OlliOlli World Switch Review: A Bodaciously Good Grind
Time to hit the slopes (that's skating lingo, right?)
As a newcomer to the OlliOlli franchise, I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I booted up OlliOlli World for the first time. I’d seen the various gameplay and cinematic trailers floating around the internet, and I’m a veteran gamer when it comes to 2D platformers, so I got the gist of the game. That said, it wasn’t until I landed in Radlandia myself and hit the opening track that it fully made sense. OlliOlli World is a feast for the senses. From the explosion of color that oozes throughout the game to the groovy soundtrack filled to the brim with super chill beats, this twitchy, momentum-based sidescroller is one of the coolest (and most addicting) games I’ve played in a hot minute.
The game starts with a quick, but essential lore dump. Legend has it that the five Skate Godz created the island of Radlandia as the ultimate skate utopia, with each District of the island representing their own versions of skate paradise – a unique reflection of their styles, skills, and personalities. Once their work was finished, the Skate Godz ascended into the realm of Gnarvana and waited for the ultimate skater to emerge; one who could master all the sickest, steeziest, most stylish skills to be found in Radlandia. When this gnarly skater proved their worth, they were chosen as the Skate Godz’ representative in Radlandia, and given the title “Skate Wizard.” The Skate Wizard’s sole job is to maintain balance between Gnarvana and the spirit of skateboarding in Radlandia. The thing is, the current Skate Wizard, Chiffon, is ready to retire. That’s where YOU come in!
The game then immediately drops you into its massive character customizer, where you can tweak pretty much every aspect of your character’s appearance, including skin tone, body size and shape, hairstyle, facial hair, tattoos, glasses, and dozens of clothing options. In fact, there are so many options that you can hit the randomizer and generate a totally unique character each time. You also have different skateboard and equipment options, giving you the freedom to make a character entirely your own. Roll7 did such an amazing job with this that it rivals Nintendo’s own Mii generator, albeit with menus that can feel a bit overwhelming at first. I do wish there were some sorting options to narrow things down – especially as you unlock more items, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Once you have your character set, you pull up to the vibrant shoes of Sunshine Valley, a land filled with living ice cream cones, bodybuilding seagulls, and all manner of skaters. It’s here you’ll meet Skate Wizard Chiffon and her friendly crew – Suze, Mike, and Dad (who is nobody’s dad) – who cheer you on through your journey to become the next Skate Wizard. Since I’m a newcomer to the franchise, I was thankful that the first two levels were quick tutorials to show me the basics. This made me better prepared for when things really opened up, and I could put my skills to the test. There are 7 tutorial levels in the first District interspersed throughout other levels, so the game never feels like it’s holding your hand or dragging things out. You get enough time to master one skill before learning the next.
If you really want to test your mettle, each level has its own set of challenges to beat. These can include doing a specific trick in a precise section of the course, avoiding breakable obstacles, collecting items, or racking up a string of combos. Additionally, each level features the high scores of three NPC Local Heroes. Beating these high scores and completing the challenges unlocks new customization options for your character. Each District also has locked levels that cannot be accessed until you surpass the scores of 25 Local Heroes, as well as secret levels that are opened by completing certain challenges. Furthermore, sometimes when revisiting a level for a replay, the game will assign a Rival Player who scored slightly higher than you, further enticing you to give it your all as you skate, flip, and grind your way to Gnarvana.
I found the challenges and local scores in the first two Districts to be fairly easy to beat, but once you hit the third District the competition gets stiff. I honestly wasn’t able to crack even the lowest Local Hero score for most of the levels in Districts 4 and 5! The primary goal of each level is to simply finish the course, so if you want to skate your way to the end of the game, that’s entirely possible. If you instead want to 100% the game, you’ll be pushed to your limits.
These elements give OlliOlli World some real replay value. There’s even post-game challenges you unlock after the credits roll, giving you yet another reason to keep playing. Best of all, once you complete one of these challenges, the game locks it in, even if you wipe out right afterward. This helps to keep the game moving forward without making the challenges feel like a chore.
As for the levels themselves, each District has its own distinct style. Sunshine Valley is an ice cream beach paradise; Cloverbrook is a mystical forest filled with living trees (this was my personal favorite district. Love a good forest world); Burntrock is an Area 51-inspired desert; Sketchside is filled with enormous seaside factories; and Los Vulgas is riddled with ghosts and pyramids. The levels in these Districts are as varied and colorful as you can imagine, filled with all sorts of crazy creatures and jaw-dropping vistas.
