The skateboarding sport, as a style, has been under-explored. Tony Hawk’s Professional Skater outlined it with such finesse in 1999 that there has barely been any room for enchancment – as borne out by the persevering with enchantment of that first sport twenty years later. However contemplating how a lot it has in frequent with a 3D platformer – open environments with an emphasis on acrobatic exploration and discovery – there may be certainly a possibility for others to attempt some new concepts.
Enter SkateBIRD, the sport that solutions the query, “What if Tony Hawk was a tiny hawk?” Whoever flippantly requested that query most likely wasn’t anticipating a solution within the type of a online game launched a number of years of labor later, however right here it’s.
There’s a way of enjoyable within the idea of SkateBIRD and it brings some twists to an concept that’s in any other case very carefully modelled on the Tony Hawk’s collection. The chook skaters’ wings allow them to double-jump with a second mid-air ollie, for instance, and since they’re tiny, they’ll skate tiny environments product of furnishings and stationery. What we’ve right here is mainly Tony Hawk’s meets Micro Machines meets New Zealand Story.
An enormous quantity of affection and energy has clearly gone into SkateBIRD. The situation of skating birds is framed by a narrative of lonely pets whose “huge good friend” human has began a depressing new job. The environmental storytelling within the first degree paints an image of an individual shedding pleasure in life, who has let their housekeeping slide because of overwork (however has nonetheless maintained an elaborate bird-sized skatepark of their bed room).
The story that performs out is, after all, absurd – however SkateBIRD is aware of how foolish it’s and delivers it with allure. The chook characters themselves look splendidly daft of their varied selectable clothes, from bucket hats to 3D glasses, and transfer with endearing twitches and bobs. The unique soundtrack and licensed tunes present a superb vibe to proceedings, often evoking the collection that impressed the sport however principally maintaining issues relaxed.
An affordable facsimile of the Professional Skater gameplay is current and proper, with the identical fundamental moveset and controls. Your chook can discover traces by way of its miniature atmosphere and tie combos along with grinds and manuals, constructing momentum for greater methods. In addition to racking up factors, you must discover the degrees and may tackle collect-the-item challenges, discovering well-hidden or hard-to-reach spots as you go.
The dangerous information is that whereas the ambition soars, the idea doesn’t precisely land. The potential of wings to deliver a elevate to the system shouldn’t be realised, with the second ollie failing to introduce creativity to trick traces. It actually solely provides confusion to the visible cues for traversing obstacles when your leap top is more durable to understand. The improbable concept of mini real-world skateparks additionally falls flat in observe, with inspiration operating brief after the primary degree, and a rooftop park bringing little that reads as lower than human-sized anyway.
Whereas the basics of the gameplay work – you’ll be able to navigate, you are able to do methods – it isn’t practically as enjoyable because it appears to be like and definitely can’t stack as much as the Tony Hawk’s collection, to which comparability is inevitable. The workings of the air ollie are considerably inscrutable and it simply feels irritating to need to execute it. Getting lodged in opposition to furnishings and jammed in corners is frequent and finicky, together with your chook far too able to fall over altogether. A component of pinball chaos in such conditions would have been preferable: the strictness of the ability demand is unnecessarily po-faced for such a foolish sport idea.
Some eminently fixable niggles additionally maintain again the enjoyable. The trick names and scores aren’t displayed prominently, making combo constructing really feel empty and methods vague, particularly when a chook sticking its beak on the board is much less relatable and far more durable to parse than a human skater’s seize. The digital camera might be unpleasantly spasmodic, particularly on resetting your chook, which is so repeatable an issue that it’s infuriating.
Extra main issues lie within the degree design – each the parks and the challenges set inside them. The primary degree options a number of elevated platforms that may be fiddly to climb to and are extraordinarily straightforward to fall from, which isn’t a useful introduction to the sport. A degree traversing a number of rooftops may have aided navigation with some visible cues to differentiate the roofs from each other, however as a substitute it is samey and complicated.
None of those information helps the completion of the story challenges. Typically, these are timed runs to gather objects that are onerous to search for, with sluggish digital camera controls and graphical high quality decreased to an unpleasant murk past the center distance. Challenges are sometimes greatest achieved by falling off slowly in the appropriate place – a technical success, moderately than a cool achievement.
At a good greater degree, the general construction of the sport is laborious. Parks have to be unlocked by way of the story mode by finishing challenges, and aside from the gruelling work of finishing them, the obtainable challenges aren’t simply managed or positioned. There are many fashionable concepts of activity administration that may have been higher – Mario Odyssey’s prompts, maps, lists and hints for its energy moons; Breath of the Wild’s discreet however atmospheric quest log – however we solely get essentially the most fundamental achievements guidelines, duties obscured till the appropriate chook characters seem to dole them out.
SkateBIRD is a inventive addition to a style missing in selection, and its enjoyable idea has clearly been realised with numerous love. Nevertheless, regardless of its potential, the perfect components of the idea are underused, with neither the miniature skaters nor the addition of wings bringing a lot to excite. Whereas the core gameplay is useful, the play really feel shouldn’t be fluid and the extent design and laborious construction are at all times working in opposition to the enjoyable. To high it off, the rudimentary graphics are needlessly hazy. Extra of a turkey than a reasonably boy, then, sadly.