Gamers comfortable skateboarding with complex button combinations received a rude awakening last year when Skate arrived on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Electronic Arts' take on the genre introduced "flick it" controls and mapped all tricks to dual analog sticks, a method that turned out feeling less arcadey than Tony Hawk. Now Skate makes its way to the Wii as SkateIt, with an even more literal interpretation of this "flick it" idea. Instead of flipping an analog stick to do tricks, the Wii's motion-sensing capabilities are used to finesse your onscreen skateboard. Using just the remote, a remote and nunchuk, or the balance board, players jet around the world in a quest to get sponsored, become a pro skater, and trick on every object in sight. While not all of the controls work as well as they should, there are enough options here that you should be able to find an input method that works for you. This is a deep and challenging game that encourages players to get creative with their skating.
Instead of pressing every button on your controller in dozens of combinations to perform tricks, Skate It is all about timing. The A button will give you a push, tilting the remote will steer, and flicking it in different directions will pull off a variety of kickflips and ollies. Nailing a grind comes down to snapping your remote at just the right moment. I found that turning in the air was pretty awkward with just the remote, so I play with the nunchuk attached and let the analog stick handle my rotations.
More adventurous gamers can step on the Wii balance board and control the game with their feet. You still hold the remote to push and grab, but steering and tricks are pulled off by leaning and bouncing on six different areas of the board. Playing this way can be fun but it's definitely more challenging. Whenever you replace a button press with some sort of body movement you lose precision and that is the case here. Playing with just the remote is less precise than Skate was, and riding the balance board is even less so. I doubt Skate It was originally designed with the balance board in mind, but it's nice to have the option to use it. What is annoying is that it has to recalibrate every time someone steps on and off. That means if you're taking turns on the board in a multiplayer game, it has to recalibrate for each person, every time. Seems like it would have been easy enough to save each player's calibration settings to make for a more breezy multiplayer experience. Another irksome multiplayer quirk is that, even if you're skating with just a remote, each player has to pass around the same one -- you can't all hold your own controllers.
The rather ridiculous premise here is that San Vanelona, the city Skate took place in, has been destroyed by some sort of disaster. It's in ruins, but has left a bunch of skateable areas for you and no one is left to get in your way. Was this setup just an excuse for the developers not to populate their environments? Maybe. But once you get into the game you don't really think about where everyone is. Shortly after starting you're whisked off to a bunch of real locations, anyway, so this whole disaster premise is pretty arbitrary.
This is a much less casual game than Shaun White Snowboarding, this holiday's other action sports title that utilizes the Wii balance board. It takes longer to become comfortable with the controls in Skate It, and the trick system is much more nuanced. For those that put the time into it, though, there is more depth to be discovered and a greater variety of challenges. The game moves along at a brisk pace, throwing quick little tests at the player. What is really cool about Skate It is that you usually have the freedom to complete a challenge the way you want. The game may ask you to perform a specific trick or earn a certain amount of points, but you're free to find the location that suits your fancy. Each challenge has two completion levels. You can "own it" by meeting the bare minimum requirements, but serious skaters can try to "kill it" by going beyond the call of duty.
The game also lets you get imaginative with your "My Spot." Each location you visit sets aside some land that you can decorate with objects unlocked by completing challenges. These objects (picnic tables, ramps, benches) can be placed wherever you like in your spot and rotated to suit your needs. This way you can design your own epic trick lines. Many challenges ask you to pull off a stunt in your My Spot areas, and these moments are when you can really get crazy and skate it your way.
Another major difference between this and Shaun White is the visual style. We praised Shaun White for its stylized, cartoonish graphics. Skate It, however, goes for a more realistic presentation, and the Wii just isn't powerful enough to pull it off. While the menus all look really slick, the in-game graphics are pretty nasty, full of jaggies and dull, lifeless environments. The visuals don't get in the way of the fun, though. It also has a first-class soundtrack with a wide variety of licensed songs representing punk, hip-hop, and rock.
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