Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s been way too long since we’ve have a good skateboarding game, with 2010’s Skate 3 being the last game worth playing. Since then, there’s only been one notable release in the form of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, a game that even if it wasn’t absolutely dreadful, was no longer the kind of skateboarding game I’m looking for.
When the Tony Hawk series of games was good, those games were all about racking up points, completing absurd objectives, and defying the laws of physics every time you ramped off of anything. No one really managed to be a real competitor until 2007, when the first Skate game was released. As the Skate series gained more traction with it’s more realistic gameplay, the Tony Hawk series started to decline both in popularity and quality.
But it wasn’t until very recently, when two early access skateboarding games hit the market, positioned to be the next big thing in the apparently defunct skateboarding genre. These games are Session and Skater XL, two games that are striving to take the elements people loved about the Skate series, and build upon it. The problem is, I’m finding that both of these options are way more than I was looking for from a skateboarding game.
Both Session and Skater XL unquestionably are striving to give players more control over their actions in an attempt to provide the most realistic skateboarding games ever. That’s definitely a good strategy, considering over the past 20 years or so, we’ve seen that change happen, so this just seems like the logical next step. Plenty of people are looking for this level of realism and simulation, but I find it’s just too much to deal with.
The simplicity of Skate was brilliant. With your right analog stick you did everything from ollies, to flip tricks, manuals and grinds, while your left stick was general navigation. There were other modifiers as well to allow for other tricks and abilities, but the core conceit was that with your two analog sticks, you could basically do everything. It wasn’t too simple, but wasn’t too complex. To me, it was the perfect balance I was looking for in a skateboarding game.
Session and Skater XL however, take things way too far for my simple mind. Each analog stick controls a foot, your triggers are how you lean while skating, and perform reverts and spins. It doesn’t sound like too much on paper, but in practice I find myself trying to turn and instead popping up into the air like an idiot. Turning with the triggers doesn’t ever feel good, and the simple act of performing an ollie never felt natural, instead feeling more like dumb luck that I was able to do it on command. The idea that you pull one stick down and push the other up to mimic the actual motion of the feet sounds good, but I’ve never found it more than cumbersome.
To me, the Skate series nailed the balance between an arcade skateboarding game, and a simulation of the sport itself. It’s also why I’m incapable of mustering up any excitement for either Session or Skater XL, because I know I’ll end up getting frustrated while playing it.
Clearly this is just me complaining though, because both Session and Skater XL are currently rated “Very Positive” on Steam, with people mostly complaining about bugs on their respective forums. This kind of intense simulation is clearly what people were looking for out of a new skateboarding game, but I can’t seem to get onboard with them… pun intended.