Skate It Review for Nintendo DS

Skate It Review for Nintendo DS

He Was a Sk8erboy

Skateboarding games certainly aren’t for everyone. The sport doesn’t have the biggest audience in the world, and even those who enjoy watching (or boarding themselves) won’t necessarily get a kick out of pulling off tricks in a video game.

Skate It screenshot

For those who are open to the concept, however, EA’s new DS title Skate It is a great way to go. While it has its share of flaws, its depth, long single-player mode, and innovative control scheme make it a definite keeper.

Even those who’ve played skating games before are well-advised to start with the tutorial. The DS’s bottom screen shows an image of a skateboard, and on that image you’ll draw different patterns to execute different moves (this is dubbed the “Flickit” system). Holding the stylus on the side of the board, for example, will make your character push off to gain speed. The moves are, for the most part, intuitive (the parts of the board you touch correspond to the parts of the board you’d manipulate to perform the move), but there are a lot of them to learn, along with a whole vocabulary of ways to jump with a skateboard (ollie, nollie, etc.).

It’ll take some time to get the feel down, and while the DS’s detection of your inputs can be forgiving at times, some of the moves are close enough in execution that precision is a must. A line down the center of the board, for example, won’t be detected correctly if there’s more than a slight angle to it, as an angled line maps to a different move. To succeed in Skate It, you’ll need to be able to draw a line in the right place, at the right angle on the bottom screen, while looking at the top one. (The game also offers button control, but it’s actually harder that way, which isn’t surprising given the number of available moves is several times the number of the DS’s available buttons.)

Skate It screenshot

After the tutorial, it’s time for the career mode, a series of challenges that takes a full day’s work to complete. It starts by repeating the advice from the tutorial (the repetition is worth it, considering how many moves there are to remember), and proceeds to the meat of the game. These tasks are all about timing, varying your moves (a list of which is available via the start menu, in the likely event you forget how to do some), and learning the peculiarities of each course accessible through the map screen (the locations are based on real-world courses). This is a very realistic game: you’ll pull off stunts requiring some serious athletic talent, but nothing physically impossible or over the top. You’ll meet a variety of challengers as well, though they’re not exactly well-developed characters.

There’s a lot of variety here, and for the most part the tasks are neither too easy nor too hard. One thing we found frustrating, however, is that when you’re having trouble with a given challenge, in particular the earliest ones, the game offers no help. For example, one of the first available challenges is to get 125 points by riding a “line” (basically a railing). We took a quarter-hour figuring out the techniques one can use to increase score on a line, and there was no indication the computer realized that it would be a good time to give a few quick text pointers. (The trick: holding down the L button to “grab” the line, and starting the trick at a lower speed to give more time for executing other moves.) Every game has a learning curve, and even as it is Skate It doesn’t have an unacceptably steep one, but that little bit of extra hand-holding would have done a lot of good.

Skate It screenshot

In addition to the tutorial and career modes, there’s a free-for-all mode where you can skate around however you see fit. This serves as a great way to get some practice with new techniques, but of course, it’s not somewhere you’re supposed to spend any significant amount of time. Also, there’s multiplayer, where you can challenge a friend (who must have his own DS and cartridge), and a creator mode, where you can change your skater’s appearance.

However, perhaps the mode that adds the most replayability is “My Spot,” in which you can design your own skate park using stock items, plus items you’ve unlocked. It’s easy enough to use: just select a location with the stylus, touch an icon that looks like a plus sign, and pick out the item you want to place. There are plenty of items available, and plenty of space in which to place them. It’s fun in a SimCity kind of way, and it’s a blast to perform on your own creations.

Skate It screenshot

Graphically, though, Skate It faces a problem common to many DS titles: the videos are about as close to photorealistic as the DS will ever manage (they were made using the awesome ACT Imagine video codec), but the actual world in which the game happens lacks detail. The character models are the worst; when we changed our guy into a girl in the creator mode, we had to look closely to see if it worked. The faces and bodies, while they’re animated fluidly, have no semblance of personality whatsoever. The items in the environment look pretty bland, but thankfully, the images are never so poor as to distract from the gameplay or make it unclear what’s what. Basically, you won’t be running into things because you didn’t see them, and you won’t be running into things because you got caught up looking at the pretty scenery, either.

In terms of sound, the developers took advantage of EA’s access to licensed tunes, sprucing things up with (guess!) hip-hop and modern hard rock. The playlist isn’t as diverse as one would expect on, say, a Burnout game, but it fits the mood of the title, and even when you hear the same songs too much, it’s not all that annoying. The sound effects are fine; they don’t stand out as being particularly good, but they’re not ridiculous or fake, either.

Again, skateboarding games aren’t for everyone, and Skate It most definitely won’t change that. Its hard realism makes it a fan-only pursuit, and its bland graphics similarly do little to entice newcomers. However, this is a great opportunity for boarders and the gamers who love them to learn an innovative control scheme, pull off some tricks, and design their dream skate parks.

The video portions are terrific, but they can’t make up for the fact that when you’re actually playing the game, there’s no detail to anything. 4.8 Control
Near-perfect use of the DS’s touch screen, though it does demand quite a bit of precision. It includes button control for hardcore traditionalists. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
EA licensed music and decent sound effects; no complaints, but nothing stands out in a positive way, either. 4.2

Play Value
Career mode takes hours to beat, and the multiplayer and build-your-own-skate-park modes offer hours of fun.

3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Skate against friends, own the leaderboards, and share your created spots and challenges with Spot Share, all through your Nintendo DS Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • Pick a board and shred by using stylus-based Flickit controls.
  • Gamers can make spots truly their own by moving objects like ramps, rails, and benches to fit their skating style. Unlock new skateable objects by winning challenges and then create a fantasy dream park.
  • Conquer the best San Vanelona spots and get sponsored by real skate companies. Then travel the world to skate, own, and customize iconic real-world locales.
  • Skate with the world’s top pros in your quest to become Thrasher Magazine’s Skater of the Year.

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