Skate It

Skate sims really gained popularity in those early Tony Hawk flare-ups: PS1 gamers wouldn’t have been without it, and there’s been various efforts since, each with varying success. EA has developed Skate It for the Wii, and we all know what that means – a control system unlike any other. Its predecessors, on the 360 and PS3, stepped away from the button-mashing fury of earlier skating sims, utilising the machines’ limited motion-sensitive functionality, and now Skate It truly sends those thumb-combo days of yore packing.

The game comes packaged with an elaborate character-creator, so the first thing I did was set to work building my alter-ego. I might be an uncoordinated paddle-foot when it comes to taking up the board in real life, but in game land I was going to shine! Hairstyles and colour were a bit limited, and all of a sudden my beard is pink, but it’s close enough. I did manage to find a body frame not unlike my whippet-lithe-self, but alas I was forced to pick a face with a nose that looks like it’s hiding the same olfactory network as a large great white shark. Skate It allows you to pick everything about your character (even if there are only one or two options for some attributes), right down to the trucks on the board and, bafflingly, “attitude”. I say bafflingly because there are only three to choose from – rock, punk and cool. Does this mean that punks aren’t cool? That rockers can’t be punk? Where’s the tree-hugger option, or one for strangely optimistic?

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It would be strange if your character was too upbeat – your city has just been laid to ruin. Details are sketchy, but basically you’re left with a deserted city (San Vanelona) and a bazillion twisted rails, broken staircases and acres and acres of smooth concrete. One for making hay while the sun shines, you hook up with a vocal photographer and filmmaker who offers to follow you round while you rip it up. There are obviously people getting about the place unscathed elsewhere, because your phone beeps now and again to issue you a challenge from a pro-skater friend out of town (real pro-skaters cameo).

Throughout the tutorial you’ll learn a few of the staple tricks. Once you’ve chosen your control method – Remote, Remote and ‘chuck, Wii Balance Board – you’re ready to get to grips with how the game mechanics work. Unfortunately, what makes things a bit difficult and causes such a steep learning curve, is that the controls don’t work as well as they might. Steering with the ‘chuck is much easier than relying on the left-and-right twist of the Remote which you can use: as for the Balance Board, I must admit to not getting to try it out, but I can speculate it only makes things harder. Ollies and Nollies are upward flicks of the Remote, and downward, respectively, and Manuals can be performed by a smooth push at either end. Twist a flick, in a combo of directions, and you’ll see how the tricks come together. There are plenty of them, although some are stupidly hard to get going. Grinding took me so long I passed the test by accident, and it wasn’t until I moved the camera from “low” to “high” that I was able to get any sort of handle on depth perception. This, at least, meant I bailed out a lot less.

Once you’re past the tutorial you can move into skating the landscape, picking up challenges and getting your buddy to amass some footage. The challenges are simple – earn 300 points, do one grab, one grind, etc, but stack up as the game gets on. As you progress, you’ll unlock new locations, boards, shoes… there are more unlockables in Skate It than I have seen in any game for a while. Various real-world companies have attached their mark, so you’re playing for Adidas and Independent. Later, you’ll also have the chance to get sponsored, really giving your career the kick it needs. I like that the worlds are of a size that encourages getting out there and searching for the coolest spots to do your tricks and get your photos done. After finding the perfect rail, it’s good fun to get your tail-grind and dismount right then check the film editor to save certain snapshots or a few seconds of film to your own album.

Although the game flows with a beautiful filmic quality and some great features like slow-mo wipe-outs (complete with eye-watering crunches) and the Thrasher “Hall of Meat” which catalogues your injuries (broken pelvis? Get up you girl), the graphics really let the game down. While your character’s shadow is pretty slick, we’re talking distance shimmer and floating tree foliage. There are 2D sprites making up the backgrounds and times, and the whole thing, while looking almost-good-enough just comes off as amateurishly designed. PlayStation 2 at best – and I know the Wii’s not known as an eye-candy powerhouse… but come on. This is scrappy.

On the up side, the sound is nice. The camera-man’s voiceovers, while at times patronising, are called out in a streetwise accent and once you’re past his overuse of “Sick” and “Dope” he’s not hard to listen to. The click and clatter of wheel on concrete and the squeak of your trucks are all nicely wrought and the music has to get an honourable mention. Under EA Trax in the menu, you’ll find a list of decent songs by decent bands, which really help set the scene. There’s some metal in there, a bit of punk, and some hip-hop and downbeat: it’s a great mix, and certainly adds flavour.

The game is plenty big enough to satisfy even very demanding gamers, but I would be concerned about those controls. Not everyone wants to spend too long getting to know a difficult control system, these days. Often, immediacy is key and this is a step away from plug and play. Still, the range of tricks and masses of unlockables will keep you all coming back. By no means a groundbreaking skating game, Skate It holds its own in the lead up to Christmas. Older gamers could be better off dropping their dosh elsewhere, but as one for the kids, Skate It should do well. And it’s the kids who are really propping the Wii up, after all.

"Wii Skate It asks only that you shred the world. "
- Skate It
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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Comments Comments (7)

Posted by cute_maori
On Tuesday 25 Nov 2008 9:24 PM
Awesome review.
Posted by Koopa18
On Wednesday 26 Nov 2008 5:23 PM
pointless comment.
Posted by Srassy
On Wednesday 26 Nov 2008 7:44 PM
25 November 2008, 09:24 PM Reply to cute_maori
Awesome review.
I live for the day where you will make a comment that is more than 2 words and doesn't have the word 'awesome' in it.
Posted by Syn-Ryn
On Friday 28 Nov 2008 8:08 AM
"This looks awesome."

Close Srassy, so close.
Posted by Bunnny
On Tuesday 2 Dec 2008 1:59 PM
This looks the same as other skateboarding games, there doesn't need to be any mroe seriously
Posted by Liam
On Sunday 7 Dec 2008 9:59 AM
I was hoping he'd talk about the Balance Board support.
Posted by swordoflight
On Thursday 9 Apr 2009 10:51 PM
We ave too check this out if it is any better or similiar too the others?,the review shares alot but will it perform!