From Ozark to Returnal, Euphoria to Uncut Gems, it increasingly feels like modern entertainment exists solely to stress audiences out. While it’s undeniably brilliant that modern television offers viewers less Xena: Warrior Princess and more Succession, if I’m honest, sometimes all I really want from my flickering screen is something calming. Thank God then, for OlliOlli World.
Draped in an Adventure Time-esque art style and accompanied by a soundtrack so soothing it would make Anderson .Paak blush, this colourful skater is refreshingly vibey. Packed full of popping pastel colours and littered with a string of self-aware dad jokes, it’s a world away from the grungey skateboarding of the 90s. It’s indicative, really, of where 2022 youth culture is at. Where Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater opted for sweat-inducing trick challenges and blasted punk rock ragers, OlliOlli World leans astutely into the meditative.
In other words, this pixelated playground is a weirdly namaste take on the skateboarder – a virtual trickathon for the yoga bros and bliss-seeking baddies of TikTok. Fittingly then, OlliOlli World isn’t a game about exploration or story but one built around achieving that hypnotic state of “flow”. Combining the automated movement of endless runners such as Temple Run with simple controls and clever checkpointing, it tasks players solely with focusing on the timing of their jumps and nailing tricks. It’s easy to suddenly find yourself lost in a zen-like trance, joyfully hopping and tricking across Radlandia’s fictional locales while enjoying your favourite podcast.
It helps that OlliOlli World drip-feeds each new mechanic to the player with the patience of a saint-like primary school teacher. Grabs are pulled off using the right analogue stick, and only properly introduced at the end of the second world – a third of the way through the game. This tactile take on the tutorial is a masterclass in layering game mechanics, waiting until you just begin to feel like a boarding badass before serving up new tricks to master.
While there are a lot of things to love about this delightfully vibrant adventure, its characters aren’t among them. As you pelt your way through each course, you find yourself cheered on by a menagerie of mediocre misfits. Churning out skating puns at a wince-inducing rate, sadly OlliOlli World’s wink-wink nudge-nudge dialogue is never quite as witty as it thinks it is. Still, despite the very “how do you do fellow kids” feel, the so-so script does enough to keep the good times rolling along with your avatar.
While these cringey cheerleaders will have you hammering the skip button, the intricate stage backgrounds make this fantastical world come alive. Looking like a playable version of a kitschy kawaii fashion blog, this kingdom of eye-popping pinks, giant donuts and hipster animals blends together to create something wonderfully warm and relaxing.
Heck, even the way Roll7 approaches challenges and high scores is disarmingly laid-back. Where Hawk’s branded skating sim demands players complete certain objectives in order to proceed, here, simply reaching the end of each pastel playground is enough. Are there additional challenges begging to be bested? Absolutely, but you can tackle those trickier tasks whenever you feel ready, leaving players to ollie and manual across Radlandia at whatever pace they please.
In almost every facet of its design, OlliOlli World wants players to feel at home – and that even extends to your customisable, air-grabbing avatar. While the endless slew of unlockable T-shirts, decks and hats eventually lose their charm, I took unusually great pride in making sure that my cartoony creation matched the vision of the hipster skater I dreamed up.
As a 30-year-old who started saying the word “rad” ironically and now can’t stop, OlliOlli World feels laser targeted at people like me. From its free-spirited counterculture flavour to its flamboyant aesthetic, this is the gaming equivalent of a weekend trip to Brighton: an interactive experience for those who can’t actually skateboard but religiously buy a new pair of Vans anyway. If you’re feeling understandably worn down by the monotony of the daily grind, OlliOlli World is the charming virtual alternative.