The popular series returns with its first outing outside of the PS Vita.
After taking a sidestep and delving into several other different genres with releases like Not a Hero and Laser League, Roll7 has returned back to the very series that put them on the map in the first place. OlliOlli World looks to be the most ambitious outing for the popular skateboarding series, as it features a central story for the very first time and it showcases a truly gorgeous pastel-coloured look. Recently, we were able to experience roughly the first hour of the game and we were able to catch up with and speak to Roll7 CEO, Simon Bennet.
Within World, you play as a young rookie who has just moved to the skateboarding obsessed utopia of Radlandia. With your skills yet to blossom, a group of four colourful characters take you under their wing and show you the ropes. There's no voice acting here, but one thing that I appreciated is that the game gives the player the freedom to completely skip optional dialogue. I would advise against that though, as I found the writing here to be very humorous, and I found the ensemble of characters to be fleshed out with their own distinct personalities. For example, there's the bashful and hilarious Gnarly Mike and the overly optimistic and encouraging Dad (who definitely isn't everybody's dad).
It's pretty much night and day when going back and comparing previous OlliOlli games to World. The two previous OlliOlli games had more of a budget feel when it came to their appearance and this was likely intentional in order to squeeze them onto the PS Vita. World, on the other hand, has a stunning pastel-coloured look and its environments feel life-like and have plenty of personality. In the short demo, we were able to sample two different areas and these were the beach town of Sunshine Valley and the woodland setting of Cloverbrook. Cloverbook, with its smiling trees and giant soaring bumblebees was a particular highlight for me from a visual perspective, but the sundrenched Sunshine Valley also still impressed.
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With those changes out of the way, how does the core skateboarding in World feel? Well, pretty good actually. I'll admit that I have not played any previous games in the series, but what I will say is that pulling off tricks here is simple and it feels satisfying to string together combos. Each level in World sees you move from the left to right side of the screen and there are ramps, grind rails, and other objects that you'll need to perform tricks off to make sure that you don't fall off your board and face plant into the ground. One minor but appreciated touch is that you can view a full replay of your run after passing the finish line and hilariously, this includes all of the moments where you parted from your board.
By tapping the A button (on Xbox) you can build up your momentum and pull off stunts. Wheelies, heel flips, and hardflips are done by pushing down the analogue stick and releasing it in one of three directions at the right moment. You can perform different stunts too depending on whether you are skating a grind rail, riding along a wall, or rolling up the side of a towering ramp. There's a certain risk for reward element here, as stringing together stunts will build up your combo meter, but they can leave you distracted in the path of an oncoming obstacle. Luckily, if you do fall off your board, checkpoints are frequent and the only punishment for using them is a slight deduction from your overall score.
From what we saw in the demo, World has a Mario-like level select system (for lack of a better comparison) and here you'll move in a linear fashion between different tutorials and courses. Each course has a scoreboard of the town's best scores for you to try and beat and several fun optional objectives that your newfound crew has set you to complete. These included popping all of the balloons scattered around the track, getting your fortune told at a randomly placed booth, and avoiding landing on several frogs. Not only were these tasks wacky, but I can see them providing great incentive for players to return back to courses.
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My time with it might have been brief, but I still found World to deliver as a fun and beautiful-looking evolution of the series. Pulling off tricks here felt satisfying and simplistic, and there was a definite sense of danger felt when trying to rack up an impressive score. I also found the game's cast of characters to be instantly likable and they all contained their own distinct personalities. Be sure to check back for our full thoughts when OlliOlli World launches on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series this winter.