If there’s one game genre I’ll always give a try, it’s skating games. From Tony Hawk to Skate, to OlliOlli, skating games just have the perfect combination of chill vibes, satisfying mechanics, and a satisfying level of replayability. To its credit, Skate City has all of those elements, but they all feel far too simplistic and paired back. It can be simplistic fun, and a good way to kill time, but it mostly feels like filler and gets old fast.
At its core, Skate City is very similar to other side-scrolling skating games like OlliOlli. You control your skater by holding down a button to move forward, and then performing tricks with the left and right sticks depending on which direction you flick the sticks in, much like Skate. You can also use the right bumpers to perform manuals and balance yourself when grinding, but that’s really the basics of it. From there it really becomes about learning variations of tricks and being able to score as many points as possible.
Gameplay is built to be simplistic, and to that end it works. It’s easy to jump in, and it can be fun to pop into a few challenges and then hop out again. The tricks are all pretty easy to learn, with enough room for skill growth to feel like progression is being made. This simplicity is both the game’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. As much fun as it is to jump in for half an hour at a time, you eventually run out of reasons to do so unless you’re just looking to improve your scores. Even then, the game’s mechanics are so basic that it doesn’t feel satisfying in the same way that other skating games do.
Skate City is at its best when you’re going through its challenges. There are 21 challenges in each of the three maps, and they slowly get harder as you advance through. There’s a fair amount of variety too, with some challenges having you avoid the police, whilst others have you performing specific tricks within circles. Some of the challenges can be pretty hard, but they also make the game feel like it has a purpose, and I feel like it makes the most out of the mechanics.
By far my favourite set of challenges in the game were the ones where you had to complete as many listed tricks as possible within a time limit. It feels great to see them all be ticked off, and it tests your knowledge of the mechanics. I felt similarly to the ones where you’re performing specific tricks in an order, which almost felt like a rhythm game at times. Not all of the challenges are winners (I’m looking at you police chases and races), but most of them are great fun.
When I was going through these challenges, I could really see the appeal of Skate City. It gives the game a great “one more go” sort of feel. I just wish there was more content here, as the three cities get old pretty fast, and the challenges go by even faster. If the game had more cities with more unique challenges I’d find it a lot easier to recommend, but as it stands now there’s just not enough content here. Once I’d unlocked the three cities and completed their challenges, all I could do is try and improve my scores or spend my points on some basic customisation options.
The game also has a free skate mode for each city with its own set of challenges, but I found it a lot less interesting and a bit more frustrating due to how the maps are set out. Each map in the game is technically set on a loop, and you can only ever go forward. If you’re looking for a specific thing to do as part of a challenge, such as grinding or clearing gaps, there’s a good chance you’ll be spending most of your time actually looking for the things you need. It’s a consequence of not allowing the player freedom of movement, and makes sense all things considered, but it can still be annoying when you’re just trying to do one thing. This can also apply to some of the challenges, but it feels like the game chooses your spawn point smartly enough that it’s a lot rarer.
If I had to use one word for Skate City, it’d be inconsistent. Sometimes challenges are a ton of fun, other times they’re a mess. Sometimes tricks will work and feel great, other times you’ll feel like the game hasn’t registered things properly. Sometimes manuals are easy, and sometimes they’re next to impossible. It can be maddening, especially if you’ve got a good flow going, and it applies to so many elements of the game. I missed jumps, got caught by police, and failed tricks numerous times when I was doing the exact same thing that let me pass them before. I also ran into a few glitches during my playtime too, with some challenges having to be restarted due to my character getting stuck.
I initially didn’t love the game’s lo-fi music, but it did grow on me after playing for a while. Music is a big part of skating games for me, so it’s a bit of shame that it didn’t really stand out all that much. At their best, the tracks are catchy and work well, but there are a few that didn’t quite fit. I felt similarly about the art style, initially not loving it but eventually appreciating its simplicity. Some of the textures fall a little flat, but I loved the look of each city and how peaceful it all felt. Performance is generally okay, but I had a few issues with stuttering and controls being unresponsive, as well as loading times being a bit longer than I’d like.
It almost feels unfair to poke away a game that’s all about being chill and just having a good time. I definitely had a fair amount of fun in Skate City, but it never really felt substantial enough to really get stuck in. On a phone, I could definitely see the appeal of jumping into the game whilst sitting on a bus and trying to nail a challenge, but on the Nintendo Switch, I don’t think it fits as well. If you’re looking for a chill skating game with simple mechanics, this might be for you, but if you’re looking for depth and a longer shelf life then I’d wait for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Snowman