Skate made its debut on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in 2008, earning great review scores as the game featured a unique and realistic play style. Now EA brings the game to Wii and DS as “Skate it.”
First of all: What is Skate it all about? It’s rather simple: In the Wii version the city San Vanelona has been shattered by an earthquake and the government initiated the evacuation of the whole city. According to a newscaster at the very beginning of the game, 99% of the inhabitants have been evacuated – but you are still there, using the city as your very personal skate park.
Always on your side is a guy with a camera, filming all of your flips, ollies and grinds. His plan is to shoot the best skating movie the world has ever seen and you are the leading character. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
There are a lot of things Skate it does well. Be it the stylized menus, the dozens of brands when it comes to your board and outfit or the nicely done character editor. You can chose between carrier, free skate, multiplayer and a tutorial. EA Trax once more provides for a rather small but nicely composed list of background songs (consisting mostly of rock and punk songs, yeah!) and the comments from the guy with the camera are hilarious at times. There are also enough environments to make for a rather lengthy skating trip. All in all you’ll skate through more than one dozen areas that you can also tweak and improve by adding banks or rails and more. Basically you have the editor right in the main game which is a nice idea. You cannot tweak whole levels though, just certain parts of them but it is still a decent idea. You could call it a semi-editor. Unfortunately it is not as good as the one in the DS version.
Another interesting feature is that you can watch your last 20 seconds of gameplay whenever you want. Just enter the menu and select the video option and you can watch your moves a second or a third time. It is also possible to save some pictures and videos taken during challenges on your Wii.
The game also has a multiplayer mode. It is possible to skate against up to 3 of your friends, online is not included, though. In the multiplayer mode you can either just skate for fun or do some challenges, similar to the DS version of the game. All in all the multiplayer is a decent effort (especially if your friends want to try the Balance Board) but the focus is clearly on the singleplayer mode - you won't have a lasting experience with the multiplayer mode but it can be fun when you play together with some of your friends. Adding those different features together Skate it might very well entertain you for a longer time.
Graphically, the game is slightly above average. The character models and animations are rather good but some of the environments look rather bland and empty and lack some polygons as well. Where Skate it begins to shine is the art style: Strong colours and stylized levels make up for the lacking technical realisation of the game, at least to some extend. I noticed that the levels looked more interesting the deeper I got into the game. While the first two locations are rather bland the later ones are more detailed and more colourful. I also hardly ever noticed any framerate drops. Don’t expect to be blown away, though. But you guys didn’t open this review because of the graphics, right? Ok, let’s go on to the controls then.
There are three control schemes implemented, the first one being remote only – which is not worth a text, really. It somewhat works but you’ll use one of the other two methods anyway as this one just isn’t precise enough. Wii Remote + Nunchuk is much better. Basically the Wii remote is your board. To perform tricks you just have to move the Wii the way the board would do in reality. Your skater accelerates with the A button and the D-Pad is also used for tricks. This one works well but it has two important flaws: The game needs some time to react to your motions and it can be a bit frustrating at first to realize that your motion was absolutely perfect but your skater jumped too late and thus didn’t jump on whatever you wanted to do a grind on for example. The game doesn’t always react properly as well: The same motion sometimes causes different moves. But in the end it all comes down to the player – after some hours of gameplay you’ll get into it and will also realise that some of your motions just weren’t precise enough (some challenges feel like they’ve only been implemented to teach you the controls). If you are keen to put some hours of actual work into this game it will reward you with a great control scheme in the end, which supports the realistic feel of the game really well. That doesn’t completely make up for the moments you feel like the controls just don’t work (and even if you master the controls the game sometimes interprets your motion wrong) but it gives the hardcore gamers among us a great challenge.
The last control method uses the Balance Board and the Wii Remote. This control scheme allows you to perform tricks by pushing different areas on the board with your feet: Depending on where your feet touch the board your skater will perform ollies, nollies, grinds, etc. It feels odd at first (as you really have to push your feet down to make your skater do tricks as the board is also used for moving left and right) but again you’ll get used to it after some time and then the Balance Board really makes for some funny situations: It’s just amazing to see your friends jumping in your room and yelling “damn!” each time the game asks them to stop jumping on the Board. But be aware: You have to put some effort into the Balance Board controls as well. Especially the left and right movements are a bit difficult in the beginning. In the end I liked the Wii + Nunchuk combo best, closely followed by the Balance Board.
So can I recommend Skate it to you? The answer is yes but only if you like Skateboarding games and are ready to put some effort into the game. Especially the controls can be frustrating at first. Once you put some effort into it the game rewards you with a great experience, though: As soon as you mastered the controls you’ll be able to perform amazing stunts and lines which feel much more rewarding than Tony Hawk games ever did. You really feel like you achieved something great when you mastered one of the harder challenges. Unfortunately the occasional wrong interpretations of your moves are annoying and stop this game from being rated higher.
The second question a lot of you guys want to have answered is probably: Should I buy it for my Balance Board? Or should I even buy the Balance Board to play this game? The answers are yes and no. The game surely feels fresh with the Balance Board and the controls are precise enough to entertain you. On the other hand the Balance Board doesn’t always react properly as well and Skate it is not enough to warrant the purchase of a Balance Board alone, especially as you have to buy Wii Fit together with the board. If you own a Balance Board already and are keen to play a serious but challenging skateboarding game Skate it is what you’re looking for and a great addition to your Balance Board collection.