Republished on Wednesday, 1st February, 2023: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of February 2023's PS Plus line up. The original text follows.
For a certain type of player, OlliOlli World is just pure fun. Let's not beat about the bush here: this side-scrolling skateboarding game is simply wonderful, and leagues ahead of the previous titles in the series. Developer Roll7 has seriously stepped things up, improving practically every aspect of the franchise and delivering it in gorgeous new wrapping.
Of course, the new visual style is the most noticeable change. Looking like something you'd watch on Cartoon Network, the cel-shaded art is spot on, and it lends the franchise so much more personality — and that's before it introduces any characters. The switch to 2.5D isn't just for aesthetics, by the way; a new sense of depth is afforded to stages, meaning they don't just look better, they feel bigger and deeper too.
The larger levels are a lot of fun to explore, because another benefit of the shift away from 2D is the proper introduction of alternate routes. You can either jump or shift to different paths through a stage, taking you down a detour with new obstacles to overcome and opportunities to pull off sick tricks. The OlliOlli games have always had optional challenges in each stage, but in World, they're far more diverse, and really play into those various routes to encourage you to see everything.
At its core, the game plays mostly the same as older entries. You build speed with X and use the left stick to set up and pull off flip tricks, grinds, and manuals. If you're good, you can chain together one enormous combo from the start of a level to the end, and nailing a run feels fantastic as always. However, it remains a rather challenging game, and it's all too easy to instantly restart if you're not happy with how you're doing. Chasing that elusive perfect run and slowly climbing the leaderboards per stage is as addictive here as it's ever been, and the gameplay feels super slick.
However, there are some changes and new additions to keep OlliOlli veterans on their toes. Grab tricks are now a thing, pulled off with the right stick, and they're ideal for when you catch big air. Vert ramps appear throughout stages too, taking you in or out of the screen and presenting more opportunities to rack up points. A big change comes in the form of how you land. In the older games, you had to tap X just as your wheels hit the ground if you wanted a clean landing; if you failed, you'd get a sloppy landing, destroying your combo multiplier. This has been nerfed in OlliOlli World. While you will only get the best scores for landing perfectly and hitting X as usual, you're no longer penalised if you fail to do so.
It's just one way the game has been opened up to allow players of varying skill levels to join the fun. Score challenges in levels are all pretty easy to attain, the game's various mechanics are introduced slowly throughout the campaign, and quirky groupies cheer you on throughout, giving the whole game a friendly tone. We would argue that, on a fundamental level, the game is still quite tough at first, as you still need to react quickly and precisely, so it doesn't exactly solve that accessibility issue. However, it's a darn sight better than its predecessors with a far more welcoming vibe.
Speaking of vibes, presentation really does make a huge difference. It's not just the chilled out soundtrack, which is great, it's also the wacky characters you meet as you explore the various regions of *checks notes* Radlandia. Whether it's ghostly trees in the forest, walking talking ice creams by the beach, or a gaggle of skate-loving aliens in the desert, the game is packed with unusual sights that make it a fun place to be. Not all characters are particularly memorable, and the dialogue that bookends each level is hit and miss, but it's a huge improvement over past games in the series.
The online multiplayer is asynchronous and cross-platform, which means it's super accessible and easy to play with buddies. While a real-time multiplayer solution would've been nice, what's here is still good fun. In Gnarvana, you can generate a level with a handful of parameters, set a score, and then send that level's code to whomever you wish to challenge. It works perfectly well, and means you'll have a near-endless supply of levels to enjoy. Elsewhere, Leagues pit you against nine similarly-skilled players, and you're given 24 hours to set your best score on a particular stage. If you finish among the top scores, you'll be promoted, and chaining promotions together unlocks more customisation goodies.
And, wow, the game has a lot of customisation going on. A complex menu — perhaps a little too crowded if anything — is rammed with dozens, if not hundreds, of clothing items, boards, trucks, full body suits, animations, and more. You can also change your body shape, size, and skin tone to create basically whoever you want to be your skating avatar. It's nothing we haven't seen in a game before, but again, it's a far cry from the one nondescript skater dude found in the older titles.
OlliOlli World is a huge leap forwards for Roll7's skating series. Lovely new presentation, a fun location filled with personality, and that all-important, ever-addictive gameplay align to make for a super fun take on the sport. While it's been made more approachable to new players, it still offers quite a stern challenge, and not all the dialogue and characters nail it. However, any nit picks easily melt away when it all clicks. Heaven really might be a halfpipe, after all.