OlliOlli, JollyJolly, FallyFally.
OlliOlli2 arrives on Xbox One with the kind of bold confidence that can only come from being very late to the party. More than a year after its initial release on every other platform, OlliOlli2: XL Edition makes up for lost time by bringing with it a Free Skate mode and the same solid, tough, but fair gameplay that made it a critical indie darling. What should have been an olive branch extended to Xbox One owners, however, ends up getting caught under the wheels, making this edition a fun but flawed experience.
Forget story, forget brand names and alternative rock tracks; OlliOlli2& is all about playing a skateboarding video game. Players must make it to the end of each level without eating asphalt, chaining together tricks and grinds with the newly implemented manual (not a game manual, the skateboarding kind). Gameplay in OlliOlli2 is all about mastering the basics, and it does a very good job of slowly but steadily introducing you to the mechanics. Tricks are as simple as rotating the analog stick, but landing them requires knowing when to tap A to land and maintain momentum. Because of this, OlliOlli2 is sort of like a rhythm game, as players mix jumping, grinding and landing with split-second reaction times and a cool, electronic soundtrack thumping in the background.
But underneath its slick visual style and very non-aggressive soundtrack is a school bully waiting to break your skateboard. OlliOlli2 quickly teaches you the basics but just as quickly ramps up the difficulty with obstacles such as spikes, pits, and broken-down rollercoasters filled with dead bodies (at least, I think they’re dead). Maintaining speed becomes crucial as jumps become harder to clear and grinds extend for longer periods of time without sloping downward. One missed jump and it is right back to the beginning of level.
Sadistic as it may seem, OlliOlli2 creates a gameplay loop that ends up more satisfying than frustrating. Levels reset instantly, leaving little time for your brain to consider playing something else. Each level only takes about a minute to complete a run, so even bailing near the end gives the player a “just one more run” nudge instead of a “I can buy a new controller on eBay” shove. In addition, each level has a series of five challenges that, when completed, unlock the Pro version of that level. The game’s twenty-five Amateur levels can be unlocked simply by completing levels, but enthusiasts will find the additional challenges worth replaying.
And what of that visual style?& OlliOlli2’s visuals are as simple and satisfying as the gameplay. Clean lines and bright colors help highlight the game’s various grindable rails. Each level, from the movie studio backlot to the neon zombie-infested theme park has its own unique color palette and style, full of referential and offbeat humor. Each level feels like a rollercoaster (yes, even the one that has a literal rollercoaster in it) as players try and try again for that perfect, unbroken combo. The soundtrack, filled with laid-back electronic beats, let’s the player know that it’s okay that they bailed on the same jump for the thirty-seventh time.
Unfortunately—and this is a big unfortunately—it is the game’s soundtrack that breaks the Xbox One version of this game. During my time, whenever a new song started, the game would hitch for a second. That hitch was enough to cause my skating avatar to miss a landing and bail. Ninety percent of the time this game runs buttery smooth, but the fact that many of my runs were ruined by this little hitch makes the XL Edition the weakest version of OlliOlli2. As for what makes this version “XL,” a new Free Skate mode is available for players who want to casually try out new moves and practice stringing together combos. It only adds five new, easy-going levels to the base game, so previous owners need not apply.
OlliOlli2, XL Edition or not, is a great game that nails the fundamentals. It is, as many have said, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 of indie sidescroller skateboarding games. However, the Xbox One version is crippled by this one small but significant hitch, much like the proverbial pebble in the pavement. Hopefully a patch can fix this issue (in which case, consider upping the current score), but in the meantime I would only recommend this version if no other options are available. If not, just be prepared for the temptation of throwing your controller toward the nearest solid object.