This is fast-twitch arcade gaming perfection.Two gorgeously stylish skateboarding games bundled together for the first time. The Switch delivers on the go gaming to two titles that were just begging for it.
While infectious, lo-fi hip hop thumps, you are blazing downhill and all your tricks are coming together and clicking. When OlliOlli is doing these things together in harmony, the game seems to transcend itself and elevates you into a pure, flow-state of chill. You are somehow magically perched in an equally balanced push-pull of hyper-focus, and blissed out head nodding. This is what OlliOlli shoots for, and this is what OlliOlli nails. Through gameplay, soundtrack, and design this game gives you all the tools Tony Hawk Pro Skater did in the 90's to make you feel like you are really skating a style that is your own. This is exactly the idea that drew so many to the sport and subsequent games emulating it in the first place.
olliolliTHIS however, is not OlliOlli, nor it's massively well received sequel. No, this is OlliOlli: Switch Stance! Yes, in a master stroke of marketing, developer Roll 7 has delivered us a port of both the original OlliOlli as well as their followup title OlliOlli: Welcome to Olliwood. All with an expanded set of tricks and levels, allowing us to take the OlliOlli experience one step further. Upon 'Olliwoods initial release, my desire to play on the go was so strong I nearly purchased a Playstation Vita. Thankfully I held off, as we now have a best in class, fully tweaked bundle of these games on a console that feels custom made for this particular title.
If it wasn't made apparent from the name, this is a Nintendo Switch port, which means all the fun that comes with. Joy cons, mobile gameplay, and everything else that sold us on the Switch. In fact, I believe the sheer amount of content, and wealth of playability packed into this port makes it a contender for being an essential Switch must-have. The unique and fascinating control scheme makes a perfect centerpiece with which to focus the rest of this beautiful game around. There are very few titles in the Switch's current lineup that can exist as both a quick diversion at the bus stop, or a perennial couch favorite as well as OlliOlli: Switch Stance. No crash feels unfair, and regardless of the time put into the session, every time you go out and skate with OlliOlli you are adding to your overall ability to put together the kind of runs that this game is just begging you to perfect.
If you are unfamiliar with the original games, both centered around navigating your plank-pushing avatar down increasingly difficult, 2D skateboard-slaloms of death. These levels come in digestible, bite sized chunks. Each one complimented by 5 challenges, ranging from simple score-breaking, to challenges that will entirely shift your play style. These sorts of challenges come in the form of collecting hard to reach tokens or simply not grinding throughout a level. As straightforward as that challenge sounds, in actuality it forces you to approach the game with a totally different frame of mind. The completion of these challenges helps to familiarize the player with the multitude of different commands available to whip your skater into all sorts of mid-air hysterics. All of this is done in order to present you with the full set of options available to skate in a way that feels truly unique and always your own.
"Career Mode" for both games will start by dropping you into either OlliOlli's "Urban" opening stages, or Olliwood's movie studio back-lots. Playing this game well is hard and these early stages are perfect for learning what kind of skater you want to go out and become. The "Urban" stages and "Olliwood" stages are much closer to your typical street skating environment than the considerably wilder backdrops that will be your setting for later levels. While you may start by shredding a fairly standard set of stairs and rails, eventually you will find yourself flying through courses that present an incredible challenge in simply finishing them without pulling a single trick.
When you actually are managing to pull tricks, they are not entirely focused around wildly difficult inputs. While requesting directional inputs on the left stick in a fashion similar to that of a Street Fighter game, you are also asked to jam down the b button on your right Joy-Con just as you complete your trick. The tension of this final input can be extremely nerve-racking. The game will rate your landing on a scale from perfect to sketchy and score you accordingly. Since every level can be completed in a single massive trick linked together by grinds and manuals, you may have an entire level's worth of tricks combo'd together that can all be undone by a final sketchy landing. This is an idea rooted in actual skating according to the developers. Roll 7 wanted to show just how much tension is amplified once you've started to put together a perfect run (and have a massive score on the line).
You don't begin the game, or the franchise for that matter, with all the skills necessary to put together a full start to finish combo. Much like the THPS franchise, it isn't until the second entry in the series that we are given the ability to manual between grinds and air stunts, which in turn opens up the ability to combo every trick in every level. By completing the games challenges and later levels you will be slowly introduced to the concepts necessary to put together these sorts of attractive and satisfying runs. If you are the type of player that wants to fully dive into the intricacies of this games' tight and nuanced trick system, then you may be attracted to the other options beyond "Career Mode".
