Platform: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Montreal/Black Box
Wii Balance Board Compatible
Growing up I always had a secret desire to be a skater boy. Afraid that I would fall flat on my face and embarrass myself by just standing on a skateboard, I shied away from that dream and moved on to other things, one of which happened to include video games. This actually provided me an opportunity to live out my dream in a small way by playing skateboarding games. When I heard about EA’s Skate It, and how it is compatible with the Wii balance board, I got excited at the prospect of attempting to skateboard on a board that probably wouldn’t lead to my face being shred across some asphalt.
Loading up the game I was happy to see the menu system was slick and easy to navigate. The cut scenes are well done and high quality too. However, when getting into the gameplay itself the graphics are not as a nice as I hoped. Sure, the environments you skateboard in are really well designed and include beautiful skylines, but when you take a few moments to look at the scenery in the distance you will notice that everything is a bit blurry. Only when you approach the area does the game come back into focus. This took away from the experience as blur always transitioned to clear. In terms of your created character, apart from your basic customizations, they are somewhat undefined and seem almost mannequin like. I had hoped for more here (e.g. better looking and more animation) as skateboarding is definitely something that has a lot of motion to it. However, when taking everything into consideration for Skate It you can tell that it did make full use of the hardware capabilities of the Wii, it just that the Wii is not as powerful as those other two next-generation consoles currently on the market.
One aspect I noticed during gameplay was that the sound effects successfully stayed in sync with the on screen action. As you casually skate around you get pulled into the skating world as your wheels roll across the asphalt or concrete. The thrashing noise that screeches into your living room as you grind your trucks against a metal poll and the splat your skater makes as he rams into a chain link fence is also very prevalent. In terms of the voice acting, the actors do a decent job, but sometimes they are hard to understand because of how they speak. Your camera man, voiced by Giovanni Reda, does the best job and keeps you on track throughout the game.
I always found the soundtracks for skateboarding games to be top notch and Skate It does not disappoint. Boarding around to Low Rider, Rock the Bells, Death or Glory, and a bunch of new artists that I find myself having to get to know, is always a great experience. Listed below are all of the tracks included in the Career Mode of Skate It:
Awesome Snakes – “I Want A Snake”
Cut Chemist – “Addictive”
Dayton Sidewinders – “Go Ahead On”
Fujiya & Miyagi – “Collarbone”
Gang Starr – “Step In The Arena”
Gaslight Anthem – “I'da Called You Woody, Joe”
Judas Priest – “Freewheel Burning”
Koushik feat. Percee P – “Cold Beats”
LL Cool J – “Rock The Bells”
Louis XIV – “Guilt By Association”
Money Your Love – “For Kristoffer”
Ponce De Leon – “Gator Jaws”
Queen Sea Big Shark – “Hold Your Hand”
Sly & The Family Stone – “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
Suicidal Tendencies – “Possessed 2 Skate”
The Clash – “Death Or Glory”
The Specials – “Ghost Town”
WAR – “Low Rider”
Year Long Disaster – “Leda Atomica”
Not a bad set-list, and if anything it could have been bigger. Overall though these songs managed to get the job done.
Skate It takes place in the fictional city of San Vanelona where a disaster strikes that has caused devastation to the city and forced all the residents to evacuate. This provides the perfect skateboarding environment as the evacuated city becomes one giant skate park for you to explore. After your brief introduction to the game you are automatically brought into the menu to customize your skater. The create-a-skater system is quite extensive and has the basic options of gender, body shape, head shape, hairstyle, facial hair and clothing. It is an impressive list of things to make up your character, but remember, they don’t look as good as they could.
Added into the mix are skateboard customizations where you can decide on your design, colors, and you can tune your trucks and wheels to suit your style of skateboarding. When tuning your wheels keep in mind the looser they are the less stable your board will be, but in exchange you turn a heck lot quicker. Tighter trucks on the other hand does the opposite, allowing for slower turns and more stability. When it comes to your wheels, soft wheels are better for steering and hard wheels are better for sliding.
