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Vita's OlliOlli aspires to be the Super Meat Boy of skateboarders


Vita game OlliOlli may be a 2D platforming skateboarder, but London-based dev Roll7 wants it to reflect the real-life difficulty of landing a skateboarding trick. The end result, Roll7 hopes, will combine the tough timing-based twitch mechanics of something like Super Meat Boy with the flair of genre mainstays like Tony Hawk and Skate. Speaking to Roll7's Tom Hegarty and John Ribbins, I got the impression the OlliOlli they'd make for themselves would be even harder than the game looks to be.

"I don't think we realized it was going to be as tricky as perhaps it has been," Hegarty joked. In the game's original version, players had to press X in a very narrow window each time they landed, and if they mistimed and slammed, that was it - level over, start again. Now players can mistime their stomps and still survive, although better landings rack up the points and maintain momentum.

In my admittedly very brief time with OlliOlli, I found just mastering the basics of flicking the left stick to jump and pressing X to nail a stomp tricky, even in one of the game's early, relatively serene levels. Roll7, and Ribbins in particular, isn't shy about the game's difficulty level. As a skateboarder himself, he sees a gap in the market when it comes to landing tricks in skateboarding games.

"You play any other skateboarding game, the difficulty is in performing the trick," Ribbins said. "You always land it, you're guaranteed unless you land on some grass or something."

"We always used to play Tony Hawk and be like, 'You've got to play it realistically, try and play it like it is when you're skating.' Now, obviously in this game you can jump 30 feet in the air and grind down cranes, which isn't realistic, but it does at least have that thing that if you go off and do a mad combo and do tons of tricks, you have to stomp it at the end."

It's the studio's aspirations to make challenging games, as well as a touch of good fortune, that brought OlliOlli to Vita. Roll7 launched its first game on iOS, where despite reviewing well it did dismally sales-wise. Hegarty explained Roll7 planned to bring OlliOlli to iOS, too, but that changed after a chance meeting with FuturLab Managing Director James Marsden, who told the studio it had to show the game to Sony. Marsden set up an introduction, and the rest is history.

Hegarty noted the switch wasn't just about different audiences on different platforms, because also it brought the opportunity to tie tricks to analog sticks rather than a touchscreen, similar to the Skate series. The greater directional variety means players can pop 32 different tricks in 4 different stances, not to mention different degrees of spin and various grinds. OlliOlli isn't just about challenge, and those who master it will have plenty of opportunity to be flairy.

On the other side of the coin, when players complete the 50 levels of the Amateur and Pro difficulties they'll unlock Rad Mode, which is "basically the original mode," complete with perfect landings or bust. "That even makes the tutorial challenging," chuckled Hegarty.

OlliOlli grinds onto Vitas via PSN later this year. In the meantime, check out our E3 preview.

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