Skate City Game Review

Who doesn’t love good ice skating? They’ve been an active presence in the cultural zeitgeist ever since Tony Hawk first graced consoles, and have never really looked back. Unfortunately, a common trend is that these games don’t make it to PC. For that reason, bringing the previously iOS-exclusive version of Skate City to PC was an interesting aberration. Can it bring a dose of realism to side-scrolling skateboarding? Or will it burn out when we switch to the platform of our choice?

Before diving into this review, it’s worth mentioning that you must play Skate City with a controller. I’m legitimately trying to figure out how this could even be played remotely on an iOS device. If there was any indication on the keyboard, you would be doomed to play it on the touchscreen. If you have a spare controller, you’ll want to plug in that bad guy.

Bringing pain… literally

Skateboarding is not something that can be easily perfected. On several occasions when I tried to do this in real life, I ended up with a rather painful coccyx. Let’s just say that what I did will get you higher scores from a plastic surgeon than from an X-Games judge. While most board games seem content enough to offer plenty of arcade shenanigans, Skate City grounds the action. It keeps the danger of the sport ubiquitous while also providing some interesting and inviting sandboxes to explore.

To put it simply, I was really bad at Skate City when I started. I was exceptionally terrible, I will not hide. As someone who has fucking played just about every skateboarding game released in the last decade (seriously, I have a real problem), I thought I had seen it all.

But for every game that is a non-standard interpretation of the sport, there has been an equivalent title that has sought to bring the activity back to its hardcore foundations, such as the EA Skate franchise. In this case, if Olli Olli is an outrageous name, Skate City is its simulation equivalent.

Yes, I can hear you asking yourself, “How can a side-scroller be a simulation?” Let’s start with the statement that it won’t teach you how to skateboard. However, Skate City’s presentation and performance feel much more subdued and almost noir-inspired compared to Olli Olli 2’s goofy shenanigans.

The action has a more street-like quality to it, which helps make it stand out. He’s also not afraid to give you his proverbial ass in a paper bag. To truly improve, this title will take time and effort, not to mention a spoonful of patience to boot.

Skate City takes place in three simulated cities: Los Angeles, Oslo, and Barcelona. Initially, you only ride in the City of Angels, trying to get street credit (also known as in-game currency) needed to open the other two locations. First of all, credit can be earned in the challenge mode, but before you manage to do this successfully, it is important to first get the controls under your fingers.

Practice makes perfect

Most of the movements you will perform will focus on the efficient use of both joysticks. Skate City maps eight different basic moves with stick clicks, four poles, and diagonals between each pole. Performing a move with the left stick provides a standard ollie-based version of the move. Performing the same movement with the right stick gives you the equivalent of the same maneuver.

Next, timing becomes critical as you learn the transitions to sanding and sliding. These movements are ultimately tied to the trigger and bumper buttons and are extremely time sensitive. For example, the blunt side involves holding any bumper until you reach the grind. On the other hand, you can perform a nose or tail slide by only pressing the bumper instead of holding it down until landing. Some options work the same way using triggers.

This close attention to timing is what gives Skate City a decidedly more hardcore feel than other side-scrolling skaters. When you mix these kinds of leads, spins, and variations, it’s possible to combine a series of movements into an extended combination. Simply put, practice makes perfect. And you better believe that if you haven’t done your homework, you’re going to undergo a colossal attitude adjustment.

As we mentioned earlier, the main focus of the game is getting the Street Credit required to open the three Skateboarding Cities. Once you feel confident enough riding literal loops around town, it’s time to check out the challenge mode. Each unique scenario takes place at some point in a selected city. They mostly revolve around goals, such as performing a series of moves on cue, racing other random competitors, or moving part of the stage without colliding with pedestrians.

hitting the wall

One thing that annoyed me a little about the task structure was how the scripts themselves are unlocked. To unlock each trio of scenarios, you must complete a minimum challenge for each of the available challenges. If you get stuck on any particular stage, you seriously run the risk of running into an obstacle to progress. Of course, this certainly encourages you to improve every mission. But if there was one mission you just couldn’t get through, you end up replaying the scene until you’re lucky enough to slip through. This was infuriating.

After grinding long enough to unlock every location, you might think things are winding down. Then I realized that there is an equipment store. This store offers the opportunity to purchase more equipment and power-ups to improve your stats and abilities. Why did it take me more than three hours to realize that this is a little taller than me. Personally, I would like to put this as the basis for minimal hand holding and manuals. While this further impacts the more hardcore-oriented aspects of the design, it would have been helpful to know that I could just buy a speed boost when I got stuck losing race after race.