When EA revolutionized the skateboard genre last year Wii owners were left out in the cold. Skate took the gaming world by storm with its realistic approach to the genre by using the analog sticks to simulate the trick system. Once the Wii balance board was released most gamers knew it was only a matter of time before the company would bring the series to Nintendo’s system. Skate It is not quite a re-make and not quite a sequel, but instead like most Wii incarnations an entirely new experience. The premise from the first game has been amplified with the introduction of motion controls and of course support for the balance board. The end result is a game that is not as casual friendly as most others on the system, but it when you finally get the hang of the new controls, it can be an extremely rewarding sensation.
Much like its other console brethren Skate It doesn’t rely on button combinations like the Tony Hawk series, but instead focuses on the timing of your actions. For the Wii version everything is done with motion, so for example performing an ollie would be as simple as tapping the A button to jump and then flicking the remote to the side. The margin for error is small so if you do not get enough air or your timing is off, the trick will not complete. The concept is simple, but mastering it is what made the original game so enticing for fans of the sport. For the most part this combination works and once you get used to all of its nuances you will be performing complex tricks in no time. I do recommend using the analog stick for turning and steering though, as it just feels more natural and responsive.
Of course if you are feeling audacious Skate It also supports another control method that is bound to become standard fare for all Wii games involving feet use. You can opt to control the game with Nintendo’s balance board peripheral and surprisingly it works well. Basically you use your feet to lean on different areas of the board to perform the tricks as opposed to flicking the remote. You can still control turning, jumping and grabbing with the Wii remote, but all of your tricks are performed with your feet.
This experience feels more like the actual sport and is more immersive than just flicking the remote around, but it does have a trade off; precision. Not everything is as easy or precise when you use the balance board and the learning curve is certainly much higher. However, if you can get past all of that I recommend using this method as it does separate this version from everything else and is one of the reasons it is on the Wii in the first place.
The main problem (as is the case with most games using motion control) is that while all of these control methods are fun, they are not always the most accurate. As you progress through the game there are various challenges that require you to pull of specific moves. Sometimes the exact same motion on the controller will trigger different moves because the game did not register it correctly. We all know that the technology is not perfect, but it can tend to get frustrating when you need to perform something specific and the game simply does not recognize it. This is also true of the balance board control. There were times where taps would simply not register in the game and it results in tedium as you continue to do the game motions over and over again to progress.
The single player game is much of what you would expect, and it can be entertaining, but there is one major issue and that is a lack of other skaters and pedestrians that were found in the original game. This can probably be attributed to the fact that the game is on the Wii and it simply is not powerful enough to handle all of that at once, but when Dead Rising is just around the corner I find it hard to believe the system can only handle one person on the screen at a time. The story attempts to explain this by stating that there was a major disaster in San Vanelona that somehow also spread to the other locales you visit including Paris and London. This gives the game a very lonely feeling and takes away one of the dynamic aspects that made the original so much fun.
You can also opt to play the game with friends, but just like most Wii games it has to be locally and you have to share a controller. This works fine when it comes to the standard Wii remote and nunchuk combination, but when using the balance board things become a bit more complicated. For each new player the board must re-calibrate and for some strange reason you cannot save these via a profile. If you can look past some of these issues there is a lot of fun to be had with the multi-player, even if you are forced to take turns.
Visually the game attempts to mimic the style of its other console counterpart with little success. The Nintendo Wii is just not capable of rendering the same visual panache as the other two consoles and it shows in games like this. The character models are realistic in presentation but lack the detail found in both the 360 and PS3 versions. The environments are also insipid with poor textures and a low resolution to boot. As I mentioned earlier the cities are also lifeless, void of any other skaters or pedestrians giving the game an empty feel. The menus are slick and the soundtrack spot on, but those are the only highlights of the presentation. Thankfully it does not ruin any aspect of the fun.
Skate It is a solid entry in the franchise and it really couldn’t have been done any better for Nintendo’s motion-controlled console. Some will argue that the visuals could have taken a more light-hearted approach to fit the casual appeal of the game, but as it stands they are the only thing holding this version back from its console brethren. The motion controls work great with the Wii remote and the balance board support adds another layer for anyone intimidated by the complex trick system. The best part is the game is fun and its bullet points are not just gimmicks. If you are a fan of the genre and own a Wii this one is certainly worth checking out.