Something has gone terribly wrong in Skate It's San Vanelona. A disaster of unknown origin and type has destroyed the city into acres and acres of toppled buildings, lonely debris, and defunct parking lots. What disaster could accomplish this? Who knows and who cares because all you want to do is skate it (and we have title). EA Sports has actually created Skate 1.5 with this pseudo-sequel to give you something to tide you over until Skate 2 arrives in January. Can Skate It shred with the best or will it grind to a halt? (I'm using my newly learned skateboarding terms…impressive, eh?)
When you first get to actual skating, you will find the graphics a little better than most of the games on the Wii. There is no cartoony feel to the game, which is nice because you can go get that with 98% of the other games for the Wii. The presentation of the game has an overall slick look to it, opting for the clicky home movie experience complete with jumping string, like it's been sitting on a 8mm projector for 30 years. One of the best things to watch over and over again, and maybe it's because I'm a sadist, is to watch your character crash into objects and fall off of ledges. The animation kicks into slow motion and you can watch with probable enjoyment as arms get twisted around and legs bend into ways that even polygon characters shouldn't bend. The one major issue I had appears to be more of a glitch. When the songs change over, there is a split-second delay in play as it loads up. If you are in the middle of a nice chain of tricks for high points, this could get annoying.
The sound for Skate It is decent. While the sound effects were adequate and sounded like they were supposed to, the soundtrack is actually the high point of the game. There are a good number of rock and alternative and hip-hop songs that play through the game, which are tied together through EA Trax, which have become a standard way to present a song collection in EA Sports games. Besides, any game that plays L.L. Cool J's "Rock the Bells" from 1985 can't be all bad.
There are three different control schemes you can use and it's up to you to figure out which one works for you. You can use the Wiimote by itself, the Wiimote and Nunchuk, or the Balance Board (with the Wiimote for basic moves); we'll discuss the board in a minute. Skate It uses the "flickit" system to perform tricks. Flicking the controller up, down, and side-to-side does some of the easier moves. Add in a twist, or rotate the controller, or move the controller in a circle gets you a whole new bag of tricks. Ollies, nollies, shuvits, pop shuvits, 360's, manuals and more: they are all part of your repertoire. The controls are somewhat sensitive. The trick you think you are going to pull off may not be the one that actually happens. At one point, I itched my arm and performed some magnificent 360 spin grab on a half-pipe. The moral is if you need some points, itch something. To steer, you twist the Wiimote left or right. If you are just skating, then steering isn't an issue, but once you start pulling off tricks, you may find yourself veering left or right after you land because you've drifted your twist a little bit.
The balance board is a whole other beast. Using the board will take some practice because you need to remember which of the 8 parts of the board does what. You place the board longways facing the TV and you use the Wiimote to push the board and to do grabs. Anything else requires specific foot placement. That's the part that takes getting use to; looking at the screen and keep tabs of where you feet are can present a challenge.
The meat of the game, of course, is skateboarding. Despite the unidentified tragedy that has struck San Vanelona, you still must skateboard. You meet a guy who offers to photograph and videotape you (okay, that's weird) in various stages of jumping, tricking, and falling. Apparently there is a magazine called Thrasher that quickly notices you. After some time, you'll get sponsored and at that point, you must become the best in the world. So, if you want the short version of the storyline, it's "skate, get into Thrasher, get sponsored, become number one".
In San Vanelona there are numerous spots where you skate and within those areas are certain challenges to undertake. Some challenges have you performing certain tricks and others have you performing tricks for photos and video. Basically, you perform tricks. Got it? Now some of the tricks are easy and some of the tricks are hard and those hard tricks can really frustrate you because of the sensitive controls and not knowing if you'll execute the required trick. I had to try one challenge about 15 times before I finally got it. Not because I couldn't do it, but because I thought I was doing the tricks right, but a subtle twist or angle of the controller changed everything up and made me "bail". There are two ways to succeed in a challenge. You can either "pass" it or "own" it. By passing a challenge you are like Jennifer Aniston with her minimum amount of flair. Just getting by. To own a challenge, you must go way beyond the goals; for example, you got a ton more points or you completely destroyed a time.
Progressing through the game can get quite boring. Going to Paris or London or Shanghai for a few challenges breaks up the monotony, but for the most part, you are trying to rise through the ranks and get sponsored in San Vanelona where there are no people. You have your camera guy and an occasional text, but that's it. Even Paris, London, and Shanghai are quite devoid of people even though you see people in the cutscenes. Tease.
The multiplayer portion of Skate It is what I like to call a fake multiplayer. You can play up to four players competing in three different types of events. Best trick sees who can pull off the best tricks. Best Time lets players race down a course in point A to point B fashion. Best Line sees who can perform the best tricks in consecutive format. The only problem is that players attempt each event one at a time. A sort of "Pass the Controller" deal over a number of rounds determined by the gamers. It's really dull waiting around for your turn. The developers could have at least put in 2-player simultaneous play.
Thompson's Two Cents
This is an okay skateboarding game that utilizes the Wii's special controllers to give you a realistic experience. If you like skateboarding in general (whether in real life or through video games), or you can't wait for Skate 2, or you have a desire to make game characters fall over and over again, then you should enjoy this game. Better yet, if you love the song "Rock the Bells" and wondered what it would be like to skateboard to it, then this is the game for you.