OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood is the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 of side-scrolling skateboarding games. And yes, that’s a good thing.
Here I sit, feverishly anticipating Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. I’ve been out back practicing my ollies. I’ve been purchasing Tech Decks by the hundreds. I’ve been blasting Goldfinger’s “Superman” on repeat for the last three weeks, much to the chagrin of my neighbors.
And then a different skating game landed in my inbox—OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood, to be exact. So I figured why not grind (heh) this one out while I wait?
At least in heaven I can skate
If the original OlliOlli was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’s long-lost 2D cousin, OlliOlli 2 is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. That’s maybe the least imaginative comparison on earth, but it’s true.
Like THPS2, we see OlliOlli 2 jettison realism for something a bit more wild and irreverent. Like THPS2, tricks in OlliOlli 2 are focused on absurd combos strung together by a new move—the Manual. And like THPS2, OlliOlli 2 is a hell of a lot of fun.
Let’s talk setting, first. OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood ditches the original game’s cities and boardwalks and junkyards for something more fanciful: film sets. Each set of levels is themed around a different (fake) genre film—“Curse of the Aztec” (old-school adventure film), “Carnival of the Dead” (horror), and the like.
It’s only set dressing—levels still play pretty much the same, regardless of theme. Once you figure out “This (train/ornamental jaguar railing/demonic rollercoaster) is a thing I can grind on,” “This (gun/decorative Aztec head) is a thing I launch off of,” et cetera, it’s back to your old routines. But I must admit the more stylish levels are a welcome change from the original OlliOlli’s onslaught of normality, where I felt like I’d seen all I needed long before the end.
Ditching the pseudo-realism of the original has also opened up OlliOlli 2’s level design. Most levels now feature multiple paths, stacked grind rails, and all sorts of other advanced goodies that weren’t always possible with the more deadpan tone of the original game. Grinding through caves, or across convoluted chains of floating sky-rails—it’s not only more difficult, but it’s more interesting.
Cementing it all together is the expanded move roster. Tricks are still performed a la Skate, by flicking the analog stick in the correct direction. And there are an exhaustive amount of moves to perform now.
But the most important move of all is also one of the simplest: The lowly Manual. The Manual first appeared in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 as a way to chain tricks together—basically, as long as you only had two wheels on the ground, you were still “doing a trick.”
OlliOlli 2 goes by the same principles. Instead of merely landing after each trick, you can now tap “A” and push the analog stick to the left or right in order to Manual. Doing so at the correct time, every time allows you to finish levels in one extraordinarily long combo—racking up insane scores in the process. Certain levels in the original OlliOlli were designed to allow this single-combo madness, but now you can manage it on every level with a lot of skill and a bit of luck.
Level goals have gotten harder to compensate. As in OlliOlli, each level has five optional goals for you to complete. But even OlliOlli 2 ‘s Normal difficulty throws in some pretty ridiculous goals, thanks to its crazier combos and the fact it’s a sequel. Goals like “100% Perfect Grinds” or “Finish the level with only Perfect Landings and Manuals” will give even OlliOlli veterans a decent challenge, and completing the basic five unlocks five harder challenges per level.
All in all, it’s more OlliOlli—a bit more stylish, a bit more fluid, and a lot more creative in its level design. I still wish the game’s soundtrack meshed a bit more with my idea of skating—I eventually turned off its soothing electronica in order to pump the Tony Hawk playlist on Spotify.
And I still think the game’s speed gets away from it at times. I ran OlliOlli 2 on a 144Hz monitor at native 144 frames per second and still noticed quite a bit of motion blur—whether intentional or not. Either way, it’s hard sometimes to prep for your next move when you’re struggling to see what’s on the way.
OlliOlli 2 ‘s a great time-killer though. Pop in, do a few runs, swear you’re going to quit and go back to working, do thirty or forty more runs, exit the game, type a few words, open it back up… You get the picture. It’s addictive, short-burst puzzling at its best.