Sometimes, games just click. There's almost certainly a game you play where it feels like time isn't passing, where you're not even aware of what buttons you're pressing, but you're just nailing it. Then your phone vibrates, you get distracted and before you know it you die. Or, in my case, I don't get a perfect score in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone.
I'm talking about flow state — that feeling of being fully immersed and "in the zone." Few games really put me there; Nuclear Throne definitely did, along with, as intimated, a bunch of Hatsune Miku rhythm games. Another flow-inducer was Roll7’s simple indie skateboarding game OlliOlli, which I sank days into on the PlayStation Vita back in 2014. Following its success, the game expanded to more platforms and a sequel dropped in 2015. After that, the development team moved onto other projects, my Vita moved into a drawer somewhere and the game I'd spent so many hours with just drifted from my mind.
Then came the trailer for OlliOlli World a couple months back. It looked beautiful, and I couldn't wait to jump back in. To the point where, just on the strength of that trailer, it became my most anticipated game of the year. Well, other than the Pokémon remakes that are coming to steal my money in November.
Anyway, at E3 2021, or rather, in my apartment because E3 is all digital this year, Roll7 gave me an opportunity to play OlliOlli World, and I found my flow state again. The 30-minute-or-so demo the UK studio sent out was for PC, and played like an extended tutorial with a small selection of levels. (The game is coming to PlayStation, Xbox and Switch as well.)
OlliOlli World plays largely the same as the original games. On the Xbox pad I used, push was mapped to “A” and tricks were bound to the left thumbstick. Pointing the analog in one of eight directions does a simple trick or grind, advanced tricks are mapped to Street Fighter-style swoops of the stick and you can spin with the pad’s triggers. While it’s harder to slam than, say, a Tony Hawk’s game, you will need to land your tricks with perfect timing for the best score.
The new mechanics for OlliOlli World are wall riding and the ability to pick between paths. Wall rides are, surprise, performed with the left analog, while you can switch paths with X. From the few levels on offer, the paths tend to offer different styles — maybe one will have lots of wall rides and the other a tricky sequence of grind rails. There always seems to be something interesting to see or do on each, though, whether it’s a character that unlocks a bonus level or a cool-looking trick sequence. The key is that whatever you’re missing out on is visible from the path you did pick, which encourages you to play through the level again.
According to Roll7 co-founder Simon Bennett, the decision to add alternative paths was “the result of a wholly different prototype” for a new OlliOlli game — and a vacation. At the same time the team was building what would become OlliOlli World, another prototype took the form of a “skate tournament” with three paths that looped around on one another.
Bennett returned from a vacation to discover that the team had merged the code in with the OlliOlli World prototype code. “Suddenly, it’s gone from being this refined and contained experience within the skatepark to this weird, branching, insane platformer.” After this code merge, the team didn’t look back, and the result is a genuinely unique game. “I'm really glad I went away on holiday,” Bennett said.