OlliOlli: Switch Stance (Switch eShop) Review
I tried skateboarding when I was younger. I fondly recall stealing my sister’s board and zipping up and down our back yard. There was something liberating about cruising along the pavement with wind in my face and revelling in the freedom as four wheels and a couple of pushes sent me speeding on my way. After getting the hang of basic movement I tried to learn how to do my first trick.
Let’s just say that I stacked it. A lot.
Your first experience with OlliOlli: Switch Stance will probably be pretty similar, but with just a little patience and effort you’ll uncover a rewarding joyride waiting to be discovered.
Switch Stance packages together the original OlliOlli along with the sequel OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood. Both games pop you down on a 2D plane, give you a push and task you with reaching the end of a series of increasingly difficult stages filled with junkyard cars, missiles, neon signs, roller coasters and nuclear waste. The inspiration from the Skate series is immediately apparent in the controls, with different rotations of the left analogue stick utilised to pull off everything from a Kickflip to an Inward Heel Late FS Shove-It before Nosegrinding a rail down the world’s tallest stairs at max speed.
Timing is everything in OlliOlli. After nailing a trick you’ll need to press B just before touching the ground to get a perfect landing. Press it too early and you’ll be slapped with a sloppy rating and almost no points for your effort, too late and you’ll fall flat on your face. Whilst seemingly simple on paper the mechanics definitely have a learning curve to them, and you’ll spend your first hour or two fumbling your way through each level just attempting to remain upright. Give it some time though and you’ll find that you’ll be adding new tricks to your repertoire, throwing in a few spins to boost your combo and ticking off challenges across five unique worlds in each game.
Each level has five challenges, ranging from high scores to particular tricks to collecting items along the way. They act as a clever way of forcing you to explore different routes or learning how to do new tricks and provide an extra layer of challenge for those who quickly master the fundamentals. Clearing all the challenges in a level unlocks a Pro version with trickier terrain and significantly more difficult challenges to conquer. Rounding out the shared feature set in both games is a daily challenge that allows you just one attempt to post your best score on a stage, and spots that task you with getting the biggest combo in a small section. If you’re someone that hovers on leaderboards you’ll likely find some compulsion to return to the game daily for these modes.
It all makes for a fairly robust feature set that gets a lot out of the simple premise. Both games are worth your time, but a number of aesthetic and mechanical improvements in Welcome to Olliwood means you’ll want to make the sequel your go-to option. The pixel art of the original gives way to a more original and striking cartoon style in the sequel, with bolder colours, clearer environmental cues and more fantastical settings making it the better of the two.
It also boasts a respectable local multiplayer suite. You and three friends can create a tournament and challenge your friend to races, combo spots and high score challenges. By far the biggest addition in the sequel though is the manual. Much like it did for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 back in the day, it completely changes the game, and also makes going back to the original an awkward throwback. Pressing Left+B just as you land lets you keep your combo going as you head into your next trick. Having the ability to chain combos between jumps and rails allows for some ridiculous numbers on the combo counter, and it’s often possible to complete a level riding one combo from start to finish. It seriously increases the risk versus reward tension, as a 60 trick combo can result in ludicrous point totals if you nail the perfect landing, or leave you at the end of the level with just a smattering of points to your name.
It creates for a nail-biting ride, and although both games suffer from harsh difficulty spikes later in the game, the second game does to an extreme degree. Cruelly placed obstacles and precision jumps can be extremely frustrating, and it’s generally next to impossible to pass later levels on your first attempt. You’ll need to trial and error your way through, memorising exactly where you’ll need to jump, at what speed to be travelling, which route to take and exactly where to land.
Levels can get just long enough that repeated failure can make for an infuriating time, with some obstacles feeling particularly unfair. Later levels demand nothing less than perfection, though thankfully instant restarts with no load times help to somewhat mitigate this. Those who persist though will eventually familiarise themselves with the intricacies of each level’s layouts, and the almost zen-like state of flow that comes from reading obstacles well ahead of you can be extremely satisfying. This is helped further by the stellar soundtracks that provide a blend of electronic synth and groovy melodies that gives a calming spirit encouraging you to give that tough level just one more try.
OlliOlli: Switch Stance is a perfect fit for the Switch. With tight controls and edge of your seat gameplay that dares you to master its mechanics, it can make for exhilarating short burst gaming sessions. Just be prepared to face plant more than a few times along the way.
+ Simple yet challenging
+ Stacks of content
+ Perfectly suited to Switch
- Severe difficulty spikes
- Some unfair level design