The last OlliOlli game, 2015’s OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood, was a breath of fresh air for the skating genre. Its stylised art, intense level design, and challenging trick system all helped it stand out. Seven years later, OlliOlli World has all those things going for it, too, but it also takes a huge step forward for the series by shifting into 3D, giving its skating a better sense of scale, speed, and dynamism without sacrificing the 2D perspective. At the same time, it builds significantly on Olliwood’s technical gameplay by layering grabs, wall rides, and more atop the flip tricks, grinds, and manuals that were its foundation. And on top of all that, it goes out of its way to be more welcoming to players of all stripes, putting forth a host of changes that ensure just about anyone can have a good time without losing the fiercely high skill ceiling the series is known for.

OlliOlli World’s colourful, cartoony look and character-centric approach is the first thing that had me saying “ooo” – not just because it’s very pretty in its own right, but because it’s also very reminiscent of one of my favourite cartoon locations, Adventure Time’s Kingdom of Ooo. Whether we’re talking about your character’s skate wizard guide Chiffon, the ice cream-headed denizens of Sunshine Valley, the smiling trees of Cloverbrook, or the many “Skate Godz” that you’re tricking across Radlandia to meet, there are too many homages to miss the inspiration. It’s also similar in its effervescent and eccentric personality but thankfully doesn’t feel derivative, striking out on its own with a world populated by endearingly offbeat characters and a story that doesn’t take itself seriously, yet is enjoyably earnest at the same time.

The approach certainly works for me, and the insane level of character customisation available helped me realise my own oddball character to add to the world. The breadth of options here is truly impressive, letting you adjust everything from your physique and clothes to (almost) every component of your skateboard and even some of your animations. The potential for unique creations is on display in a bunch of other ways as well, from seeing your friends on the loading screens to the rival system, which challenges you to beat other players’ on each level… and even inserts that player’s avatar into the pre-level dialogue to put a face to the name. (That’s the character on the right in the screenshot below.)

Oh, and how’s this for an instant win for the character customisation system: You can try on any article of clothing and then revert back to what you were wearing before with the press of a button. No searching for the item to re-equip it again if you realise you made a mistake. Adding the equivalent of CTRL-Z to a character editor is so sensible it’s almost painful, and makes testing out new looks a breeze.

It’s once you start skating, however, that the new presentation really starts to pop. The OlliOlli games have always felt fast and responsive, but World cranks this right up, running at a silky 60fps on PC, with super smooth character animations and a number of dynamic elements. Courses are full of absolutely thrilling sequences, whether that’s flying along an undulating networks of rails, holding long, lazy wallrides where the camera pulls way back to show the impossible scale of the trick, or launching at speed out of a grind to fly low over an arching factory rooftop and seamlessly into another grind. Levels are no longer just left to right affairs but sweep back and forth, utilising quarter pipes and complex switchbacks. The terrain can be dense with paths to take and planes to skate on, even looping back around to where you started via “gnarly routes”. And it’s all set to a funky, laidback electronic soundtrack that helps make the skating feel even cooler.

Levels are no longer just left to right affairs but sweep back and forth, utilising quarter pipes and complex switchbacks.

One minor additional note on the course design: while all the levels proper are fantastic, some of the side quests – like popping balloons or rotating in the air – are rather unexciting, which makes finding the characters that host these challenges less rewarding than it could have been. On the plus side, one side quest does see you try and outrace a bear riding an inflatable tube down a river, so that’s definitely a win.

Tricknology

The trick mechanics are every bit as impressive as the levels. You’re no longer just grinding, flip tricking, and spinning – with manuals joining them together, but also wall-riding, pulling and tweaking grabs, fitting in late tricks, and even negotiating stairs via firecrackers (so-called because of the rapid-fire bangs as you clack down each step). The latter is a low-key game-changer, as landing in a manual on a set of stairs flies in the face of everything I’ve learnt in skating games over the years, and makes extending combos via stair sets even more delicious than it might otherwise have been. And all these tricks are merely an analogue stick movement or button-press away.

In OlliOlli World you can skate the way you want to skate.

