OlliOlli World (2022)

When the first Olli Olli game came out, it was at a time when the extreme sports, mainly Skateboarding game was all but non-existent. With the Tony Hawk games being pushed to the brink of becoming a yearly cash grab, people got sick of them really quickly, and no game really came and took it’s place. Instead it was just a void for years. Then a little company called Roll7 showed up with a skating game for the first time in years. It wasn’t anything like the Tony Hawk games, but more a side-scrolling “infinite runner” style game.

But I wouldn’t actually use the Infinite Runner genre to describe OlliOlli, it’s more a platformer with you barely controlling the speed as you progress through the level. A sequel, OlliOlli 2 came out a couple years later, and was basically just a improvement of the original’s gameplay. Now with OlliOlli World, the third game in the series, there is a much larger focus on a story, but the gameplay remains fairly intact and similar.

OlliOlli World focuses on a building a universe and characters and a backstory much more than the actual gameplay itself, partially because the gameplay mechanics haven’t much changed. It’s still a skateboarding platformer, where you grind, kickflip and grab your way from the start to the end. Beating scores and crossing off objectives as you make your way through the level. But now, you have a customized character with the path to become the next “Skate Wizard” a intermediary between the normal people and the actual Skate gods of the game’s universe.

While I initially was interested in the game’s story, as I usually really gravitate towards game’s storylines more than just the gameplay aspect… I found myself getting easily annoyed at how juvenile the characters were. Partially because it’s been a main staple of indie gaming the last several years and I’m just sick to death of it. The game’s characters exists in this weird limbo state where they are both full grown adults, but have the mannerisms and attitudes of children. Every character speaks and acts like a pre-teen, with their only singular goal in life to skate the gnar and have chill hang seshs with their buds. It’s an exhausting endeavor to read the actual storyline as it feels as it’s trying way too hard to cater to a tween audience, and yet, also influence them with modern thinking and very modern woke activism. And I’m just sick and tired of that crap being shoved into every single game now. But that’s a rant for another time.

The game itself is fine, the hubworld ties together the whole game, segmenting levels into themes. Each segmented themed level introduces a new area of the world, and teaches you some sort of trick to help you skate through the levels. Learning how to wallride, or preform grabs to smash through floating gems… it has a good progression, but also feels like I was missing out during the first half of the game. For example, in the fifth out of sixth section, you learn that you can land on stairs and ride down them. But throughout the game, you’ve had to avoid stairs like the plague. It’s a mechanic that should have been introduced at the start of the game. Same with grabs and spins, it introducest it too late for it to be useful, as it’s part of the trick system and would have been nice to learn earlier when I was struggling to beat high scores. I understand it’s there to help gate and give a sense of progression throughout the game, but it just felt more unbalanced and gave me more a “boy, that would have been nice to know 3 hours ago” feeling.

There is a big focus up front on the gaming being a single player game, and once you finish the game, you’ll unlock the “real” game, which is what I believe is multiplayer. I found the game a decent side distraction for a day, as it only took me 5 hours to beat. But I have no intention on playing multiplayer or even booting up the game ever again.

The branching paths do a lot for replayability and it’s layouts are massive, but the game just does too many weird little choices for me to give it a recommendation, or even a second thought after I’ve finished it. The game is ugly and hard to look at in motion with it’s unchangeable Chromatic Aberration filter always applied. Making it a blurry painful mess to watch and take pleasure in the cool pastel color scheme these indie games love so much. Along with it’s unbelievable annoying “chillax” modern style of writing, the game just wore on my nearves a bit too quickly, and I found myself immediately hating every and all characters.

The objectives quickly get out of hand after the first world and the only reason to do them is to unlock more clothes to customize your character. As I already didn’t like the characters and found the clothes that didn’t make me want to punch my character before I even started the first level, unlocking more millennial clothing options wasn’t something I was interested in, in the slightest. So it just became a game of “complete the level, don’t even bother with objectives”, since the only reward is cosmetic items I don’t want.

In the end, OlliOlli World tries to up the ante of the series by making a grand universe of characters and make a fully connected world that brings multiplayer to the forefront. For someone like myself that doesn’t want that, this game is then half unplayable. It’s a interesting and fun game when it’s a platformer, but then goes out of it’s way to push a agenda all too common in the indie gaming space and I’m tired of it. I won’t be purchasing games and rewarding games for being political, even if it’s a slight message about “acceptability” that I might even be blowing way out of proportion. It’s more the straw that broke the camel’s back in this particular case for me. However, the focus of modern speech and unlikable trend-chasing characters that feel so unbelievable I can’t possibly fathom identifying with them in the slightest really pushed me to near speed through the actual storyline. I don’t want to be a part of these character’s crew, I don’t like them and don’t think having a character named “dad’ but not actually their dad is funny. It’s just again, very juvenile writing and feels like it was written by a 20 year old for 12 year olds.

It’s a shame I soured so quickly on the game, but it’s just a game, and was only a single day of gameplay at the end of it. But it did help me realize that most indie games while shouting so loud about how unique and interesting they are, really hold little actual value and are much more shallow experiences than most. So I guess for being more of a teachable moment in my gaming life, I guess OlliOlli World did something useful.