OlliOlli: Switch Stance Review

When Roll7's OlliOlli was first released in 2014 for the PlayStation Vita, it was a match made in heaven. A melding of 2D platforming and old-school arcade-skateboarding gameplay, OlliOlli offered an accessible yet deep handheld experience for Sony's oft-neglected portable. To this day, I still have fond memories of cruising down boardwalks and shredding my way to high scores from the comfort of my college common room.

After five years, a wealth of console ports, and a 2015 sequel, OlliOlli is back, and it's bringing its zany, high-octane action to the Nintendo Switch in the form of OlliOlli: Switch Stance. Aside from its wonderfully punny title, Switch Stance – published by Gambitious – bundles both OlliOlli and OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood into one convenient, consumer-friendly package.

With its rewarding gameplay, gorgeous presentation, and great approach to difficulty, OlliOlli: Switch Stance is a platforming gem and phenomenal addition to the Switch library, regardless of whether or not you even enjoy skateboarding.

Switch Stance is easy to pick up, but hard to master – a bit of a cliché when it comes to games, but for OlliOlli, it really is the case. In both OlliOlli and OlliOlli2, players are tasked with completing five zones, each with five main levels and five "pro" levels (more on the latter, later). In each level, players must make their way from the beginning of the environment to the end, aiming for as high a score as possible while avoiding the many obstacles that lie in wait.

Players push their skateboard with the tap of a button to gain speed. With a flick of the left stick, players can jump, while a held press of the stick allows grinding on railings and other surfaces above the ground. A final button tap, meanwhile, allows landing back on the ground without losing balance. Of course, miss the timing for a landing, or fail to jump at the right time, and you run the likelihood of wiping out, whether that be barreling into an unfortunately placed pile of boxes, tripping over a precarious flight of stairs, or otherwise crashing and burning in a freakish blaze of glory.

Sounds simple, right? On the surface, it really is. Levels in Switch Stance – especially those in the original OlliOlli – are designed to be conquerable without delving into many of the game's finer systems. With basic knowledge of hopping, grinding, and landing, players are equipped to make their way through the base game with relative ease.

However, dig a little deeper beneath these core concepts, and Switch Stance presents a staggering amount of depth to back up its accessible controls. Players can perform a plethora of different tricks depending upon the directional input they use when jumping. Meanwhile, holding the left or right bumpers (or triggers) allows players to perform unique grinds and jumps, as well as add score-boosting turns to existing jumps. The game even allows players to change their stance on the skateboard itself, opening up additional options for arsenal of tricks and combos. The result is a satisfying gameplay experience that rewards quick reflexes as much as it does sharp wits and ingenuity.

In truth, there are a lot of mechanics here that are bound to overwhelm some players, and Switch Stance does a phenomenal job of balancing difficulty to accommodate both casual and hardcore styles of play. The relatively straightforward main campaign is clearly designed for those looking to get their feet wet with OlliOlli’s mechanics. At the same time, each campaign level has five optional challenges; by completing these additional tasks – which range from performing certain moves to earning a particular high score – players unlock "pro" versions of each level, each with its own set of gnarly challenges. For those looking not just to get their feet wet, but to dive headfirst into the pool, these levels are well worth the effort of unlocking.

Better yet, Switch Stance's bundling of OlliOlli and OlliOlli2 leads to an interesting byproduct, as OlliOlli2 iterates on the mechanics of the first game while adding its own unique twists. From expanded tricks and grinds to larger and more diverse levels, and to the introduction of combo-extending manuals, OlliOlli2 is bigger and badder in every conceivable way than its predecessor. Having the two together in one package only serves to highlight how seamlessly OlliOlli2 builds upon the foundation of the original game to craft an even deeper, more challenging experience. I highly recommend that players play these titles in their intended order.

Tying together the experience is Switch Stance's strong presentation. Visually, OlliOlli2 has certainly aged better than the original OlliOlli, with its crisper art and refined color pallet. However, both games' soundtracks are as bumping as ever, with mellow lo-fi tracks that perfectly set the mood for each track. From bass-heavy jazz numbers to groovy synth pieces, Switch Stance ensures that players will have no shortage of pleasant vibes when skateboarding down city streets.

There's not much to dislike about OlliOlli: Switch Stance. The timing for landing jumps can feel a bit inconsistent, which leads to occasional bouts of frustration, but every other aspect of the game and its mechanics is spot-on. Couple a fantastic story mode with online leaderboards, daily high-score challenges, and even a four-player multiplayer mode, and Switch Stance provides plenty of bang for its fifteen-dollar asking price.

For those looking for a challenging yet accessible platformer with deep mechanics and plenty of personality, there are few games that rival OlliOlli: Switch Stance. Whether you're a skateboarding junkie or haven't scaled a half-pipe in your life, Switch Stance is worth a place in your growing Switch library.