You’ve been waiting for what feels like a lifetime for Skate 4, right? Even since we heard EA almost begrudgingly accept that ‘yes, the sequel is real‘ at E3 2020, there have been precious few updates about the title. Between the series’ kick and push back into public consciousness and the likes of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2, Skater XL and Session all popularizing everyone’s favorite counter-culture all over again, skating is – finally – getting the love it deserves on screen and pad.
So you owe it to yourself to play the best skating game that’s launched in a generation right now. You owe it to yourself to play OlliOlli World.
If, like me, your only previous experience in the twitch-reflex theme park of the OlliOlli universe is back on the Vita, you’re probably rubbing your thumb right now and taking anti-inflammatories for your early-onset arthritis, too. The series is tough, and paired with those nasty little Vita thumbsticks that are harder than the Southbank’s concrete slabs, the game quickly caught reputation for being physically – and mentally – challenging.
Just like skating, ey? The same is true of OlliOlli World, too – the series hasn’t chilled out a bit in its eight-year hiatus. The slightest lapse in concentration and you’ll be stacking it into walls, corpsing down staircases, and sack-tapping yourself into oblivion at the end of some particularly nasty rails. It’s far more punishing than any of its genre stablemates, and that’s mostly because it plays like an arcade game rather than a skating sim (or whatever weird hybrid the Tony Hawk games are).
OlliOlli has always been about flow, and thanks to the updated and more open-ended design of World, you get more opportunities than ever to find your zen as you’re grinding, manualing, wall-riding and kickflipping through the world’s chillest skate parks.
If you’re a masochist (like me), you’ll uncover some great replayability in the game via its challenges – they start out reasonable and, y’know, sane, before escalating like a fight between security guards and stoned teenagers in a car park towards the later levels. If you thought getting all the Gaps in THPS1+2 was aggravating, wait until you try some of the Radysus Challenges in the OlliOlli World end-game. It makes Hawk look like a poser.
But better than the gameplay side of stuff, there’s the way OlliOlli World holds a pastel-tinted mirror up to the wonderful world of skateboarding in 2022. I truly believe that skating, now, is more inclusive than it’s ever been; whether it’s in the phenomenal talent of the enby pro skaters that make headlines in the scene, or the way that the women skaters at the Olympics drew a massive crowd, skateboarding and the culture around it – right now – is a great place to be. I’d put money on your local park having young kids, of all genders, learning the ropes on shaky knees – post-pandemic, my haunts have been full of kids (and a good number of adults, too) picking up the new hobby and encountering practically no gatekeeping. It’s utopian.
That’s something else that’s reflected in OlliOlli World: people of all identities, body shapes, and skin colors populate the world map, and everyone is equal. The only thing that sets you apart from your bodacious peers is how well you can string a combo together, or how high you can pull a Benihara over some yawning chasm in a pastel-hued desert. The characters you get to chat to – from a guy with a prosthetic leg to the safety-conscious middle-aged man simply called ‘Dad’ – are all supportive, inclusive and wholesome. It’s skating as it is now, not through some rose-tinted aviator sunglasses you picked up in the 90s.
This forward-looking respect for modern skating gels with the game’s low-key visual vibe and incredibly mellow lo-fi OST, too. It feels like Roll7 has intentionally softened and cushioned everything in the game to offset how sharp and gnarly the actual gameplay is – and the result is this compelling, delicious and often infuriating game that fills you with adrenaline then coos at you until you calm down. With clear eyes, and aching fingers, you land that 100+ combo, coast on through to the end of the level, and then start it all again in a new locale. Bliss.
If you know what you’re doing, you’ll be able to beat the game at its own tricks from the second your deck hits the asphalt, but if you’re cautious about picking something like this up because – well, you value the integrity of your fingers – don’t worry. A gentle on-boarding process (no pun intended) incrementally gets you acquainted with the thumb-intensive playstyle OlliOlli World expects of you.
Pick up the basic elements of your combos – ollies, grinds, flips, grabs, manuals – and learn how to knit them together. Then learn how to knit them together with good timing. Then learn how to knit them together so everything you do in a level multiplies your score. At the risk of being too romantic about it, that’s how skating works in real life; you get the bones, then you get the meat, then you get flashy. Mimicking that journey – with a character that looks, feels, and represents me – is something I’ve not really experienced in skating games before. And it makes me feel like a boss when I get all the connective tissue firing together, too.
What more do you need from a skating game? If you’re hankering for Skate 4, or tired of playing THPS1+2, or even reminiscing about your misspent youth drinking tins and waxing curbs in your local park, I implore you to pick up OlliOlli World. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.