It could just be a coincidence, but OlliOlli's opening level bears a striking resemblance to Canabalt, the trendy 2009 autorunner depicting a Fonzie-like character hurtling across the rooftops of a monochrome city.
OlliOlli begins with a similar grey cityscape scrolling across Vita's OLED, and at least on a subconscious level it reinforces your understanding that this is not a Tony Hawk game flattened onto a 2D pane, but in fact an autorunner with a skateboard.
Such a distinction in approach, though it may seem slight, results in a game which does not share the strengths and limitations of Pro Skater. OlliOlli makes its own rules, and is more interesting for doing so.
This is elementally a streamlined platform game on wheels, one with no expansive 3D world to conquer but instead a sting of lightning-quick obstacle courses disguised as hand-railings, gazebos and tarmac.
Its rudimentary levels, which can be reloaded at an instant, will devour perfectionists. Players will grind across rooftops, down onto flights of stairs and up again across the drum of a truck, but they will also fail until their fingers ache.
OlliOlli is nothing short of entrancing once it finds a way in front of your eyes. The increasing score multiplier builds the tension and ecstasy into a minute-long climax when players begin to faultlessly free-flow through its levels.
But it takes a while to get cosy with it. The controls are a little too Simon Says, especially during the first few hours. Players must land tricks by pressing x as their skateboard hits the tarmac, while grinding a rail - often no more than a virtual yard in height - requires pressing down on the analogue instead.
That probably sounds uncomplicated enough, but in practice one cannot naturally decipher between the two when their avatar is hurtling towards the ground. Sometimes you have to think too much about it.
"OlliOlli is nothing short of entrancing once it finds a way in front of your eyes"
Yet hold firm and the uncertainty begins to fade, its gameplay rhythm begins to reverberate, and before long players will find themselves under the spell, effortlessly gliding through the air and spinning across gaps.
A comprehensive collection of tricks is smartly mapped onto a single analogue stick, which means players will instinctively know which inputs score the most points. Stab up for a basic Ollie or quarter-circle forwards for a Backside Shove-it. A half-circle back will generate even more points, while a Zangief-like analogue rotation will be rewarded with a prize sum.
The risk/reward structure here is as smart as it is straightforward - the more time it takes to move the analogue stick whilst mid-air results in bigger points but heightens the risk of not completing the manoeuvre.
A sustained sequence of such tricks inspires pride when executed. As the multiplier marches upwards, scores for landing a perfect combo can swell into extraordinary figures. This is why OlliOlli, while a class act on Vita, feels like it was born for PS4. Only a share button can satisfy that compulsion to flaunt your harmonic mastery of its assault courses.
But that's not to suggest you won't bother unless there's a crowd watching. Ticking off the five custom achievements on each level - some of which are brutal - will test even those on top of their game.
Then there's the daily online challenge, and the singular of that noun is stressed. Players are given the same custom level to skate through, all competing for the highest global ranking. Yet everyone only has one attempt to achieve this.
Such supplementary tasks are careful and measured additions to a game which, at its core, can be spellbinding. OlliOlli may not be a skateboarding game in the classical sense, but when it shines, it proves it doesn't need to be either.
An entrancing and distinct autorunner that inspires players to achieve the extraordinary
- Immense challenges
- Immediate gameplay
- Compulsive combo scoring
- Counter-intuitive controls
- No sharing features