Before getting our hands on the PlayStation 5 version of OlliOlli World for this preview, we refreshed ourselves on the basics in OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood. We quickly remembered the challenging but intuitive controls, the ridiculously addictive allure of besting your scores on each level, and the clean, understated presentation. Ah yes, this is why people like these games. It's because they're very good. Glad we checked.

Then we fired up OlliOlli World, the upcoming third entry in a series that has been dormant for the better half of a decade. Moving from the previous game to this one, the difference is astounding. It somehow retains the magic of its cult hit predecessors while introducing refreshed gameplay, eye-popping visuals, and an expanded setting.

By and large, this will be familiar territory for fans: the main bulk of the game follows a level-by-level structure across various regions, and controls are much the same as you remember. The left stick gets a thorough workout as you hold and flick it to perform all kinds of flip tricks and grinds. The good news is that it still feels very satisfying, but the better news is that the gameplay has been built upon with smart and equally gratifying additions.

For example, grab tricks are now in, performed with the right stick. These will help you rack up more delicious points when you have lots of air time, but be careful to let go of the stick before you hit the ground. They work particularly well with quarter pipes, which feature in many levels to add length and variety to stages. Also new is wall riding, and it's again simple to pull off, tricky to properly master, and adds more texture and challenge.

Beyond that, levels now have multiple checkpoints, a godsend that means you don't need to start the whole run again from the start (although you can if you want). Having said that, you'll want to play each stage several times over anyway, and not just to chase a higher score — there are now alternate routes to discover, collectibles to track down, and new characters to meet. The games have always had optional objectives, but OlliOlli World's are more diverse and more fun.

All the gameplay changes add up to a title that maintains a very high skill ceiling for hardcore fans, but also softens the franchise's hard-edged difficulty for newcomers. Case in point: you don't have to push X in time with your landing anymore. You still earn more points for getting it right, but failing to do so no longer results in a punishing SLOPPY landing. It's a less intense, though still technically tricky, experience, and playing is more enjoyable because of that.

This extends to the far more appealing art style. The visual design here makes the older games look like they're from a different era entirely; the cartoonish, Adult Swim-esque environments and characters are colourful and full of personality. It looks lovely, and the new style really lifts the game up. Stages are more dynamic and animated, from Sunshine Valley's beaches and ice cream people to Cloverbrook's friendly tree folk and the otherworldly plains of Burntrock. The setting isn't a static landscape anymore — it now feels like a more living place that's fun to visit.

Further to that, you're not alone as you make your way through Radlandia. You're accompanied by a crew of skateboarding pals who believe you have what it takes to reach Gnarvana, and again, their presence gives the franchise more of a pulse. They're not the deepest characters, and the story isn't particularly enthralling, but it's just pleasant to have some comrades cheering you on at the end of each level.

We've yet to touch on the asynchronous multiplayer. Every level has a leaderboard, and the player above you becomes your rival to beat. That would be addictive enough, but the aforementioned Gnarvana supplies an infinite supply of levels to master. You can generate a stage with basic criteria like length and difficulty, and every stage is given a unique postcode you can share with others, challenging them to beat your score. Furthermore, Leagues mode pits you against nine other players of similar skill in daily challenges, promoting you a level if your high score puts you in a good position. Hitting a streak of wins will earn you cosmetic rewards, too.

To be honest, we're struggling to think of things we don't like about OlliOlli World so far. It's about as good a sequel as you could hope for, updating a familiar formula with great gameplay additions, a bold new art direction, and a more appealing wider world. We suppose this still won't be for everyone — at its core, this is still a tough, fast-paced, arcadey sports game after all — but once you're in that flow state, chaining a level-long combo together and smashing through your rival's score, it's a joy.

OlliOlli World is due for release on both PS5 and PS4 on 8th February, 2022. Are you excited to hop back on board? Pull off a sick combo in the comments section below.