The original Skate was something of a success for EA’s first foray into the skating genre.
It presented a more realistic gameplay as opposed to the 200-foot high, multi-trick combos and arcade handling of the Tony Hawk franchise. It also introduced a whole new control method with FlickIt, which took some getting used to, but once mastered made Skate the skate game for skaters, as you cruised the enormous cityscape throwing down realistic tricks in a realistic world with almost realistic graphics.
Now, with Skate It, the series comes to the Wii and of course adopts the obligatory motion sensor control method. Sigh. Before I’d even started playing the game I knew from experience that this was going to be a patience-testing time.
The storyline in Skate It somewhat bridges the gap between Skate and the upcoming Skate 2. It starts in San Vanelona directly after a devastating earthquake levels the city to rubble. Ignoring the human deathtoll and tragedy of this event, you decide that this would be a great time to go out and skate on the new, giant skatepark the earthquake has provided for you. “Sorry Mom, no time to lift that concrete slab off you – there’s this killer rail I have to try over on 5th”.
As you progress in the single player campaign, and if your patience holds out that long, then you open up more areas of the city to explore.
But in this presumed skaters’ paradise, you never really come across another skater taking advantage of the new terrain. This creates quite a lonely feeling in the game.
Starting Skate It for the first time, you are asked to choose a control method. This could be the Wiimote, Wiimote and nunchuck or the Wiimote and Wii Balance Board. It should be noted however that all three are equally as frustrating. In fact sometimes you think that somebody else altogether is controlling the game as a move you successfully pulled off thirty seconds before all of a sudden becomes impossible to pull of again despite a seemingly identical action. These are the unfortunate pitfalls of motion sensor technology in its present form.
I tried two of the above control schemes, the Balance Board and the Wiimote/nunchuck combo – I just couldn’t face trying out the third. My first try was with the Balance Board as I thought this would perhaps provide the most realistic skating experience. As any skater knows, you need to have a good feeling for the centre of the board, but the game never gives you this using the Balance Board. Skating in a straight line was an exercise in futility as you seem to either go hard right or hard left. This can be solved somewhat by dulling the sensitivity of the board right back, but this obviously makes it difficult to turn sharply when you actually need to. So it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.
Pulling off the tricks is easy enough, but ultimately what I thought might have been a promising control method turned out to be a disaster. To make matters worse, the calibration screen kept popping up if I lifted my foot off the board too far, which was a pain in the arse in the middle of a lengthy combo of tricks.
Next came the Wiimote and nunchuck method. This solved the problem of travelling in a straight line and therefore made the game more accessible, but a new problem presented itself. I had great trouble performing some tricks, especially grabs, because the game would recognise a movement and perform the trick, but then perform a totally different trick with what I believed to be an identical movement.
In the end it seemed like, as I mentioned earlier, someone else was controlling the game. After this experience, I had pretty much had enough. If just using the Wiimote fares any better, which it might, then it’s something you’ll have to find out if you’re keen to check Skate It out.
Having described the problems I encountered, it would be fair to add that maybe it was just me. I have read similar experiences from other reviewers, but I have also seen some YouTube vids of gamers showing off some fluent riding and strings of tricks. So take from this what you will.
Graphically, Skate It is a Wii-ified version of Skate. Yes, that’s right I invented a new word. Take the difference between the PS3 and Wii versions of Tiger Woods 09 for example. Going from the PS3 version to the Wii makes the game look like an Amiga 2600 is running it. Ok, ok, not quite that bad, but you know what I mean.
The same applies to Skate It. There’s seams galore, jaggies and a seemingly very limited colour palette. It’s not awful to look at by any means, it helps to imagine the game is deliberately cell-shaded to a degree, but I’d like to believe the Wii can handle something better than this.
In true EA style, there’s plenty of options to customise your character with a clothing and skate shop.
If you’re planning on purchasing Skate 2 for your PS3 or 360 then the soundtrack for Skate It will serve as a small preview to the Skate 2 track listing. All the songs featured here will be in Skate 2. The music as usual compliments the genre nicely, the pick of the bunch coming from LL Cool J – ‘Rock the Bells’, Suicidal Tendencies – ‘Possessed to Skate’, The Clash – ‘Death or Glory’ and The Specials – ‘Ghost Town’. The original announcer from Skate returns in Skate It, giving you hints to help you out, but due to the fact I was biting the asphalt on a regular basis, I got tired of hearing him say the same thing over and over.
Skate It had promise, especially with the Balance Board, but the very thing that could have made it a great game, is the thing that ultimately proves to be its downfall. The game is a nightmare to control, and in a skate game, accessibility is paramount. Unless you’re prepared to spend a whole heap of time coming to grips with it, and I have no doubt that this is possible, then I’d recommend steering clear.