It’s immediately obvious what Skate City is trying to do. Running a gloriously stylised visual look, it’s a game that throws you back into your seat, controller in hand, urging you to nail any trick, any grind, any flip and any combo, building your skills and earning in-game cash in the process. From there, it’s all about rinsing, repeating and honing those skills forevermore. That may seem like a grind to many – and honestly, it is – but for the most part it’s a good old grind.
A skating sim that forgoes all the fanciness that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater plays on, and ensures that the sport is kept relatively exciting unlike Skater XL, Skate City really is one of the more chilled of skating affairs. It can provide a gaming experience that can either be taken in for just five minutes at a time, or as one which happily eats up the hours as you go in search of the very finest lines.
The premise is simple: skate until you can skate no more. Yet the more you do skate, the greater the opportunities which open themselves up. These take you from the mean streets of Los Angeles, through the meditative vibes of Oslo and into the hustle and bustle of Barcelona. Each of these are well-represented, although if I’m honest when you’re fully focused on the task at hand, skipping obstacles and attempting to show off to the world, the backgrounds and areas you are skating in could well be anything or anywhere.
Wherever you are looking to drop a grind, nail a flip or pull off a trick matters little in Skate City, as thanks to some super simple controls, everything is a cinch to pull off. Of course, as with anything basic, it’s the mastering of these skills which is the real key to how far you’ll find yourself moving through what is provided, with every flick of a stick, push of a bumper or pull of a trigger seeing the most complex of combos and moves pulled off.
By working the A button to move yourself forward, from there it’s the magic found in the thumbsticks that brings Skate City together. For instance, a push up on the left stick will see you ollie, while similar on the right will deliver a nollie. An angled approach pulls off a kickflip, whilst a simple tap of either bumper will rotate your skater to bring in 180s, 360s and more. Those are the most basic of moves you’ll be tasked with actioning.
There’s more though and taps of your triggers whilst in the air will see you transferring into a manual, with further special tricks – Melon Grabs, Impossibles, the classic Airwalks and more – all obtainable further down the line. But these all depend on being fluent in other skills first and with hundreds of combinations available, the real fun is in finding what works best for each given scenario you find yourself in.
In Skate City you’ll be tasked with competing in Endless Skate runs through any of the three cities, with no less than 30 challenges associated with each. These may see you needing to land a 360 spin or to pull off a specific kickflip at night in LA, or even to work the manuals and grinds for 1000 metres or so. All fairly easy stuff once you get the hang of matters. Things are ramped up on Oslo where you’ll start to find that 540 spins and the need to link combos and moves are made all the more apparent. Head to Barcelona – the last of the three cities you are likely to unlock – and the ante is upped even further. It won’t be long before you’ll be needing to bring your A-game to deliver skills like FS Pop Shove-It + Manual on a box + Pop Shove-It off, or even travelling an accumulative of 10000 metres through the air and grinding for over 1000 metres just at night.
It’s all a case of rinsing and repeating your movement through these cities, finding the best spots for each challenge and laying down the trick. Thankfully though, these towns are set on a shortish loop, so before you know it you’ll circle around town and find yourself back at the same obstacles, hoping that prior knowledge is able to help out. In fact, there are challenges and rewards delivered for moving through each city loop a set number of times without failing. Skate City obviously wants you to get to know your new-found skate spots.
Don’t think that if you miss a prime opportunity though, that’s you done for a few minutes as you swing back around. There is a much appreciated ‘skater placement’ button associated with pressing up on the d-pad (and a photo mode for those who like that type of thing attached to down on the same pad), and this lets you pick up and place your skater wherever you see fit. Found a table that needs flipping over? Place yourself just to the left of it and show off your skills. Need to grind a specific set of rails? You can easily get yourself positioned in order to try and try over and over again.
For many it’ll be the Endless Skate mode that is the backbone of what Skate City provides, but if truth be known it’s in the additional challenges where this skating experience really gets the juices flowing, especially as there are some basic races thrown in here too. With three increasingly difficult to grab rewards set for each challenge – each of which provides a certain amount of in-game cash – completing these will see you able to upgrade your skater with new skills – speed, pop, spin and balance – which in turn will enable the chance to complete your tricks with more ease.
Special tricks are also purchasable in this way, and so the grind to gather up enough dough to allow for purchasing of a No Comply, for instance, is certainly present. Throw in other items in the in-game shop that let you customise your skater – new glasses, hats, boards, gear and the like – and whilst these don’t really provide much draw to continue, it’s a nice little place to hang out for a minute or two.
For the most part every bit of cash you earn will be spent on new skills and new locations. With Los Angeles the only available city from the get-go, it doesn’t take long to take home enough in rewards to unlock Oslo and Barcelona. But it’s there where Skate City is let down a little.
Even though totally mastering every single challenge in LA, Oslo and Barcelona will take you some time, I just feel that there is room to expand these areas with a few more cities, lines and challenges. This would give the lesser skilled Skate City players a reason to keep going back for more, even if they know a specific goal is probably out of reach. It’s very much like how the Trials series of games was always great fun initially, until the difficulty ramped up significantly, bringing about frustration in the process. It’s similar here in Skate City, just to a slightly lesser degree.
Some of the latter challenges just seem a little unobtainable to anyone looking to enjoy a casual skate, and whilst many may find it within themselves to try, try and try again, there will be more out-there content with just covering the basics and then moving on to something else. The whole experience isn’t helped by a few bugs and glitches which are also present – a couple which require full game reloads whilst others can be fixed with a flick of a stick. For these reasons Skate City isn’t always the gloriously relaxed ride it should be.
It’s this lack of proper long-term goals that is a little hindering to Skate City, and even though the glorious visuals and stunningly serene lo-fi soundtracks are more than capable of drawing you in initially, further down the line, when the only goals left are seemingly out of reach, Skate City begins to feel like a ghost town.
For short term hits, and for those with a desire to show their skating skills on a new forum, Skate City flicks and tricks its way to glory. It’s just that the greater grind and increase in trick difficulty may eventually become too much to bear.
You can purchase Skate City on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S from the Xbox Store
- Beautiful visuals and soundtracks
- The three cities are wonderful places to spend time
- Flicking, tricking and grinding feels great
- A few bugs that pop up now and again
- The trickiest long-term goals will probably be left unmet
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Snowman
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Switch, PC, iOS
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 6th May 2021
- Launch price from - £12.49