Version Reviewed: 1.0.70
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Game Controls Rating:
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I should have completed this review weeks ago, but I missed my deadline: and with good reason. The approach I took in reviewing this game was complimentary to EA's approach (and subsequent goal) in porting the game from the DS to the iPhone: slow, analog and progressive, comparable to the way a skater learns new tricks. EA really nailed this title and comparing it with other games in the genre is like comparing apples and oranges.
When I first heard Skate It was being ported to the iPhone, I have to admit: I was excited. When I first heard Skate It's control scheme would be a combination of tilt/touch-gesture controls, I have to admit: I was not excited. I'm pretty easy to please, but tilt controls, regardless of the game or genre, always seem to leave me frustrated. My apprehension, however, quickly turned to excitement the moment I first started playing Skate It, as I discovered the control scheme is as effective as it is unique and I was shredding across the various levels in no time.
Let me make something abundantly clear: While the touch gestures are unique and innovative, there is a rewarding learning curve deep-rooted in the game's core and at roughly 95, the game's trick library is very extensive, offering three levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) for three categories of tricks: Flip, Grab and Grind. There are no special or signature moves to unlock in Skate It. All tricks are available to the player from the start; the only thing that opens up as you progress are the additional levels, which are real world locations like Rio, London and Paris and the option to buy components for your customizable skate park. That's right: A customizable skate park. More on these features further below.
Launching Skate It produces a very cool intro video featuring the game's starring skaters: Mike Carroll, Rob Dyrdek, Lucas Puig, Terry Kennedy, Eric Koston, Jake Brown, Chris Haslam and Danny Way. The game's Main Menu features 6 options:
- Free Skate, where players can choose a skater and a locale (assuming it's unlocked) and skate to their heart's content;
- Career Mode;
- More EA Games;
- My Skate, where players can customize the look of their skater and gear (there are four logo designs to choose from, two for t-shirt and two for boards and modifying art consists of using a color palette and customized tools to draw/create/alter a design), view their Log Book, which contains Statistics, Personal Bests and the Trick Book, view Tutorials and on-screen Help and load/choose from 3 different profiles;
- My Spot, where players access one of three customizable skate parks, and
- Options, which allow players to adjust controls, sound, language and display.
In Career Mode, players progress through approximately 20 different levels, completing challenges, such as races and photo/video shoots, to unlock (A LOT) of skate gear, which players can use to customize their skaters and skate park components (for My Spot), such as Bases, Combos, Funboxes, Kickers, Ramps, etc. Players can customize everything from their skater's body and face to the artwork on their t-shirt and board, using a customizable color palette and tools to create their own artwork, as mentioned above.
The challenges range from simple to moderately difficult and depend entirely on the player's trick/control aptitude. All things considered, Skate It has a lot to offer, but not to the point where it's overwhelming or confusing and navigating through the GUI is easy, intuitive and very linear.
As previously mentioned, the game's control scheme is a combination of touch/tilt gestures. The main screen interface contains a hand icon, to grab the board while airborne, a shoe icon, to push and build up speed, two arrows (tapping up brings the player back to a placed session marker, while tapping down sets a/the session marker, a camera icon to replay video footage and a pause button.
Completing a trick (or a combo) requires the player to simply swipe the touch screen in a particular manner/series of motions. For example, to ollie, simply swipe upward on the screen using one stroke. Conversely, swiping left then up results in your skater performing a pop shuvit. The trick library can be accessed at any time from the pause menu. As mentioned earlier, there is a learning curve involved with learning how to control your skater/complete tricks, but again, this is indicative of EA's overall approach to porting this game from the DS: Bringing the genre back to reality and staying true to the sport. Mission accomplished.
Tilting the iPhone forward allows your skater to crouch for speed and maneuverability or to pump on half pipes. Tilting the iPhone backwards allows the skater to brake or powerslide if turning. Tilting the device left/right allows the skater to turn in that direction and/or spin while in the air. Jerking the iPhone in either direction will result in your skater switching stance. As players progress through the game, the on-screen icons can be removed, leaving only a blank screen and the player's imagination/learned tricks library as their guide.
There is a learning curve when it comes to learning tricks and players may find themselves getting frustrated. My advice is to stick with it: you'll eventually get it and when you do it will be very rewarding/satisfying. Once you get a trick down, it's done and you move on, just as if you were really skating. As mentioned previously, all tricks are available to players from the start, i.e. there are no special/signature moves to unlock.
A feature of the game I noticed right away is that, unlike others in the genre, the locations/locales actually foster players' learning/playing: They're not cramped and cluttered. Instead, they're open and have ample room/objects for players to move and/or learn to move around the setting, pulling off tricks using the game's unique control scheme.
The game's graphics, while certainly better than the DS version, are adequate, but nothing to write home about. Conversely, the game's soundtrack is an improved port of the DS version. The DS version only shipped with a couple of licensed songs and EA added approximately 9 diverse additional tracks, from artists such as LL Cool J, WAR, The Specials and old-school skate-rat favorite Suicidal Tendencies.
All said, Skate It is a refreshingly new entry into the genre that foregoes button-mashing memorization, replacing it with a well-designed, extensive, progressive control scheme that is very rewarding. For those who love the arcade-style button mashing, Skate It should prove to be a refreshing change; those who prefer realism (think simulation versus arcade) will really enjoy this title. As a former skater, playing Skate It is as close as you can get to actually skating: It's analog, flowing, progressive gameplay invokes the same satisfaction as actually skating: a feat not accomplished by other titles in this genre. That said, I whole-heartedly recommend this game.
You can read my interview with Skate It's producer and former pro-skater, Steve Robert, here.