Games Review: OlliOlli Switch Stance is better than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. There, I said it.

There are only four good skateboarding video games, and the OlliOlli series are two of them.*

Roll7’s OlliOlli and its follow-up OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood are side-scrolling skateboarding titles that are all about putting the sickest runs together and racking up massive score multipliers. Both games have a deceptively simple 2D look that belie one of the most complex-yet-satisfying control schemes I’ve encountered in years.

It took me around 30 minutes to properly get my head around the controls, and before long I was putting truly ridiculous runs together. Tricks, grinds and manuals all flowed together in a beautiful cascade of rhythm and inertia. As the game warns you during the tutorial, “Skating is hard. You have to practice. Don’t expect to get it right away.” That’s the magic of OlliOlli, it perfectly captures the frustrations of actually learning to skate. You know what you want to do, it’s just trying to find the sweet spot between body movement and physics that will allow you to land the trick. OlliOlli not only nails the endorphin rush that accompanies landing a trick for the first time, but also the zen-like flow state you enter when stringing them all together in a run.

Visually, OlliOlli and OlliOlli 2 are worlds apart. The original game runs with a light pixel art look that gives it a certain retro feel. OlliOlli 2 more or less abandons this look for one more in line with hand-drawn animation. It’s much more fluid and it helps all of the timings between tricks feel more fluid. Even in terms of level design, OlliOlli 2 feels like a liberation. The original features levels that, while certainly challenging, feel like they’re pulling their punches at times. They aren’t sure how hard to push the player.

With players agitating for greater level complexity, Roll7 were free to go to town. The difference is so stark, the ramping of the difficulty curve between the two games so sheer that I recommend new players spend at least a solid day on OlliOlli before moving onto the sequel. Jumping ahead before you’ve got the fundamentals down will limit your enjoyment and both of these games deserve better than that.

OlliOlli Switch Stance is the perfect game for those with a long commute, the kind of game you can pick up at any time and be rewarded. It values skill and challenge, but it also understands that failure is an important part of the skater psyche. It is intimately familiar with the art of not being deterred, of being willing to get up, dust yourself off and try again. Highly recommended.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Satisfyingly tricky; Beautiful art style; Smart approach to controls
Lowlights: Only for the very patient or very determined. Short fuses need not apply.
Developer: Roll7
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Available: February 14, 2019

Review conducted on Nintendo Switch using a pre-release retail code provided by the publisher.

*For the record, the other two were Skate 3 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. OlliOlli 2 is better than both of them, don’t @ me.

David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously worked as a freelance games journalist and critic, appearing on PC World Australia. He tweets at @RhunWords and plays the odd game at twitch.tv/RhunWords when the internet works.