I tried to skateboard when I was a kid, but I never had the patience for it. That didn’t stop me from occasionally playing skating games, but it was never my preferred genre. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had some great experiences with the Tony Hawk series, or even wiling away hours playing OlliOlli on PlayStation Vita. Skate City looked like it was going to be a little bit like OlliOlli with some Tony Hawk mixed in. But instead of featuring both of those games’ best parts, Skate City is a bit of a hazy, boring, sluggish game.
Skate City is a 2.5D skating game where you customize a skater, and challenge them to dozens of skating challenges across three cities: Los Angeles, Oslo, and Barcelona. Challenges range from point accumulation to races, and take place across locations that are based off their real-life inspiration. But while Skate City might be played from a side view perspective, it doesn’t really use this perspective to its advantage. Instead, Skate City tries to feel more like a traditional skating game—and it just doesn’t really have too much to offer, for a number of reasons.
I’d love to say that Skate City is great fun, but I just never got into its brand of skate boarding. First of all, movement feels sluggish—something that is exacerbated by the strange, dream-like haze that inhabits every level. I feel like I’m skating through a dream, one that isn’t very interesting. That’s mostly because Skate City requires little skill beyond timing to pull of its moves. A little bit like a fighting game, you perform moves by hitting buttons in the proper sequence—usually flicking a controller stick, and then pressing a follow-up button.
Getting the moves to execute properly isn’t really about positioning, or even really speed, but just pressing the button to execute the move you want to perform at the right place. Unfortunately, controls don’t feel as tight as they could, make the game feel a little sluggish. After a bit of practice, though, it felt like most challenges could be completed with little issue. Performance for the various challenges is rated via a three star rating system—the better you do, the more money you can make. But even mastering challenges isn’t that fun, as it’s mostly the same scenes from city to city.
Completing challenges and playing levels yields a currency that can be used to unlock customization options, skills, signature moves and even the second and third cities. The customization options can best be described as basic. You can change the look of your character, the board, and its hardware—but there are only about a dozen options for each. The customization screen is also where you buy your new skill upgrades and even special moves. I didn’t realize this skill purchase option was even present for my first couple of hours—it’s a little buried on the bottom of the customization screen.
I really wanted to like Skate City, but I couldn’t get into it. It doesn’t help that its visuals are so hazy, and dreamy—mixed with sluggish gameplay, it feels like a skating game in a dream sequence. I think I would have had more fun with a game that was a little faster, with a little bit more of a challenge. I felt like I just sat down and ran through everything with little to slow me down. Once completed, there’s not really a reason to keep playing Skate City beyond its Free Skate option in each of its three cities—but even that is just more of the same.
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