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OlliOlli Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Forget Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, OlliOlli is the most exciting skateboarding game to come out in ages. The 2D action doesn't miss a beat, thanks in large part to the deceptively deep gameplay and strong level designs. Just about the only thing it's missing is a proper leaderboard and a way to manual. Rating: 85%
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For as exciting as skateboarding is, adapting it to the game screen is about as easy as landing a heelflip body varial frontside 540. Company after company has tried, but few seem to get it right. For every Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, there are at least a dozen mediocre games like Street Sk8er and Evolution Skateboarding. And with titles like Skate or Die and Tour de Thrash, there's very little respite in the old school.

Perhaps that's why I'm so excited to play OlliOlli, the brand new retro-styled skateboarding game from developer Tom Hegarty. By mixing a familiar 2D side-scrolling world with the trick-focused gameplay of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Tom has managed to create an extreme sports game that somehow feels fresh. It's been a long time since I've been this impressed with a skateboarding game.

OlliOlli (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

OlliOlli is split up into 100 stages spread out over five separate parts of the world. We start in an urban setting, full of slummy apartment buildings and dumpsters to grind. From there it's on to the junkyard, complete with garbage trucks and destroyed cars. Another level takes us to the port, where we can see boats and seagulls in the distance. The final two stages take our skater to a snowy army base in Russia and a Japanese location called Neon City.

While the action may be entirely 2D, that doesn't mean OlliOlli is simplistic. There's a learning curve when it comes to pulling off big tricks for huge points. The first rule you'll need to learn is that all tricks, no matter how big or small, require a proper landing. You complete a landing by pressing the "X" button right as the skater connects with the ground. Time it too early and you'll lose out on valuable points, while missing the landing entirely will erase any trace of your combo.

All of the game's tricks are pulled off using the PS Vita's left analog stick (or, if you prefer, the D-pad). Basic moves involve simply pressing a direction, while more complicated tricks require Street Fighter II-style quarter and half circle motions with the analog stick. You'll even be able to create new tricks by using the shoulder buttons. In all, OlliOlli's "Tricktionary" offers well over a hundred tricks to learn and master.

OlliOlli (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

If you plan on keeping your combo alive and earning big points, it's important you learn the fundamentals of grinding. Much like landing a trick, the perfect grind also comes down to timing. Your skater will be able to grind nearly any rail or ledge by simply holding a direction on the analog stick. If you time it correctly, the perfect grind will give you a speed boost and make completing the trick a little easier. Anybody can pull off a few tricks and complete a stage, but the real high scores come from people who have mastered the tricky timing.

Each of the career mode's stages come with five challenges to complete. Players will be tasked with pulling off a certain move, gapping a hard to find location, collecting a certain amount of floating objects, earning a lot of points in a single combo and a whole bunch of other challenging jobs. This feels a lot like the structure of the early Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games, and it gave me a reason to revisit each level. Once you've completed all five amateur level tasks, a brand new pro stage is opened up, complete with even more challenges.

The spots mode is similar to the career, only without the challenges to complete. This mode has you grinding and tricking your way to a high score. But you better keep that combo alive; because the round stops the moment the trick ends. This mode also plays into a similar daily challenge, which pits you against the world in a level selected by the developers. You can practice the run as many times as you want, but will only have one chance to earn a high score.

OlliOlli (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

From the presentation to the deceptively deep gameplay, OlliOlli manages to get so much right. Unfortunately, it has some problems that will likely keep me from coming back to the game months down the road. Believe it or not, my main complaint involves the leaderboards ... or, to be more specific, the complete lack of leaderboards. As you would expect, every stage allows you to see how you ranked against the world's number 1 player. For whatever reason, the one thing you can't do is compare your high scores with friends. I'll never be any competition for the number one player in the world, so not being able to see (and beat) my friend's score ends up being a big deal.

And without coming off like I'm nitpicking, I began to wonder why there wasn't a character or outfit select. Not that I had a problem with the default skater, but it would have been nice to have a little variety. I also couldn't help but wonder if sequels would make this first installment obsolete, not unlike what happened with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Will an OlliOlli sequel introduce a way to manual or revert?

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. As it is, OlliOlli is a breath of fresh air to the long-stagnant skateboarding genre. The gameplay is simple to learn, but will take hours to completely master. And when you finally do find your rhythm and perfect the large library of tricks, you'll discover an endlessly satisfying experience that is yet another must-own exclusive for the PS Vita.
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