Maybe it's too early to be doing this, but I've already got a fair idea of what my favourite gaming moment of 2014 will be. It came while nestled by an open fire on a chill January weekend spent holidaying in a sea fort with friends, one of us on a laptop guiding Brockley Academics to victory in Football Manager while I sat on a sofa in the smoky fug lost in the brilliant loop of OlliOlli on the Vita.
There's something about roll7's side-scrolling skater that makes it the perfect Vita game, to my eyes; it's the approachable exterior that slowly layers up to provide a diamond-hard challenge, the edgy skater cool undercut by a lounging, lazy electro soundtrack and, most importantly, because it was so much fun to play. There were problems, of course - a few difficulty bumps didn't make for the easiest of rides (screw you, Base One, for eating up an entire afternoon of that holiday) and a persistent bug froze copies for some time after release - but as a console debut from the New Cross developer it was mightily impressive stuff.
Sony was clearly taken with it all, as it's set roll7 to work on a sequel that's due out on PlayStation 4 and Vita next year. It's a more polished, more expansive game that irons out some of those bumps in the original, introduces a new aesthetic and fleshes out the repertoire of tricks in your rider's back pocket. Coming with what feels like more significant backing from Sony, it also makes the most of the unique features of the PlayStation hardware, being one of the first games to make the most of the forthcoming SharePlay feature.
OlliOlli 2 features a new director (John Ribbins, creator of the original, is off working on Not a Hero) and a new aesthetic, one that swaps out the blunter edges of the original for something smoother and more colourful. I'm still not totally sure how I feel about the new look - pixelart has fast become tired, but in the original OlliOlli it was so much part of the attitude and style that it's hard to see it go.
In OlliOlli 2, those brighter, more rounded edges are part of the mechanics' more polished curves too. Sitting down to play on a PlayStation 4, it's easy to get back into that initial groove and miss out on what's new, though there are plenty of additions. Hills alter the flow of some levels, while ramps offer a nice little crease, your rider crouching down at your command as you time the perfect launch.
The trick vocabulary has opened up significantly, too. Manuals and reverts are now part of the arsenal, giving players more possibilities to stretch out combos - and more ways to screw them up, too, should they get too cocky. They're being layered in more gently this time out, too, slowly being introduced throughout the various levels on offer. It's possible to get through all of them without ever touching all that's new in OlliOlli 2, in fact - but, of course, that's not the way to the highest score.
I honestly couldn't tell the difference between an anti-casper flip and a 540 shuvit - though I suspect if you pay the right amount you could get someone to perform one on you in the shadier parts of South East London - but I do know that more stuff happened when I spammed the sticks in OlliOlli 2, and mighty fine it all looked too. The new art-style makes for more pronounced animation, and it's now easier to read exactly what your skater is doing.
There's one final new trick up OlliOlli 2's sleeve, and I think it's likely to be the most popular. Roll7's one of the first to make the most of the Share Play feature that's coming to PlayStation 4, with its new local multiplayer mode Combo Rush letting players take turns as they attempt to best each others scores in timed runs on select spots. Split-screen is also an option for four players on one machine, but the ability to remotely share a session seems like exactly the kind of feature Share Play was built for, and it's nice to see smaller developers leading the way when it comes to shaping how it'll work.
You can try out some of those changes for yourself, as OlliOlli 2's on the floor at this weekend's EGX after today's reveal. If it all comes together ahead of the 2015 release, there's every chance it'll be foundation for one of next year's gaming highlights too.