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DS  header logo

Skate It

For: DS   Also on: iPhone

Not too tricky

Product: Skate It | Developer: Exient | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Simulation, Sports | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Skate It DS, thumbnail 1
Sports games are often hamstrung by laborious control methods. Most of us can manage to kick a round English football or throw an ovoid American football without too much difficulty, whereas the complex combinations of joystick, D-pad and/or button presses required for their in-game equivalents are generally much less intuitive.

When it comes to skateboarding games, however, the trick is reversed. Now abstract button presses result in a complicated dance between environment and in-game dude. Even better, accidents become something to be savoured and replayed, not events marked by a trip to A&E and months of physical therapy.

At least, that's one of the reasons the sub-genre has been such a lucrative one for game publishers over the years –well, for one publisher in particular – Activision – thanks to a god called Tony Hawk.

More recently, though, EA has been attempting to undermine the Birdman's topnotch status with its Skate brand; of which Skate It is the spin-off for 2008. But as was the case with the previous game, Skate, Skate It's focus is less on pulling off an insanely long-winded combination of tricks and more about giving you a sense of gratification when you successfully land a manoeuvre.

Bearing this in mind, those of you weaned on the almost super-human activities possible in the Tony Hawk series might initially struggle with Skate It's more stimulation approach. The DS control system doesn't help either as – in lieu of a console joypad's dual joysticks – developer Exient has nobly tried to reproduce the same degree of control using a combination of the DS's buttons and the touchscreen. It's not an entirely successful endeavour, but we were surprised how well it pans out.

During play, the bottom screen of the DS displays a skateboard on which you can doodle a wide range of different gestures that result in your character performing a trick or move. For example, drawing a straight line from the bottom of the board to the top results in an Ollie (basically a jump with the board's nose pointing upwards). Conversely, drawing a line in the opposite direction will make your skater execute a Nollie (a jump with the board's nose pointing downwards).

Should you choose to bend your line to the left or the right, you'll perform an aerial kick flip. Combine your doodles with grabs (holding the L or R button) and the D-pad (you can rotate your skater in mid-air), and it's possible to do some serious mid-air showboating. Just don't get too cocky because if you screw up the landing, you'll be a laughing stock.

Using this control method, you have access to a dizzying range of flip tricks, grinds, slides, reverts and grabs. Learning all of the different gestures can be taxing, but thankfully they confirm to a fairly logical system and using the board itself as a drawing surface helps you visualise what kind of move you want to perform.

Sadly, though, for all its ingenuity this interface is marred by one troublesome issue – it sometimes fails to recognise your input, or misunderstands what move you wish to execute. This tends to rear its ugly head when you're at an especially tense point of the game, but as frustrating as it is to bail on a vital trick due to the touchscreen not understanding your doodled gesture, we have to stress it's quite rare occurrence.

As you'd expect for a game that has been downsized from more powerful hardware, Skate It is a modest graphical affair. While the arenas are impressive in size, they lack detail. The boarders themselves are also a little light in terms of complexity, but they animate well and the tricks look refreshingly realistic when they're seen in motion.

And hardware limitations are to blame for other less welcome changes. The liberating open world concept of the original Skate is replaced by a simple level-by-level progress system. The invigorating freedom to ride wherever you liked in the first game was one of the key elements that differentiated it from the Tony Hawk's titles, and it's a shame that it wasn't carried across to this handheld outing.

Sonically, Skate It is something of a disappointment, too. Just as was the case in the console version, licensed music is included, but due to the memory restrictions of the DS cartridge format it only boasts a pitiful four tracks. These repeat in a constant loop as you play and, as you can imagine, you get a little too familiar with them as a result.

Thankfully, other elements of the package help to turn that frown upside down. The one-on-one multiplayer modes are nothing short of stunning, with both local and online matches up for grabs. The online portion is especially well produced, with a neat selection of modes and very little in the way of latency.

Arguably however, the most entertaining aspect of Skate It is the My Spot mode, where you can create your very own skate park and get your creative juices flowing freely by arranging ramps, jumps and rails. It's even possible to use your construction in some of the online modes.

Considering Skate It is EA's first stab at bringing its fledgling skateboarding franchise to the DS then, the results are encouraging. Although the touchscreen control system has a few kinks that need ironing out and the open world structure of the original game is sorely missed, the rest of the package is highly entertaining. And with Tony Hawk's Motion proving that series has currently gone off the rails, this really is the only choice for DS owning deck-heads in 2008.
Skate It
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 8 December 2008
Although it has a few rough edges, Skate It nevertheless ollies over the competition and triumphantly kick-flips its way to the top of the DS skateboarding pile
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