OLO: Multiplayer Done Well

We’re told that first impression always count, but if that were true I would never have played the beautiful OLO. When it was first featured as the App Store’s “Game of the Week,” I met the app with initial skepticism; the premise seemed too simplistic to be a long-lasting, entertaining game. But after being given the chance to review the app, my mind was swiftly changed. Let me tell you why. 

The Basics

One way to describe OLO is as a digital hybrid of the classic table game, Air Hockey, and the quintessential English sport of Bowls. Bizarre, right? The “table” is split into four individual sections: two end zones and two target zones. The fundamental goal of the game is to flick “OLOs” into the corresponding coloured target zone, and one point is awarded for each one you can successfully land and keep in the zone.

The rules of OLO are simple and well explained. Find the Rules page at the bottom of the start screen.

The rules of OLO are simple and well explained. Find the Rules page at the bottom of the start screen.

Keeping the OLOs in position is the difficult part of this game. By knocking your OLOs against your opponents’ and vise-versa, it is possible to remove them from the target zone and also to recycle them. Recycling OLOs is one of the main strategic elements of this game; deflect any balls into your own end zone to gain one extra shot, but be careful, the same applies for your fellow competitor!

Left: You can only use OLOs a maximum of three times. Right: The amount of OLOs remaining and their sizes are displayed next to your score, flashing OLOs indicate that only one use remains.

Left: You can only use OLOs a maximum of three times. Right: The amount of OLOs remaining and their sizes are displayed next to your score, flashing OLOs indicate that only one use remains.

The benefits of recycling OLOs are limited. Each individual ball can only be reused a maximum of three times, after which they are swiftly removed from the game. One insignificant detail is the way in which the OLOs are removed — they are taken away by a long, skeletal finger never to be seen again. I bet this game was the last place you would envision the Grim Reaper turning up, right?

Each new game begins with all players having six OLOs of varying sizes. The bigger the ball the more “umph” is required when flicking it to the target zone or bumping others away. Keeping track of your remaining balls and their respective sizes is possible via the list of dots shown below. When an OLO is on its third use, and therefore its last, the respective dots will flash to ensure you’re aware of this fact. Neat.

Simple Yet Beautiful

You would be right to think that the premise of OLO is pretty simple and minimalistic in nature, after all, the only goal is to flick balls into specific zones! However, for me, although the game alone is why you should purchase this app, the overall design and quality is also something to be appreciated. Bright, vivid colours greet you at every new page, constantly changing from one shade to another — trust me, it never gets boring.

OLO changes its colour scheme constantly as time goes by, creating a different theme every time you play.

OLO changes its colour scheme constantly as time goes by, creating a different theme every time you play.

Navigating through OLO is painless and intuitive. Simply select one option from each screen to play a game and you’re playing — easy. Pausing a game only takes one tap and the above menu is presented with, again, a changing colour scheme that keeps it interesting. Soundtracks are often taken for granted, probably because most are just an annoyance, but OLO has a soft and slightly eerie set playing in the background and it’s actually quite soothing. Though, as always, it was muted after a short while.

Built With Friends In Mind

Multiplayer: one area of iOS that hasn’t quite been perfected, yet. Game Center is a great tool, yet its full capabilities are yet to be utilised by developers. However, with games like OLO taking the forefront we won’t be waiting long. You can play locally, on your device, in two- and four-player modes or alternatively, online against a random competitor. This feature is routed through Game Center, as such it is also possible to play against your listed friends and to invite others to play via Facebook and email.

Left: Online games have a time limit of 20 seconds per shot, indicated by the countdown timer highlighted. Right: 4 player games can be confusing but are still enjoyable.

Left: Online games have a time limit of 20 seconds per shot, indicated by the countdown timer highlighted. Right: 4 player games can be confusing but are still enjoyable.

The best way to play OLO is in two-player mode, however there is also a four player setting available locally. This mode is still a lot of fun, but isn’t quite as enjoyable as the standard two-player game. The game was recently updated to improve the consistency of the online match finding and is now a lot faster and less buggy. A surprising element that I only discovered whilst proofing this review is the Chat feature in online gaming. Connect to a friend over Wi-Fi and … voila — a built in chat facility is provided. Pretty cool if you ask me!

Though it would be easy to gush over this game, not all is perfect. The interface and gameplay are impeccable and it is definitely enjoyable, but the focus upon multiplayer gaming takes away from the overall quality. Don’t get me wrong, playing with friends or other gamers is great, but there are times when a single player option is required. For instance, in areas that lack carrier coverage, it would be impossible to play a game to kill some time without an EDGE/3G connection. Add a single player mode with the ability to play against an AI opponent and you’ve found yourself a near perfect game.

The Final Word

Given the strategic nature of OLO and the fact that, in reality, a large chunk of luck is required to win games at times, this app should be entertaining for quite a bit. No game is the same and no opponent is the same, so different outcomes and challenges are constantly being levied against you. However, the only downfall of OLO is the total reliance upon multiplayer gaming. Add a single player mode and I’d have no hesitation in awarding full marks.


Summary

A simple and minimalistic game with a beautiful interface and excellent gameplay. A great game for friends and family and also boasts online gaming capabilities via Game Center.

8
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