|System: DS, Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Exient||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 19, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (2 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
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.
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.)
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.
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.