Skate It Wii
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
There was a time when the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series was the best skateboard game experience you could find. Ever since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 though, the series has been in decline to the point that the games are nowhere near the quality they once were and in truth they have become rather stale. Last year EA released Skate for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and it injected new life into what had become a stale genre. If you ignore the PlayStation 2, the best selling console out there at the moment is the Wii and it's only natural that Skate would eventually find itself on the console, in one form or another.
Once again we are in San Vanelona, the same fictional city that Skate was set in, but this time things have taken a turn for the worse. The city has been hit by some kind of disaster and every single inhabitant has left the city leaving only you and a cameraman behind. In the game's Career mode the idea is to win the Skater of the Year by completing challenges, competing in special events, earning sponsorships and visiting new locations in which you can complete more challenges. In the process of doing all of this you'll unlock new boards and clothes for your character to wear. Whilst the Career mode is enjoyable, it only lasts around ten hours and feels a lot less open-ended than the one in Skate. In addition to the Career mode there are Freeskate and Party Play modes. In the Freeskate mode you can skate in any of the locations you've unlocked in the Career mode. Party Play gives you some local multiplayer modes to play with up to three others.
It's rather pleasing to find that Skate It offers three control schemes, including one that takes advantage of the balance board. You can play the game with just the Wii remote, with the Wii remote and the nunchuck or, if you have one, you can play the game using the Wii remote and the balance board that came with Wii Fit. Using just the Wii remote you'll need to roll it left or right to steer left or right. You'll press the A button to move and pressing down on the directional pad will allow you to brake. The steering is a little fiddly with this method but by plugging in the nunchuck attachment you can steer much more comfortably by using the analogue control stick. Of course if you're aiming for a more realistic approach you can use the Wii balance board in a similar fashion to how you would a real skateboard (and it must be quite realistic because I'm just as bad using this method of control as I am on a real skateboard). The balance board has several areas to which pressure can be applied allowing you to steer and perform nose and tail manuals by positioning your feet appropriately. Most of the tricks are performed with the Wii remote. You'll make various gestures with the remote to perform ollies, nollies, kickflips, pop shuv-its and flips etc. For the most part it works quite well, although it can be fiddly whilst you're using the balance board and moving the Wii remote at the same time. As a result, it does occasionally feel a little imprecise and it can be frustrating because of this.
It goes without saying that Skate It for the Wii is going to look nowhere near as good as Skate did for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In fact the visuals on offer here are closer to what you would expect from a PlayStation 2 game. With that said however, that game certainly doesn't look bad and at least the frame rate is better in Skate It than it was in the PS3 version of Skate. There have been some sacrifices however. Aside from you and your cameraman there is no one else in San Vanelona, or any of the other locations you'll visit, and I think it's fair to say this was probably to keep the frame rate acceptable (because whilst there's an explanation for San Vanelona being abandoned, there's no reason for the other locations having no people in them). San Vanelona certainly isn't as large as the sprawling city you could explore in Skate and you'll find yourself in smaller, confined areas.
Skate It is subtitled but you'll have to make sure you enable them first. Even with the subtitles enabled however, deaf gamers aren't going to be aware of everything that is said. Only the essential dialogue is displayed in text which means you're missing out on a lot of dialogue. Tutorial information is shown either in text or through the use of animations that demonstrate how to use the Wii remote. Objectives are shown in text and pressing up on the directional pad will allow you to recall the objectives (and accept challenges).
In many ways Skate It is a derivative version of Skate and it's not as impressive an experience that Skate was. That said, it's still a good game and one that skateboard enthusiasts will enjoy. The Wii balance board really does add another dimension to the experience and in some ways some will prefer Skate It because of the balance board control scheme. However, the controls could be more precise but this could be down to the hardware rather than the game itself. After all Nintendo are releasing the Wii Motion Plus next year to make the Wii remote as accurate as it should have been to begin with. This is bound to make the controls, in games that support it, far more responsive. As it stands, Skate It is a decent debut for the Skate series on the Wii and there's a lot of potential here that hopefully future titles in the series will realise.