Every time I got on a skateboard, you could count the number of seconds it took for me to eat concrete one one hand. Sadly, it was a sport I could never get into, but lucky for me I live in a time where I can enjoy sports vicariously through video games. Tony Hawk on the PlayStation 1 might have been my most rented game. Likewise, I spent far too much time playing Project 8. My time with both those games could be the reason why the genre felt worn out to me. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood is unlike any skateboard game I've played, and it made me more addicted to the genre than ever.
At first, you could easily mistake OlliOlli 2 as a sidescroller with a bit of Bit.Trip Runner thrown in. Your character needs to avoid pits of death and large spikes to create the perfect combo. What Olliwood does differently though is force you to perform tricks while avoiding these obstacles. It is this mechanic that makes the game feel more like Tony Hawk and all the more addicting.
The game blurs the line between difficult and impossible. In the same vein as Super Meat Boy and 1001 Spike, each level seems impossible to complete. There is a lot of trial and error, and learning what tricks the environment has lying in wait beyond the next rail or jump. When you reach the end of a stage and see the crowd of endearing fans celebrating your success, you realize that you've accomplished the impossible. Not only is there a thrill in completing the level, but there are rewards for tricks and combos that make up long, epic runs. It is the risk/reward factor of accomplishing tricks and staying within your skill limits that makes this game so appealing.
It will take everything your skateboarding repertoire to achieve out-of-this-world scores. The developers teach basic skills in tutorials that grant quite a range of tricks to pull off like board flips, grinds, ollis, and manuals. Most tricks involve the left thumbstick while others require deft finger work to perform tail grabs and other advanced maneuvers. Trying to avoid obstacles and nailing tricks pushes you to the limit and more often than not you will crash and burn.
Another factor that increases difficulty is chaining tricks or end combos together. There are varying levels of success, from sloppy to perfect, but a well timed landing makes a difference in your overall score. There were plenty of times I completed a level or long combo, only to hit restart because I knew I could do better. Not only are you fighting with the level but you are fighting with yourself. I was often fighting for time, because I knew I could complete a level with a decent score if only I would stop hitting those dang stairs or bloody spikes.
The are five level sets; Olliwood, Curse of the Aztec, Gunmetal Creek, Carnival of the Dead, and Titan Sky. Each have their own spin on level design. As soon as you get bored with running into stairs and walls, you are greeted with a cactus to the face or a pit of lava. Levels are similar to one another but their different backdrops make every run unique.
I spent most of my time in the career mode trying to accomplish as many goals in my reach. I enjoyed how each level gives rewards a star based on a combo level, score or other task. Some required you to chain certain tricks or collect a particularly hard to reach object. Collecting every star would have put me in a mental hospital. I attempted multiple times, but ultimately you will decide if your goal is for stars or just to complete the level.
There is also a Daily Grind mode that tests your skills with other players. You can practice your butt off on the course they assign but only have one attempt to get the highest score. I think this mode will help give Olliwood a more competitive feel and it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. There are also Spots that allow you to practice tricks through courses, although failing sends you right back to the starting line.
The only problem I had with Olliwood is its intense desire to see you fail. I don't think was a course I didn't complete in a single run. Difficulty is not necessarily bad, but it might be a deal breaker here. I was able to complete all 25 amateur levels and unlocked the pro levels, but my experience with the former made me believe there would be plenty more face plants. The only other thing I would have liked is the ability to check out the course before hand. Having the option to pan to the right and get a feel of the course would be a nice touch.
OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood was a great surprise for me. It has the nice touch of being difficult but not absurdly hard. It gives you the tools and skills to be the sickest skateboarder you never were. The best real world comparison would be those little skateboards you could buy for your hands. You can go big and all out for the greatest trick ever, without the worry of ending up in the hospital.