Last year, Roll7 made their Xbox One debut with their 2D skateboarding title OlliOlli
. Swapping the free-roaming environments of other skateboarding franchises for more linear side-scrolling levels, the title received a positive reception for its simple to learn but difficult to master gameplay. As with its predecessor, sequel OlliOlli2: XL Edition
arrives on Xbox One several months after its appearance on other platforms. Since the Skate
franchise seemingly died with EA Black Box and the last instalment in the Tony Hawk
franchise failed to meet expectations, can Roll7's latest title keep the skateboarding flag flying on the Xbox One?
The game's Career mode offers 25 Amateur levels spread over five different and distinct environments. For example, Curse of the Aztec pits players against bloody spikes and lava pits, while Carnival of the Dead's broken rollercoasters bring a new meaning to white knuckle ride. All that players must do to progress through the Amateur campaign is to reach the end of the level, but this is often easier said than done. Players don't control their forward motion, so each level becomes a test of reflexes as players must not only pull tricks at speed over the dangers in each level, but they must also land them by pressing
when close to the ground. Time the landing incorrectly and you'll watch your skater bounce helplessly towards his impending doom, at worst by melting into a pool of acid, at best coming to rest on solid ground with multiple broken bones. Regardless, each bailout spells the end of your run and you are placed back at the start of the level to try again.
To get to the end of a level players must perform a variety of flip tricks and grinds over the various obstacles. Each flip trick requires the left joystick to be rotated or flicked in a specific direction, while grinds require the left joystick to be pulled in a certain direction when landing on the rail. Both can be combined with
to pull off more complicated manouevres, something that is required if you're looking for a high score at the end of the level. However, if you want the highest possible score, these tricks must be perfect or nearly so. By tapping
as close to the ground as possible, you'll be awarded a perfect landing. Likewise for grinds, moving the left joystick into position while as close to the rail as possible awards a perfect grind. Not only does perfection boost your score, it's also vital for retaining momentum throughout a level, especially at times when anything less than perfect will result in certain failure and restarting the level.
The coveted green sparks of perfection
So far, so familiar to OlliOlli
players. However, OlliOlli 2
has a new trick up its sleeve that changes the game completely: manuals. Players can now manual in between their flips and grinds allowing for combos to be extended. Levels can be completed in one single level-long combo, but there's a certain amount of risk involved as players balance out the need to maintain their combo and get a higher score against the increased risk of bailing out and losing everything. It is a risk that must also be considered for each level's five challenges. These are optional extra tasks that can be completed in each level, such as pulling a specific trick, or getting a high score. If you're to get any further than the Amateur campaign, these challenges must be completed. Some of them are simple; others will test your patience and skill to its very limits.
The game starts with a gentle learning curve. Courses allow for a larger degree of error from the player and require simple tricks to complete. As players progress through the levels, the challenges require better timing, lengthy combos and more complicated tricks, but all of this seems to progress at a fair pace with tutorials on hand to practice the basics -- these can be accessed at any time if you need a reminder. When you arrive at the fourth set of stages, Carnival of the Dead, the game finishes teaching you everything that you need to know. From this point onwards you're on your own and the difficulty curve gets much steeper. You will accidentally break your combos. You will fall off the board. Repeatedly. Each of these failures will force you to restart the level, thoughtfully just a quick button press (
) and something that becomes ingrained in your muscle memory. Despite the countless failures that you will encounter, the game ingrains feelings of just one more go, or just one more level. Hours later, you're still going because every time something goes wrong, it's your mistake and not the fault of the game. And you won't make that mistake again. Well, not intentionally.
Those barrels are full of pain
Completing the Amateur challenges may seem, well, a challenge, but this is only the start of the story. Once all five challenges have been completed on an Amateur level, a Pro version is unlocked. The Pro Career levels follow a similar format where players simply need to reach the end, but getting there is much more difficult now. Again, each Pro level has five challenges that must be completed. For those who, unlike me, are exceptionally skilled at this game, completing all of the Pro levels and their challenges unlocks the fiendishly difficult RAD mode. I will be perfectly honest and say that I'm nowhere near reaching this stage, but I do feel fairly confident in stating that this game is much more difficult than its predecessor. If you're looking for a challenge, you've come to the right place.
If all of this has sounded like an exercise in frustration, there are more relaxing game modes. Once a player has reached the end of a level, it unlocks a corresponding Spot. The Spots are shorter versions of each level where your only aim is to achieve the highest possible score. The scores are then added together and your overall tally is placed on a leaderboard. There is also the Daily Grind, which is effectively a "Spot of the Day" competition. Again, the aim is to get the highest score, but the catch is that you only get one attempt per day. You can practise the Daily Grind as much as you like, but none of those scores will count, so you need to make your single attempt as perfect as possible if you're to come close to topping the leaderboard.
Land that combo perfectly and you're laughing all the way to the bank
Multiplayer gameplay is enabled in Combo Rush, which allows players to set up local tournaments of different lengths for up to four people. Players can compete for the highest combo in a level, the highest score in a set amount of time, a race to the end of the level and a race to reach a certain score target. With the large number of variables on offer, this mode will provide a fair amount of entertainment for you and your friends/family. Unfortunately, there is no online multiplayer, but this game almost requires you to be sat next to a friend on the couch when ploughing head first into a wall. Screaming down a headset just doesn't have the same effect.
The final game mode comes in the form of the XL Edition exclusive Free Skate mode. These five "chilled" levels are much longer than anything else in the game, and their aim is to allow players to practise their moves in a safer environment where it is impossible to fall off the board. Despite this, it still isn't easy to practice that specific move that is needed to complete a challenge as the levels are different. While they're a nice idea, players would have benefitted more from "chilled" versions of the career levels and you can't really shake the feeling that the mode has been tacked on as second thought.
A challenging flip trick on a difficult level -- what could go wrong?
After spending most of this review telling you about the challenge that the game presents, it's only right that I warn you that the achievements will not be easy to get either. At the time of writing, the full achievement list is not available, but from the achievements that I have managed to unlock, the list is very similar (although not identical) to that found on Playstation 4 and Vita. There are achievements attached to each mode with the exception of Combo Rush. Some are easy, while others are much harder. The pièce de résistance, though, is the achievement that requires you to get 100% completion. To do this, you must complete all 25 Amateur Career levels and their challenges, complete all 25 Pro Career levels and their challenges, complete the game on RAD mode, finish all of the Skatepark tutorials, set a score on all 50 spots, reach the end of all five Free Skate levels, and find the 10 members of Roll7 team, the game's collectibles that are hidden throughout the Amateur and Pro Career levels. If you can do this, the rest will come easily so long as you remember to play the Daily Grind seven times.
OlliOlli 2 takes everything that was found in its predecessor and builds on it to create a smoother and more addictive experience. While the game starts gently, it soon builds up into a challenge that keeps gamers coming back to try and try again. Arguably, the game gets too challenging a bit too quickly, but there's an enormous sense of satisfaction to be gained once you're triumphant. This is not an easy completion, so buyers beware, but if you're looking for a challenge and a game that will keep you occupied for many, many hours, you're looking in the right place. Just take out insurance on those controllers.
- Easy to pick up and play, difficult to master
- Addictive without being too frustrating
- Manuals make combos much easier
- Many, many hours of gameplay
- Tacked on Free Skate mode
- Steep difficulty spike
The reviewer drowned, melted, combusted, impaled herself and broke more bones than a human can survive many times for the sake of this review. She still only unlocked 19 of the game's 28 achievements and she's not too hopeful about being able to earn the rest of them. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.