It’s a strange dichotomy, the intertwined nature of kids who actually skate and the ones who shred through the use of joystick and mashed buttons. There’s an overlay in the culture of videogames and skateboarding, though; the pursuit of eliminating unchill vibes and hanging out. We hold these principles to be self-shrevident, exploring the desire to expel the beige drudgery of the daily regular. It’s only natural that skateboarding remains in the gaming narrative to this, despite a considerable dry spell that followed in the fallout of the tide Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater: Ad Nauseum.
Poseur Disposer: OlliOlli Reminisces of Skate Classics
This writer’s own discovery of the game was entirely on accident. A seemingly innocuous notification was seen, indicating that a new item was placed into the Steam inventory of previous owners of Hotline Miami. Entitled OlliOlli, this $12 piece of aesthetic charm comes equipped with all of the trappings of classic arcade gaming. The only thing missing from the overall feel is perhaps vicinity to a noisy food court and a change machine that eats a dollar every so often.
What’s this? Another independent game developer seeking to get out there through organic marketing and promotion? Like so many already, the writer took note of the promotional 20% off item and decided to have a look at OlliOlli’s profile page. The experience thus far has been charming, to say the least.
The nostalgia can be felt in the new release from the super-stylized and simplistic indie developer Roll7. The player is tasked with mastering trick combinations in rapid-fire succession.
OlliOlli offers gamers another bit of pick-up-and-play arcade goodness, something which young and old game enthusiasts alike can certainly get down on.
The earliest incarnation of skateboarding adapted to viewing screen that this writer can recall comes as the arcade classic 720. Innovative is perhaps not the first word that comes to one’s mind when looking back on this gnarly skate adventure, consider the following:
- Initially, one might not consider 720’s stage select area to be as groundbreaking as it actually is. Take a moment to consider the implication of having an open-world (albeit limited) area. This removes the player from the norms (of that era) of the typical 2-D sidescroller.
- Additionally, the game keeps the pace moving through use of timers, counting down before the iconic and terror-inducing cloud of bees arrives to sting our lone shredder into an untimely demise. While not a true sandbox game, it does well in breaking the chains of the tram ride that so many games both then and present can feel, which is saying a lot considering that this game came to be in an era predating that of the home-console gamer entirely.
720 was the epitome of the quarter-dumper. Players hop on, shred some spots, die to bees, then hop off. It was uncommon to see that dedicated electric shredder grinding the game out in its entirety. Blessed are they who have the shredication to see it all the way through, cashing in dollar after dollar that could be spent on pizza and sodas instead.
OlliOlli parallels 720 in key areas, areas that appeal to the classic gamer (see what I did there?) and the skill-based button combo masher alike. The open world aspect has been cashed in for a sleek, stylishly designed series of menus. Easy to navigate and pleasing to the eye, OlliOlli allows the gamer ease-of-access in rapid selection of both game modes and spots to crush. While many of us do miss the swarm of angry killer bees to prod us along, it is important that this definitive feature be laid to rest, forever attached to the fondness we carry for 720 in exchange for fluid function.
The actual gameplay itself, however, stays true to the simplistic nature of that long-passed era. Gone are the days of grind balance meters, overly involved trick combinations, Easter egg hunting of video tapes and gimmicky letter combinations. And for what? New outfits? Please. The beauty of OlliOlli’s gameplay lies within its simplicity. 8 buttons are at work here. WASD for ollie/flip variations and the arrow keys for pushing and spinning. This barebones approach may seem empty, but take into consideration the mayonnaise-laden egg salad of calorie stacking that has been jam-packed into previous incarnations of skate games. It’s true, there are no grabs, or vert ramps for that matter, but this does not detract from the challenge of the game. Focusing on the raw essentials of street skating, the game pushes the player to think on their feet, presenting a fast-paced succession of stairs, drops, rails, and dumpsters to grind upon or launch over. Set at breakneck speed, the game comes with a steep learning curve.
Take a moment to digest that notion, a game that takes time to master. It’s been a while since that was the norm in gaming. While tempers are likely to flare in moments of repeated failures, that feeling of accomplishment when acing the level overwhelms us. OlliOlli provides gamers with real sustenance in its reward for the hard work they’ve sunk into the game. IRL skateboarders know this feeling, practicing a trick over and over until it is perfected. This is how OlliOlli clears the gap between the electronic environment and the corporeal on a deeper level than previously touched upon.
It is important to touch upon what first piqued this writer’s interest in OlliOlli to begin with. It was the colorful, pixelated goodness that brought back images from years spent sitting on the bed with a plastic brick of a Super Nintendo controller. As one watches the teaser trailer on the Steam profile page, one cannot help but be drawn in by the lighting speed of the sidescroll.
Next was the music. So key in setting the mood for any foray into expressive media, but perhaps the most crucial when it comes to videogames. Milky waves of driving beats grab the attention of the gamer, a future pop sound so keen on a long-passed time of deep house in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Not quite as pop sensible as say a band like Disclosure, and maybe not as avant garde as a mainstay like 808 State, but a mood is set, one of relaxed vibes and focused concentration.
As the game goes, the fluid nature of the game coalesces into the experience of the player. Heady liquid beats wash over us as we hit that perfect flow of trick and grind combinations, the kind that leave our minds blown and thinking to ourselves: I was in the fucking zone! The player is at first limited by their grasp of the game’s controls, but once mastered, the system in place becomes the power ring to the gamer’s Hal Jordan, limited only by our imagination and creativity.
His Hero is Gone
And our hero? An everyman. A man (literally) without a face. Equipped only with a red trucker hat and a green longsleeve shirt. He is the perfect vessel to our need to shred. He is home to nowhere but the streets and knows only of the figurative and literal grind. He is the embodiment of the games testament to the purity of gaming, the raw element of what a game is. It is for this reason that OlliOlli far exceeds its $12 price tag. Full value is guaranteed, alongside hours of fun.