Thursday, January 23, 2014


Maybe it's because we didn't have a PlayStation growing up, but the Tony Hawks franchise never made much of an impression on me. On the handful of occasions I have tried my hand at the skateboard genre, I've been so overwhelmed by the names of tricks - let alone how you actually perform them) that I inevitably resort to just grinding on stuff until the timer runs out - assuming I'm able to muster the competence to manage even that.

With that in mind, I'm not sure what caught my imagination so much with OlliOlli, a 2D interpretation of the genre. Whatever it was, I'm really glad it did stick out so much; while it's not going to convince me to try the 3D versions again - I'm having enough trouble mastering a flat version without having to navigate an environment on top - this has got its hooks in me bad.

The one thing guaranteed to pull me back for "one more go" in a game is a list of optional objectives per level. Tearaway had its hidden presents and papercraft models to find, rewarding repeated visits and exhaustive exploration. OlliOlli's aren't quite so straightforward, ranging from beating a score for the level or single combo, up to near-gibberish goals like "Pull a Frontside 360 Shove-It out of a Noseslide".

Even once I've reached the end of the level, I re-check the objectives list and there's always one that's just in reach with my new experience of the level. I might get it this time.

And then there's the Daily Grind - a lengthy set of rails and obstacles to negotiate, with a new level and a new leaderboard daily. You get unlimited practice runs on the course, but only one go at setting your score. I played today's level a dozen times or more in practice, getting my score up to around 123k (still nowhere near the current top score over 521k, but respectable enough for a beginner).

When I tried it for real, I bailed on the second set of stairs. My entry for the day is a majestic zero points.

If there's a way to play this game more strategic than spamming random quarter- and half-rotations of the stick to pull off tricks, I'm never going to master it. I've yet to get to grips with the difference between landing a trick on the ground (pressing X) and grinding a railing (pressing any direction on the stick); so far my performances have been enough to get me through the first two locations but I'm starting to reach the limits of my abilities.

But what makes it so addictive, at least as much as the great controls, level design and soundtrack, is the speed of the restart. Wipe out? Hit restart. Fail to grab a collectible for an objective? Hit restart. Mess up a landing and ruin your highscore? Hit restart. You're instantly back at the beginning of the level. If there was even a fifteen-second loading screen there'd be time for your brain to consider giving it a break for now, but look - I'm right there, ready to try again. Just one more go.

And while I might be feeling stretched by the increasing speed and complexity of the levels, I already know that I'm better than when I started last night. I can land Perfect grinds and tricks more frequently, I'm better at judging speed and distance, and I know - I know - if I just give this level one more go I'll beat it.

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