Both "Spots" and "Daily Grind" are multiplayer modes for the game, at least in a sense. "Spots" does this in a more traditional manner, as it actually allows for up to 4 player on the Switch screen at once. This can be achieved both online or in person. The in person option seems like it could be a good bit of quick fun, as a single paired controller will allow for a quick split screen option for you and a friend. "Daily Grind" is a more traditional leaderboard chasing affair, although with a unique twist. This mode asks you to perform your best combo on a new level that changes every 24 hours. The catch being you are only allowed one chance at this per 24 hour period. You may however, practice this super-combo as many times as you like. Once you feel you have something leaderboard worthy, you indicate that you are ready to try it for real, and then take your one actual attempt for the day.
When trying to play a game as fast and twitchy as OO:SS, controls need to be unquestionably tight. This port does so admirably and with varying degrees of success while switching from handheld mode, to docked, to individual joy-con, to pro controller. Inputs for flip tricks and grinds in this game are all handled by the left stick and shoulder buttons. While the joy-con analog stick does a good enough job, those coming from the bulkier Playstation analog stick may find pulling tricks a bit harder on the Nintendo. This never felt frustrating or ruined my time with the game, it simply made me aware that if I ever sought to sit among the leaderboard legends, a pro controller would be essential hardware.
As for docked vs handheld, sometimes it felt like I was switching from a normal deck to a longboard. Timing and finger gymnastics are so important to this game, that the simple inclusion of the screen between my two joy-con felt like a significant change. Albeit one I was perfectly willing to make, in exchange for the opportunity to take this game with me in handheld mode. The game can be played in very short spurts, made all the more palatable by an instant-restart feature on all of its levels. This is ideal for a game on the go, and seems to be part of the reason Roll 7 was so drawn to the idea of porting to the Switch.
The joy-con's advance rumble features are another great fit for this game. Whether it is the feel of being blasted off of a ramp with perfect timing, or the satisfying thud when you stick a less than perfect landing, the joy-con are a continual and happy addition to the already outstanding controls of this game. This is somewhat hampered once joy-con start to become divided and used for multiplayer. While having this option on the table is nice, I can hardly imagine it being anyones preferred control method.
With the left stick being your sole input for pulling tricks, the right stick is left entirely open. The developers have wisely chosen to give you the option of now using the right stick to skip through tracks on the game soundtrack. While no track is worth skipping you will undoubtedly have favorites that you may want to jump to before getting amped up to nail a particular challenge or stick a chart topping "Daily Grind". The soundtrack is comprised entirely of instrumental hip hop and electronic tracks, that all feel inviting, and make it feel like you are skating to a friends extremely well produced beat tape.
In a recent interview with creative director of Roll 7 studios, John Ribbins, he describes a bit of his own personal experience as a lifelong skater. This is something that can be seen in every aspect of the OlliOlli bundle. Especially the central focus on pulling fun tricks, and doing so with perfect timing. It feels like an idea worn to perfection over decades of work. Ribbins actually describes having coded a functional version of OlliOlli at around age 13. The core concept being a fast, twitchy arcade game that felt "true to skating". This idea still shines brightly in today's version of the game, and is not done through the inclusion of things like Chad Muska with a boombox, or an un-lockable version of the new Vans 2019 catalogue. Roll 7 chose instead to "make a kickflip look like a kickflip". They chose to make a skating game that focuses on pitch-perfect timing and playing with our desire to cram just ONE more trick into our combo.
The only downside I can see to this collection is that OlliOlli's sequel is so good it makes it difficult to imagine wanting to go back to the original. To get the most out of this collection I would recommend starting with the first game to truly appreciate the evolution of the series. Despite the vast superiority of 'Olliwood over the original game, having them both collected under a single roof for $14.99 US makes this collection an easy recommendation.
Having both OlliOlli games available in a single bundle on Switch is a dream come true for someone who has been playing since the PS4 days The gorgeous colors and continual style on display in this game make it a perfect fit amongst the pantheon of Nintendo classics. If you haven't had a chance to check either of these games out, 'Switch Stance is an excellent opportunity to explore one of the more fun innovations on digital skating in quite a while.