Hearing them described, it’s easy to imagine how OlliOlli World’s mechanics could feel completely overwhelming. And yet, while it’s absolutely crammed with things to learn, it takes a very relaxed approach to introducing them all, with tutorials peppered steadily throughout the relatively modest campaign. It’s not until the last of the five main areas, for instance, that you learn about late tricks and grind switching, and the gradual pace allows you to get used to each new addition as you incorporate them into your flow. Or not. Things like late tricks and the more advanced flip tricks and grinds are very much optional. In OlliOlli World you can skate the way you want to skate.

By and large the controls do a fantastic job of putting a lot of options within easy reach, and I almost always felt that errors were my own fault – either bungling an input, not having enough momentum, or getting the timing on something wrong. That said, I had a few minor issues with wall rides – especially on moving walls – that felt a little outside my control, while the grind switching system occasionally had me ollying into a flip trick instead of shifting to a new grind. That could cause some small frustration here and there, but never enough to distract me for long.

On that note, OlliOlli World is a far more forgiving game than its predecessors. If you’re holding the left analogue stick in preparation for a flip trick, for instance, you can still push with your foot to build speed. There’s no penalty for setting yourself too early. And if you’re rotating in the air and land side on, you won’t crash – you’ll just get less points than if you completed the rotation and landed perfectly. You can even land side on in a manual and continue your combo… well, aside from on stairs, where you do actually have to land facing forwards or backwards. In general though, OlliOlli World isn’t interested in punishing your mistakes, it’s focused on rewarding your execution.

OlliOlli World isn’t interested in punishing your mistakes, it’s focused on rewarding your execution.

And if you do bail it’s not as painful as it looks, because getting back up and skating again is instantaneous. A tap of a button will reset you back to the last checkpoint, while holding it for a second starts the whole run again. The checkpoint system itself takes a little getting used to though, as these spots aren’t just valuable for restarts but for banking points too, lest you lose them all through an overambitious combo. Once you’re bearing that in mind, there’s very little friction in trying sections over and over. Well, aside from the friction of your virtual face repeatedly slamming into a virtual wall.

What We Said About OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood

There’s essentially no limit to how good you can get at OlliOlli 2. Just when you’ve mastered beating levels in a single combo and timing every single grind and manual perfectly, there are a host of other mechanics to integrate into your skating to bump that high score even further skyward. Why land in a boring old manual when you could revert into it? Why do a standard trick or grind when you could add a rotation or pull off something more complex with a longer – and riskier – animation? And hey, are you grind switching on every rail you can? It’s an impressively layered game, and does a great job of tapping deep into the skater psyche, where an obsession with tricks and effortless style intersect.

Score: 9

Read the full OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood Review

Flexistentialism

Given OlliOlli World is designed to be welcoming to players of all skill levels, just about anyone will be able to see everything Radlandia has to offer. Completing a level, after all, simply means getting to the end, not posting a particular score. This also means that there’s a good chance that after you’ve played through everything you’ve really only taken your first step down the path towards becoming a true skate god. I’d only scratched the surface of all the challenges when I beat the final level, for instance, and it was truly satisfying going back to the beginning with a fuller understanding of the mechanics and thrashing my previous high scores, as well as beating the score challenges on every level… well, almost every level. Some of the numbers towards the end get pretty insane.

In fact, to beat those late-game scores the only option is to complete each level in one combo, and even then it’s easy to fall short. You may need to take all the alternate (and hardest) paths, incorporate the most difficult tricks and concentrate on timing each grind and manual perfectly to get there. OlliOlli World may not be hard to “complete,” but it’s excellent that there are punishingly difficult goals waiting for those who want to attempt them once they do.

To beat the late-game score challenges the only option is to complete each level in one combo, and even then it’s easy to fall short. 

On top of chasing scores, each level also has three bespoke challenges from one of your travelling companions, the somewhat simple-minded magazine editor, Mike, and these incorporate collectables, alternate routes, specific trick spots, and more. Beating the game brings additional unlocks too, including two new modes. These are an online league system that sees skaters around the world vie for high scores on a daily leaderboard, as well as a basic but powerful random level generator that’s perfect for testing your skills in each of the main areas and sharing cool challenges with friends.

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