The Shacknews staff and I have spoken amongst each other about the OlliOlli series in the past. We're big fans of skateboarding games. We love our Tony Hawk. If you've followed us over the past several years, you're well aware of our love for Skate. However, there's something about the OlliOlli games that haven't drawn us in, something we can't quite put our finger on. Those reservations were fresh in mind as we went into this hands-on preview for OlliOlli World, but as it turns out, this latest entry in the series has a new coat of paint and it feels a lot fresher as a result.
The OlliOlli series to this point has been about skating on a 2D plane and it still is, for the most part. However, OlliOlli World veers more into 2.5D territory. The objective is the same as in previous games, where players must simply go from the start of a course and hit the finish line. However, there are some significant changes, starting with a new visual style. Gone are the primitive pixels of the previous OlliOlli titles and in their place is a more cartoonish presentation that's much more pleasing to the eye.
OlliOlli World's more colorful art style brings life to its locales, whether it's the beachfront boardwalks or the sun-blanketed deserts. It helps feed the game's story, which sees players look to progress from a mere mortal to a Skate Wizard. The game's cartoonish presentation allows for a fuller narrative with vibrant characters, led by the ragtag crew of skaters who help move the tutorial along.
On top of making the 2D trek more vibrant, OlliOlli World's art style complements one of the game's biggest advancements: branching paths. Players can manage the usual thumbstick-flicking control scheme that helped drive the original games, but there's now a new button that allows for players to switch tracks in certain places. This allows players to discover entirely new paths, find new opportunities to rack up high scores, and maybe even find some other bonus goodies along the way. This gives OlliOlli World much more replay value beyond standard score chasing, though you'll likely play a lot of these courses more than once, given how challenging some of these objectives can get.
One more benefit of the new visual style is that OlliOlli World now allows for character customization. For the demo, I was immediately overwhelmed by dozens of body customization options, hair styles, outfit pieces, and a lot more. This will add some spice to the game's multiplayer, deliciously called the Gnarvana League. One major driver of multiplayer here is that it's asynchronous, so not everyone has to be in the same lobby at once. If you're looking to challenge strangers, the Gnarvana League will pit you against players of similar skill levels, which will help make each match fairly competitive. As you succeed, you'll climb up to new leagues and take on tougher players and courses. Speaking of courses, the Gnarvana Portal opens the door to quick randomly-generated stages, of which the players can select their style, difficulty, and length.
The OlliOlli games have always felt like a quaint indie spin on skateboarding, but OlliOlli World is shaping up to be something that stands alongside some of the best titles in the genre. We'll see if it follows up on that potential when it comes to PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 8.
This preview is based on a PlayStation digital code provided by the publisher.