Reviews// Skate it

Posted 26 Nov 2008 09:30 by
Skate it for Wii is almost a dream come true. A game where skateboarding on screen can be controlled by the movement of the feet on a skateboard-like controller rather than the movement of the fingers on a joypad. It's what skateboarders who are also games freaks (like me) have been dreaming of since the dawn of time, or possible before. If proof were needed, remember that the "Guru Meditation" error in the old Amiga OS referred to the practise of the programmers, to escape from a frustrating coding session, sitting on the company's "Joyboard" surfboard controller and try and maintain equilibrium. The very existence of the Joyboard shows that even in the early eighties, programmers were dreaming of realistically controlling surf, ski and skate games.

Computer simulation, or even arcade recreations of real world experiences are always tricky things. The more "realistic" a driving game is, the less I like it. Because the closer it tries to emulate real life, the more obvious its failure to do so. In real life driving there is so much feedback for a driver to rely on: the obvious feedback from the steering wheel, but also the feel of the road through the seat of their pants; the sound of the engine and the sound from the wheels, which let you know how much traction there is likely to be, and how it is changing with camber, moisture and speed.

Even the best driving sims cannot begin to emulate these stimuli. The result is that driving games like Motorstorm and Burnout are totally addictive to me, whereas games like Forza 2 and GT5 don't float my boat whatsoever. In case you think this is just because I'm a bad driver - I have a 450bhp sports car that I haven't put into a ditch yet, and I've done my time on the boy racer circuit with no smashes.

What has all this preamble got to do with Skate it? Well, it turns out that skateboarding games obey (for me) the same rules. Give me a joypad and Tony Hawk's Project 8 reviewed by me, here) or Skate (reviewed by me here) and I will sit with it for hours, without eating, drinking or sleeping, only breathing strategically. So, when Skate it arrived in the SPOnG office, who were they gonna call? Not Ghostbuster's that's for sure.

Skate changed the paradigm for skateboarding games and, after years and years of playing THPS that was a tall order. Fortunately, an excellent tutorial level made moving from one game to the other a completely natural thing. And Skate's control method is analogous to really skateboarding, where your board responds to the motion of your front and back feet. Skate makes your left and right thumbs represent your front and back feet (unless you are goofy), and Skate it attempts to take that model and apply it to your feet and the Wii Balance Board.

The principle is a sound one, how much more accurate could it be? In theory no more. But the problem is that when you move your feet on a deck, the deck moves with them, it responds in a way that feels entirely natural, which tells you about your speed, and your angle of turn. On your skate, you get feedback from the surface that tells you about its angle and slope, the hardness and its roughness. On the Wii Balance Board you get none of these things.

OK, maybe I'm asking too much. But it goes beyond this, on a real skateboard, to pop an ollie, you weight your back foot to raise the front of the board, and you then weight your front foot to force the rear wheels to leave the ground. Almost completely de-weighting the front foot is a vital part of the move. But in Skate it performing a natural ollie motion will raise your front foot off the board, the game will pause, and you will be scolded for "jumping" on the Balance Board - a serious crime clearly designed to prevent fat men like me smashing the thing. But the way it interjects into the game, and forces you to re-select your preferred footing, and re-calibrate the board is just plain annoying.
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ozfunghi 28 Nov 2008 00:52
SPOnG Score: 58% (Balance Board) 82% (WiiMote)


Thanks for that (the double score). It sure clears up a bunch of questions. So the game can be fun, just avoid the balanceboard...
DoctorDee 28 Nov 2008 11:22
ozfunghi wrote:
Thanks for that (the double score). It sure clears up a bunch of questions. So the game can be fun, just avoid the balanceboard...

The game sure can be fun. But nowhere near as much fun as playing Skate on 360 or PS3.
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