The winter can be a good season for video games. Violent, earsplitting junk tends to predominate during the big release times of spring, summer and fall. But there's room for a smart, fun and wholesome title in the quieter weeks following the turn of the year.
Such proves to be the case with "OlliOlli" (Roll7), a charming yet challenging skateboarding game for Sony's PlayStation Vita.
The gamer takes on the persona of a skater passing through various landscapes, and earns points for speed, style and the performance of various tricks: the ollie (a basic jump), heel flips, kick flips, grinds, and so on. For those who don't speak the lingo: you're basically cruising down a big hill, dodging obstacles -- or riding over them -- and racking up points for making it through in one piece.
"OlliOlli" has five different settings: Urban, Junkyard, Port, Base and the Tokyo-like Neon City. Gamers move through these locales first on the amateur level, and then, if they're successful enough, revisit them on the pro level.
That's easier said than done. There are stair railings, dry spots of desert, helicopters, plants and even neon signs to confront before the player reaches the cheering crowd at the end of the run. And it all has to be done while not losing too much speed, which will cause the skater to peter out -- and then keel over.
Wipeouts are frequent in "OlliOlli," but you can easily refresh the screen and try again. There are no sexual elements involved, and no real violence. Even the spills are slapstick pratfalls, complete with funny sound effects, rather than anything graphic or profane.
"OlliOlli" has received an enthusiastic response from the gaming community. But more than one reviewer has mentioned the "blood boiling" frustration that results from attempting to complete its later, more difficult stages. Yet that frustration leads to a real thrill when a player perseveres until breaking through to the next level.
It's also refreshing that any attempt to mimic the game's action in the real world will only have positive results; Instead of wanting to fire guns or steal cars, fans of "OlliOlli" will only yearn to go outside and skateboard.
"OlliOlli" is ingeniously designed. It's a 2-D game, but the backgrounds are sharp, even mesmerizing. Far from a throwback, this enjoyable outing represents a welcome return to an old-school approach to gameplay, one more focused on fun than mayhem.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is E -- Everyone.