Developer: Snowman, Agens
Genre(s): Sport, Simulation
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on Xbox, Playstation, Apple Arcade and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 06/05/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Time to Grind
I’m sure that all gamers out there have played at least one skateboarding game in their time. The infamous Tony Hawk Pro Skater titles alongside Skate will probably be your answer, and they remain at the top of the genre even today thanks to sequel announcements and remasters. For me, it was Disney Extreme Skateboarding… but anyway, the fact remains that playing these games made us crave to be able to perform these sick tricks in real life with a great soundtrack accompanying us.
However, with Skate and Tony Hawk taking centre stage, a lot of other attempts at the genre have become lost. Well, I’m here to tell you that Skate City deserves your attention and a rightful place in the skate game hall of fame.
A New Generation of Skaters
Seeing skateboarding making its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, there’s going to be a whole new generation of kids (and maybe adults) inspired to kiss the rail. Skate City will only enhance that inspiration. In this 2.5D title, you get to explore skate spots based on real-life places in three different cities; Los Angeles, Oslo and Barcelona.
You can choose to take part in a series of challenges, which vary from races, completing trick checklists and achieving high scores. The more stars you earn, the more skate credits you earn (more on that later!), and you must earn at least 1 in all challenges available in order to unlock the next lot.
Then, Endless Skate allows you to kickflip to your heart’s content. This provides a relaxed way to test out your tricks, while also having goals to complete if you want to. This all may seem relatively simple, and like there isn’t much to do in Skate City, but the game thrives on this simplicity and there is plenty to keep you occupied with over 100 challenges across the game.
Flip It and Reverse It
Skate City slowly eases you in with a tutorial and building up the number of tricks you have to perform. The L/R or ZL/ZR bumpers can be pressed or held when in the air near a grind to slide or grind. Then, pressing ZL/ZR perform manuals, and tapping or double-tapping L/R in the air produces a 180 or 360. B is powerslide and lastly, flicking either the left or right joystick ollies/nollies and flips.
It’s a lot to take in, especially as there are so many different tricks even on the joysticks alone, and combinations to discover. Luckily, there is a trick guide in the pause menu to refer back to. However, having to pause in the middle of challenges all the time isn’t ideal. This is made harder in later challenges when you have to do tricks just off their name shown on the screen. I found them very hard to remember, and much preferred the callout challenges where the control diagrams for a trick are shown and you have to do them in a certain area.
I have always struggled with flicking joysticks in games too, and it felt very similar to the Olympic Games titles where you have to flick to jump at a certain angle. You have to be quite accurate to get the right direction, otherwise, you will fail when performing certain tricks. So, if you have this problem too, it may be best to go for the PC version or play it on Apple Arcade, where it was originally released.
You’ll Never Get Board
Despite my frustrations with the controls, Skate City is an incredibly fun yet zen game. Pulling off a trick you’d been trying for ages or watching your skater do a three-move combo effortlessly was incredibly satisfying. Though the challenges were somewhat repetitive, I did not find them boring and instead felt determined to complete them. Endless Skate was then perfect for practising your moves and relaxing after a long day. What tied this chill title altogether was the visuals and audio.
The 2.5D was unusual yet fit extremely well, with simple low poly shapes making the environments. Each of the three cities looked completely different from the other and had its own vibe. Though the graphics were nothing amazing, it fits well with the relaxed game style and was a joy to look at. I particularly loved the lighting and how it changed from day to night, watching orange sunsets fade away to streets lit by lamposts. It was very atmospheric and took my mind off things, while also making me want to skate the day away too! I experienced no performance issues on the Switch either, and even the menu transitions are slick yet simple.
To top it all off the soundtrack was superb, with hip-hop, lo-fi beats joining your ride. The instrumentals with minimal vocals or rapping were just perfect for the game and though it’s not my usual style of music, I put it on while writing this review and found my head bobbing. A very nice touch was the music cutting off for a slight moment as you did a rail grind so you could hear that oh so satisfying sound of wheel hitting metal.
The skate credits mentioned earlier come into play for not only unlocking each city and some tricks or skills, but for buying clothing or customising your board. I am obsessed with getting to choose a character’s outfit in games, so this was a nice touch to add some personalisation to your skater. It also helped me live out my skater girl fantasy as someone who has never stepped on a skateboard in my life!
The incentive of unlocking everything and completing challenges adds a great deal of replayability to the game, and you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. Despite there being currently only three cities, the mobile version has recently added a Tokyo area in celebration of the Olympics. It will be nice to see this come to Switch, and I think there’s the potential to add so many more cities to extend longevity. The in-game recording tool in Endless Skate is a fun feature too, where you can record in slow motion and take screenshots from different angles. Sending off a photoshoot is also a city goal and just neat to play around with.
Go Grab It You Melon!
Skate City really is a hidden gem and it’s a shame the big boys of the genre overshadow it. It may not have realistic 3D graphics or the element of nostalgia, but with a killer soundtrack, fun challenges and good vibes it’s a title to comfort you in your downtime. Although I do not know anything about skateboarding it did help me learn the names of the tricks and makes me want to go out and buy a board! For budding young skaters, this is a no hesitation purchase, and non-skaters will appreciate the technical skills of skating in a relaxing way. I can’t wait to continue grinding for those challenges.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can purchase Skate City for the Nintendo Switch from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.