill at breakneck speed, the next minute you’re wall-grinding a billboard held up by bees, and you finally land on a curved rail that takes you to a hidden path where a talking bird compliments you.
As for the gameplay loop, it’s simple: you go from one level to another and try to get to the finish line while ticking all the bonus challenges. The more bonus challenges you tick, the more unlockables you have. You rinse and repeat until you eventually become the Skate Wizard. There’s a lot of figurative and literal wheel-spinning in the dozen hours you’ll spend trying to unlock the countless shoes, hats, tattoos, emotes, and outfits. This won’t be the performative gaming experience of the year but it’s a damn fun world to waste time on.
Despite the simplicity of the loop, OlliOlli World does boast a certain level of difficulty when it comes to mastering the game. There’s a depth to the combination of tricks one can pull off. Certain challenges in the game require an immense amount of pinpoint precision. With one universal difficulty level for all players, it may be apt to say this is a game players will need to “git gud” at to get the most out of it.
Getting good at OlliOlli World wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the occasionally painful thumbstick controls. The breakneck pace of the game means your left thumb is constantly mapping out crazy patterns with little rest. This isn’t a complaint about the game’s control system but rather, it’s something for gamers that are prone to carpal tunnel issues like myself to keep an eye out for. Thankfully, the game doesn’t demand the most of one’s hands. Players can finish levels without exploring the spectrum of tricks afforded by the game. You can literally ollie your way through obstacles and the game won’t punish you for it.
Lastly, It’s impossible to play OlliOlli World and not be arrested by the game’s soundtrack. Straight out of a “Chill Vibes/Lo-fi Beats For You To Study To” playlist on Youtube, OlliOlli World’s music is unapologetic with what vibe it wants. If the Tony Hawk soundtrack signified the alt-punk ethos of the early 2000s, OlliOlli World’s is about embracing the laid-back and easy-going mantra of the modern millennial. It’s good vibes only for the world of Radlandia.