The last two options you get to play with are goofy and standard skateboard stances for your skater and his/her attitude from Rock, Punk and Cool. After you fine tune your skater, prepare to hit the streets and shred some lines. However, there is one thing you must do first. Choose which control set up you want to play the game in.
Skate It has three control set ups available for you to play the game. I started off using the Wii Balance Board and Wii Remote. These controls were a little on the tricky side and I found myself running into walls quite often (editor’s note: for real or in the game? Just kidding). This was either due to my lack of ability/co-ordination or the balance board lacked the sensitivity required to get optimal control of my character. Suffice to say the balance board was put away pretty quickly as I just didn’t get the hang of it. Using the Wii Remote only, I found it a little bit easier than the Wii Balance Board/Wii Remote combination, but I still didn’t get the level of control I was hoping for. I found myself once again running into walls and I had a hard time using the Wii Remote to guide my skater to where I wanted him to go. Finally, I decided to try out the third control option using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. I had a feeling I would fare better with the Nunchuk’s analog stick to control my skater and my intuition proved right. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that with a lot more practice I could get used to the other control options, but I found the analog stick to be the most familiar and easiest to use right from the get go.
Skate It has an excellent tutorial at the beginning of the game that walks you through all the basic controls for each set up. When I talk about how the controls work in this review, I will be explaining how the Nunchuk/Wii Remote combination works. If you prefer using one of the other control choices, don’t worry, the tutorial does an amazing job getting you ready to become the next Skate It pro.
The analog stick works exactly where you point your skater to, and holding down the A button moves your skater into the direction you point to. Keep in mind that if you hold it down too long you will build up too much speed and as a result might mess up a planned trick. Nailing tricks in Skate It is done with Flickit Controls. Here you use the Wii Remote in combination with the A, B or both buttons at the same time. A couple examples of the Flickit Control moves are the Ollie and Nollie. To Ollie hold the A button and flick your Wii Remote up, and for the Nollie do the exact opposite, hold the B button down and flick down. Tilting the controller, flicking to the left and right, making circles and throwing these moves into different combinations will perform the basic tricks. What is interesting is you can come up with some of your own tricks too depending on how you combine controller movements. One thing you have to remember while attempting to complete a trick is that you will need enough space and speed to land the trick as well.
After you finish the tutorial you will be ready to play in one of the three Skate It modes: Career, Freeskate and Party Play.
Career is where you get to travel the world to London, Barcelona, Paris, Shanghai, and Rio de Janerio while competing against skate legends and taking on challenges throughout the locations. Career mode will keep you busy for quite awhile while you unlock new locations and challenges. As you complete some challenges you will earn the chance to pick a sponsor which will in turn unlock different boards, parts, and clothes. Make sure you pick the sponsor you really want to go with though, because once you pick your sponsor you are with them for life, or in this case the rest of the game.
Freeskate is pretty much what the title says; you Freeskate with a skateboarder in a location of your choice and you can try to do whatever you can imagine. I found Freeskate a great way to practice my tricks without worrying about how it would affect my status in career mode. Progressing through career mode will unlock more skaters and locations to use in Freeskate.
Party Play is Skate It’s local multiplayer mode for 2-4 players. When it comes to skateboarding games there is always competition and in Skate It there are four different challenges to throw down in. Best Line is where you link your tricks together to get the best sequence in the allotted time. Best Trick is kind of like Horse, the person who does the best trick using the chosen obstacle wins. Hall of Meat is my personal favourite and I am sure a lot of other players will enjoy it as much as I did. Here your goal is to cause the most bodily harm to yourself and beat out your fellow competitors in your self-inflicted plight. Nothing beats watching yourself flail around like a rag doll. The final challenge is Best Time where you bomb hills and clear the gates to see who the fastest skater is.
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