Skate It Review for Nintendo Wii

Skate It Review for Nintendo Wii

The Wii Balance Board is an excellent peripheral that is finally getting its just desserts this holiday season. Games like Ubisoft’s Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party and Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip, along with EA’s Skate It! are putting the accessory to the test in fun and interesting ways.

Skate It screenshot

Whereas Ubisoft decided to take a more casual approach in their titles, EA has gone all out and made the Balance Board much more of a simulation implement that is the best representation of street skating to date. In fact, the use of the Balance Board is so realistic many gamers, including myself, will have to resort to the excellent motion controls to make up for their lack of coordination. Regardless of the control type you choose, Skate It! for Wii is a very deep and engaging title that will have you shredding through the streets of San Vanelona and beyond, grinning all the way.

As if not to be outdone by fellow Québec-based development studio, Ubisoft Montréal, EA Montréal has put their own stamp on the sports game world. The question is, which company is the Nordiques and who are the Canadiens? It’s pretty tough to tell because both studios have proven to be quite adept at bringing a compelling experience to Nintendo’s console. However, despite their obvious similarities, they are quite different games with a very distinct target audience in mind. While Ubisoft sought to appeal to a wide variety of Wii owners, EA has gone for the relatively small group of core gamers that own the console. Consequently, gameplay is every bit as challenging and addictive as old Tony Hawk titles and last year’s Skate for the 360 and PS3. Casual gamers, play at your own risk!

EA’s Skate It! certainly doesn’t try to tell any meaningful story. Taking a cue from Saints Row 2, players return to a disaster ravaged San Vanelona that is even riper with skating opportunities. Soon thereafter, players take a trip around the world to real life locations that will further their skating careers and fame. Though the story surrounding Skate It! frankly sucks, the quest to nail tricks, gain sponsors, and improve as a skater is as satisfying as it has ever been. Unfortunately, the dismal character creator with its paucity of ugly customization options tends to hinder the single-player experience. Fortunately, the excellent controls make up for such missteps.

Skate It screenshot

The “Flickit” control concept employed by Skate revolutionized skating controls. By mapping trick techniques strictly to the analog sticks and leaving the face buttons behind, Skate was able to more realistically capture the feel of street skating. Skate It! takes that same core concept and applies it to both the Wii Remote and Balance Board control setups. In fact, the motion-sensitive controller and pressure-sensitive board manage to enhance the Flickit experience even that much more.

Using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk will undoubtedly prove to be the most widely used control setup, as it is far more user/gamer-friendly. Players familiar with past skater titles will quickly adapt to the well timed flicks Skate It! requires of them. I found the motion controls to be very accessible and was performing grinds, manuals, kick flips, nollies, and grab tricks in no time. What’s more, executing realistic combos with a flick of the Wii Remote feels satisfying and never turns into an utter waggle fest. Still, players will find their wrists getting tired after awhile.

Skate It screenshot

The Balance Board, however, is far more technical than the motion control setup. In fact, I found it nearly impossible to successfully advance the game with it. Despite what you might be thinking, this isn’t a complaint. The fact that I’m not coordinated enough to dominate the Balance Board controls is not much of an issue; I’m glad the scheme wasn’t bastardized for my inept skill level. Even so, the low and high pressure-sensitive inputs are quite challenging, even awkward. Yet, I can still see that an experienced skater or committed gamer could break free of the steep learning curve and really enjoy Skate It! whilst mounted on the deck controller. Any way you look at it, whether mastering or foundering with the Balance Board controls, Skate It! is the most realistic street skating simulator to date.

Like Ubi’s Road Trip, players will have two different challenge goals for every objective during Career: You can Own It or Kill It. Owning it allows you to advance through the game and obtain new objectives. Killing it, on the other hand, is where the proverbial wheat is separated from the chaff. Unlike Ubi’s boarding title, however, players are given far more freedom to complete the goals. Also, the My Spot Zone feature lets players develop their own lines. This feature is novel, but actually setting up the lines felt fairly cumbersome. I was also dismayed by its mandated implementation during the career mode; as far as I’m concerned, leave user-created mechanics in games like LittleBigPlanet.

Skate It screenshot

Multiplayer Party Play allows two to four players to skate in four different gameplay modes. Unfortunately, there is no split-screen action, so you’ll be passing off sweaty Wii Remotes between each other. Nonetheless, multiplayer is still enjoyable. Players can choose between Best Line, get the best score in three selected areas before time runs out; Best Trick, hit the best single line; Hall of Meat, break your body in hilarious ways; and Best Time, a slalom race course. All of which are quite fun despite not allowing for simultaneous play.

By far the worst part of Skate It! is the visual presentation. This is one ugly game! For starters, the character models are terrible; the five or six heads you have to choose from are woefully drawn and pro skaters like Mike Carrol and Rob Dyrdek don’t fare much better. The environments, while varied and well constructed, suffer from an overall haze and fuzziness that’s inexcusable. Finally, objects in the game are seriously lacking detail and are plagued by the worst case of jaggies I’ve ever seen. Fortunately, the animations are smooth, so the aesthetics never actually hinder gameplay. I can’t help but think that EA should have employed a cel-shaded or cartoon-like style to alleviate the graphical shortcomings.

Thankfully, sounds are better than visuals but not perfect. The voice over work is admirably acted, though the dialog is so cliché as to be reminiscent of 1983’s Valley Girl. The sound effects are spot on though. For example, grinding along varying surfaces yields a distinct resonance. Finally, the licensed music selection nicely fits the theme and is punctuated by heavy, effects-laden guitar riffs.

Skate It! is a great core experience for the Wii. Gamers will really enjoy the depth and satisfaction derived from the Flickit trick control scheme. What’s more, if you want to ratchet up the difficulty to eleven, the Wii Balance Board effectively mimics the feeling of real skating. Unfortunately, the dreadful visuals further prove that the Wii simply can’t replicate lifelike characters and environments, and the multiplayer would have benefitted from some kind of simultaneous cooperative and competitive split-screen features. Still, Skate It! is a must have title for Wii-owning skate fans, but casual gamers beware!

The visual presentation is as poor as I’ve seen from a AAA Wii title. 4.4 Control
The motion control implementation is close to perfect and full of depth. The Balance Board offers an extreme challenge to the inexperienced. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice over work is solid though painfully trite. The music and sound effects are quite nice, however. 4.3

Play Value
There are hours of play and a truly deep experience to be had for core gamers. The multiplayer features are nice but not fully implemented.

4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • A new way to skate: Lay down killer lines with Flickit controls using the Wii Remote™ or Wii Remote and Nunchuk™. Deepen the gameplay with the Wii Balance Board.
  • Real-world skate spots: Conquer the best of San Vanelona, get sponsored, then hit the road to skate and own iconic real-world locales.
  • Create your skate space: Customize environments by moving skate objects to fit your skating style.
  • Double the tricks: Inverts, one-foots, hippy jumps, finger flips, the list goes on.
  • New San Vanelona: A new look and feel to the city…time to make New San Van a skater’s paradise.
  • Fully compatible with the Wii Balance Board: Take your Skate It! Experience to the next level with the Balance Board controller that acts just like a real deck!
  • Designed specifically for the Nintendo Wii.

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