SkateBIRD is a game I’ve seen at a few festivals over the years, and it has always drawn a crowd. It’s obviously adorable, and a game concept that is easy to latch onto. And while it’s not hard to see that SkateBIRD might not be Tony Hawk, it certainly takes inspiration from that series. But as cute as it is, SkateBIRD has a few issues that really clip its wings.
SkateBIRD is a skateboarding game with one significant twist: you’re a bird! Instead of using your feet to propel your board, each skate birder flaps their adorable little wings. Based undoubtedly on videos of birds skateboarding, SkateBIRD is a great concept for a skating game. Unfortunately, gameplay-wise, it’s a little rough around the edges. Don’t get me wrong, it has all of the skating moves you would expect in a game like this, with open stages that allow you to mess around finding collectibles, or complete missions to unlock the next stage. As the bird your goal is to help your “Big Friend.” See, he’s missing, and hasn’t had as much time to play with you as you’d like. So your job is to skate and meet new winged friends all on a quest to help your Big Friend. But a skating game is all about the skating, and SkateBIRD had me frustrated.
I’ve played a lot of skating games over the years, and SkateBIRD gives a good first impression. You can customize your bird in a wide range of readily available looks, and then you get right into skating. While SkateBIRD doesn’t have the best feeling skating in the world, it’s certainly playable and even fun taking your tiny bird around various full-sized environments. Unfortunately, I had massive issues with SkateBIRD’s camera. There is a gauge called the “fancy” bar that, once filled, allows to you go higher up pipes and walls. To fill up this bar I would gain momentum on a few ramps—but the camera never seemed to know what it wanted to do, always spinning in a nauseating fashion. While annoying, it wasn’t as egregious as all of the bugs I encountered. There were many times when my bird would stop grinding, losing momentum instantly somehow—or the camera would become detached, and force me to restart the game in order to have it follow my bird around again. It’s a bummer, because otherwise, SkateBIRD is pretty okay.
While SkateBIRD won’t win awards for its skateboarding mechanics, it does have a lot going for it. Its skate “parks” are fun, often made of cardboard, magazines, and straws—exactly as if a human was creating a skate park for birds. It also has a pretty good original soundtrack that sounds exactly what skateboard game music should. And you’re a bird that you can dress up in lots of adorable outfits, which is always a plus. There is obviously skateboard customization too: you can change the look of the board and the wheels. And with even more collectibles to unlock in levels, you’ll have more outfits and skateboard options if you take the time to collect them.
While being a bird doesn’t really change much, there are some functional differences between skating as a bird versus skating as a person—though they’re mostly cosmetic. For one, you don’t have legs long enough to reach the ground and propel, so your skateboard moves forward with little wing flaps. Also, most tricks involving grabbing the board is adorably done by the bird dipping his beak down and grabbing the board. Did I mention this game is cute? Well, it is. However, skating as a bird also allows you to sort of double jump, and even glide after jumps. You won’t get a lot of air by flapping your wings, but it allows you to pull off a few stunts that featherless skaters couldn’t.
SkateBIRD is a bit of a novelty, and that is all it seemed to aspire to be. It doesn’t have the chops to compete with the classics, unfortunately—so don’t expect a bird-themed skateboard revival anytime soon. But it’s a pretty mechanically competent skating game that is undone by a few glitches.
A Steam key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites on our Twitch channel.