OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood will drive perfectionists crazy, because they will want to master everything about the each of the game's intricately tricky levels before moving on to the next one. That way lies madness. And ridiculous amounts of fun.
Out this week for PS4 and Vita, the follow-up for Roll7's sharply-realised skating sidescroller improves just about everything that the first OlliOlli did. The visual approach is smoother and slicker, looking more like a playable micro-sized cartoon than a retro-pixel homage. It's faster, too, with sections that require quicker, more nimble fingers to ollie over and grind through. Another improvement comes in the form of a dedicated quick-restart button for when you bail and want to get right back on your board. You're going to be using that a lot because OlliOli2 is harder than its predecessor.
I've only played into the first two worlds of the game but it's already plain to see that there are tougher challenges in OlliOlli2, and more rails, hazards, collectibles to boot. The point totals for trick combos, for example, are so high that they make OlliOlli 1 feel like a tutorial for this game. Areas zip by so fast that the part of my brain dedicated to remembering the architecture of video game levels — let's call it the hippocamperus — could hardly keep up. It hardly ever feels like you can glide for a few seconds and take a breather. Of course, this meant that I was just going back to play areas over and over again so I'd know exactly when to grind, jump and spin for maximum points.
Complicating all this even further is the addition of manuals. The new ground tricks creates new combo-chaining possibilities, just like it did in Tony Hawk 2 many moons ago. (Roll7 even named one of the challenges Tiny Hawk 2.) Just like grinds and landings, you can pull off perfect manuals, too. It's also possible to combo your way through a whole level if you're good enough. Which I'm not yet.
Even though special platforms and regular asphalt are distinguished by contrasting bright and neutral colours, you'll still need to read the environments quickly and carefully to figure out the right input. It goes something like: "Oh, look, an incline! I'll grind it. Hey, another! Time to grind again! Whoops, that was concrete. Should have manualed. Restart."
Spots Mode — a variant that dares players to notch the highest score possible with only one combo per level — is the kind of thing that the most obsessive players will lose entire hours to. The game bumps back to a results screen out as soon as you nail a landing in Spots Mode, making it a ridiculous challenge that requires players to perfectly combo through an entire level with their best tricks. You've got to be insanely focused in order to get onto the mode's online leaderboards.
OlliOlli2 is also funnier, which will help the inevitable tears of frustration sting a little bit less. It's packed with blink-and-you'll-miss-em jokes in the names of the levels like "Mulholland Grind" or "Manualment Valley." As for the music, the electro-ambient soundtrack in OlliOlli2 works a perfect complement to gameplay, just like it did last time. It's not so urgent so as to be distracting but it's still propulsive enough to make you feel like you're dancing your way through goofy movie sets. So far, my chief complaint is with the game's malfunctioning cross-save function, which prevents me from picking up where I left off when going from Vita to PS4. There's a fix recommended but it didn't seem to work for me. It's a minor quibble for me, because the game feels like it belongs on the handheld.
This is a game where the developers could arguably delivered more of the same and kept their fan base happy. Instead they have gone way past that minimal effort and stepped it up in most of the major areas. OlliOlli 2 may have been built to be a maddeningly tough skate-trick game but my time with it thus far has kept me in smiles.