You’ll also meet new crews in these districts, and the characters are always fun to interact with. Truthfully, there isn’t a single character I didn’t enjoy. Everyone is super friendly, encouraging, and supportive of your character. They want to see you succeed in your quest to become the Skate Wizard, and they all cheer you on from the sidelines. These characters also help Radlandia feel like a living, breathing place. Everyone has their own style and personality, especially Chiffon’s crew, and the longer you play, the more you build a deep connection and friendship with them. They just want you to be the best skater you can be, and they’ll stick with you through thick and thin. It’s a level of wholesomeness I didn’t expect, but one that I deeply appreciated. Everyone is welcome to skate in Radlandia!
As you advance through the game, you learn fresh tricks and techniques to traverse new types of terrain, and rack up your score. The levels themselves also become more complex with branching paths, halfpipes that turn you around mid-level, walls you can ride across, and even hidden tracks you might miss on your first run-through. Because of this, it’s impossible to find everything and beat all of the challenges in a single run. Thankfully, the game is fairly generous with its checkpoint system, and they’re usually placed before a branching path, so if you missed a turn, you can simply press X and return to that point. The checkpoints are also handy if you bail out mid-run and don’t want to start completely over, but you won’t be able to 100% a level by using checkpoints. It’s another small challenge to test your skills, and with the difficulty of the later levels, that small challenge starts to feel quite large.
If I had any real complaints about OlliOlli World, it’s that sometimes the game throws obstacles at you that a) require mastery of a skill you might not be proficient at, or b) literal, unavoidable obstacles on the course you haven’t been trained on. I ran into both of these setbacks in my time with the game, and each time I was stuck playing the same small section of the course over and over for upwards of 30 minutes. I finally figured out the way forward, but doing so was more frustrating than challenging.
It would have been nice to see Roll7 include some type of hint system that kicks in after so many failed attempts, like having the Skate Wizard pop up and give you some helpful advice. Doing so would have kept the momentum of the game going without feeling like a literal grind. As it stands, if you hit one of those sections, you will be stuck with no way forward until you figure it out. Thankfully, these moments don’t happen very often, but it is something to be aware of.
One other minor complaint, at least for the Switch version of OlliOlli World, is that the frame rate can sometimes stutter while you’re playing the levels in Districts 4 and 5. I never experienced any issues in the first three Districts, but there’s quite a lot happening on screen in some of the later levels, which results in small frame rate dips. It doesn’t happen often, and it’s never enough to break the game or hinder your performance, but with a fast moving game like OlliOlli World, it can be jarring when you’re expecting a consistent experience.
On the flip side, the nice thing about the Switch version of OlliOlli World is that you can play it in handheld mode. I tried it out in docked, tabletop, and handheld modes, but handheld was the winner for me. The performance is pretty much the same either way, but having the action right in front of you really helps to focus on the levels. And if you have an OLED Switch, the game is just bursting with color. I don’t usually play with the “vivid” setting on my OLED Switch because the colors tend to be oversaturated for my eyes, but if there was ever a game to play with that setting turned on, it’s OlliOlli World. The game looks amazing regardless, but that extra color boost makes the screen bleed in the most radical way.
One area of the game I didn’t spend too much time on is the online component called “The Gnarvana League,” where you compete in daily high score challenges. When you first connect to the servers, you can see the final standings for the previous day’s winners and even watch replays of the Top 10 competitors to see what tricks they used. When you’re ready to play, you just connect to the current League and hit the course to rack up your points. If you wipe out, or aren’t happy with your score, you can keep playing the course until you get a score you’re happy with. It’s a fun addition to the game for high score chasers, but completely optional and not required to beat the game.
“The Gnarvana Portal” is another online section that allows you to create your own lobby for you and your friends to have high score competitions. As you complete each District, you unlock new level types to play, all of which allow you to set the difficulty and length. You can just do solo runs to improve your skills, or share the randomized code for others to join the lobby, giving you more ways to shred in Radlandia.
Even if you haven’t played the other OlliOlli games, OlliOlli World is designed for newcomers and franchise veterans alike. It’s the perfect blend of high-octane platformer and chill pick-up-and-play game. You can play at your own pace and push yourself however hard you want, whether that means trying to hit every trick in the book to get the highest score, or kickflipping your way to the finish line. You dictate how you want to play the game, and the game (mostly) meets you where you are. It’s a game where you can easily play a level or two and come back to it later, though if you’re not careful, you’ll quickly find that hours have gone by without you even noticing. It’s just that much fun.