“So here I am. Doing everything I can. Holding on to what I am. Pretending I’m a Superman!”
If the sage words of Goldfinger’s “Superman” stir up any strong nostalgia feels, you’re probably in the target audience for OlliOlli: Switch Stance. Go ahead, I’ll wait. If those finely-crafted lyrics didn’t land like a perfect Flamingo or Figure Four, you’re still likely to enjoy the game as well, though I guess I’ll need to explain why.
Like many, the Tony Hawk games we kind of a big deal back in the day. Chasing the big scores and chaining the best combos was addictive as much as it was challenging. Those early Tony Hawk games were among the best sports games out there and for good reason. Not only did they have intricate level designs and bizarre secrets and challenges throughout, they also had amazing soundtracks. Some of those songs are still emblazoned on my brain. For instance, Superman by Goldfinger. That song became what many consider the unofficial theme of Tony Hawk and they will be forever linked into one happy marriage of late-90’s/early 00’s nostalgia.
Like most things, unfortunately, the Tony Hawk franchise saw itself suffering from diminishing returns in both quality and revenue, leading even the most devout fans to search out for the next best thing with little to no luck. Many enjoy EA’s Skate series, but I’ve always felt mastering them was too much a hassle and less of a grind-happy, combo-tastic experience I’ve come to expect with my skating games. It wasn’t until developer Roll7’s 2014 OlliOlli for the PlayStation Vita did that very specific itch start to find relief. Impossible at times, yes, but the game proved immensely engaging and a perfect match for the portable Vita.
The game found an audience, and was followed by several ports and a sequel in 2015. Fast-forward to 2019 and now is a perfect time to jump back in with the newly released Switch version. Oh, I missed a great opportunity there. What I meant to say is that now is a perfect time to ollie back in with the newly released Switch version. You’re welcome.
OlliOlli: Switch Stance includes both the original OlliOlli and OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood in one package that runs buttery smooth, which is necessary to perform all those fancy tricks you need without any hiccups. One odd thing you’ll notice right off the bat is that the two games aren’t connected, meaning once you’re loaded into either the original or the sequel, you’ll find yourself having to force quit the game in order to load up the other. I understand this is probably a technical obstacle the developers found no way of kickflipping over, but it still feels like an odd choice when you want to hit the digital pavement.
The first OlliOlli has a wonderfully pixelated style lending itself to it’s simplistic, yet devilishly concise control scheme. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood smooths these visuals over with a cleaner approach. I can’t say I preferred one over the other, but both look amazing for different reasons whether docked or played in handheld mode on the Switch.
Both games have a great hook to get wrapped up in. Each level has an Amateur and a Pro version and, when selecting Amateur, you are presented with two different ways to tackle the level. You can choose to make it to the finish line, which in turn unlocks the next level. Or you can complete the challenges they’ve laid out for you such as getting a certain high score, grabbing spray paint cans, etc. Doing all of those challenges allows you to unlock the Pro version of the level will gives you much more dangerous obstacles and even more challenges to complete. It’s a perfect loop that gives you the chance to push through a tough level or really grind your way through it to unlock everything.
The package itself is a great addition to any Switch library, but there’s one massive flaw that irked me to no end, even after finishing the first game and a large chunk of the second game. It’s a small, nearly imperceptible thing that affected me and might not affect others, but it’s such a glaring, baffling thing that it’s truly hard to ignore. It might even sound a bit nitpicky to some of you, but stay with me.
OlliOlli boasts a one-button mentality. Tricks are performed by flicking the left analog stick and you push yourself and land by hitting the B button. In game (meaning any time you’re on a skateboard) the only button you’ll ever need to push is the B button. But out in the menus? B is to go back and A is enter. While I am one of those people that gets their brain twisted when certain games switch these two, this is certainly not one of those times. This is…worse.
I even went back to the original version on my Vita and even on Steam. On Vita the X button does everything and on Steam (Xbox Controller) the A button does everything. This way lets me play a level and if I fail, I just hit the button I’m used to hitting the entire run a few times and I’m back in the action. But on Switch I’d fall off my board and then back out a few screens, just to go a few screens forward, and then back again before realizing I need to take a moment and change buttons. I’m not old, I promise. I suppose my ingrained muscle-memory is to blame, and not the game itself, but this small change on Switch is unintuitive for us button-mashers.
Aside from that one glaring navigational headache, OlliOlli: Switch Stance remains as fun and rewarding as previous iterations, and there’s a always new challenges for expert players while at the same time inviting new skaters into the mix. True, it may not be the second-coming of Tony Hawk, but for those with a serious boarding itch that needs scratched, this is a welcome addition to anyone’s Switch library. Bodacious.