If you are a big skateboarding fan, you might have picked up the recently remastered Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. You might also be thinking, “What skateboarding game will I turn to next? Will there be a new Tony Hawk game in the future?” I do not have an answer to either of these questions. All I can tell you is that the time you spend waiting for a new Tony Hawk game will not be well spent if you play Skatemasta Tcheco.
The latest game to star the slightly bearded, sometimes fanged manchild (?) Tcheco comes to us from developer Marcelo Barbosa and porters, Ratalaika Games. The game is a love letter to retro platformers of the mid ’80s, and the visuals will tell you that in an instant.
If I did not know that this was a new release, I would have thought I was playing a game straight out of 1987. This is easily the game’s biggest accomplishment. Even the start up screen made me think that my monitor had been replaced with a vintage TV, as every part of the menu is placed in front of a bright blue screen. The color choice for each stage, the animations for each character, the music and even the voice lines that Tcheco has all sound completely, perfectly old-school. That’s part of the problem.
Skatemasta Tcheco could easily pass for a game from the third generation of video game consoles, not only because of its visuals, but because of its crushing difficulty. First off, the controls feel primitively unresponsive. As he skateboards through every level, Tcheco never stops moving. If you are not telling him to go anywhere, he will cruise ahead at a relatively slow pace. This is absolutely maddening. Landing on smaller platforms means having to move back and forth in an attempt not to let Tcheco fall off. Combined with the fact that every single level in the game is an auto-scrolling level (yes, the kind of level that makes everyone groan when it appears in any other game), the should-be-simple act of controlling Tcheco is made into an irritating battle.
The sketchy button inputs for jumping make this even worse. If you press the jump button while in the air, Tcheco will hurl himself forward. This can be used to great effect when taking on baddies, but eighty-five percent of the time it happens when you do not want it to. You may think that Tcheco has landed back on the ground and is ready for a second jump, but he thinks he’s ready to hurl himself forward and into a pit.
Now, falling into a pit is something I am used to, since I play video games. However, the way the game handles health is an absolute mess. If you lose all your hit points on a level, previously completed levels stay completed. That is a wonderful quality of life addition, you might think, but your health is not replenished between levels. Let us say that you just barely squeezed your way through a final boss fight. If you can only take two more hits before dying, then you only have those two hits to start any of the next levels that you choose. Take it from me: you will be hit more than twice on harder levels. My recurring nightmares do not lie.
Of course, you can always try to find a health kit in the next level, but those are harder to come by than an Xbox Series X available for pre-order. Your best bet if you find yourself stuck, then, is to restart the entire game. This is made slightly better by the fact that you can play the levels in any order. This at least will allow you to see everything that the game has to offer.
As far as the levels are concerned, they are pretty well-designed. They are all certainly different from one another, and the shifting platforms you see on level two will come back in level five to combine with the disappearing platforms from level four. Successfully completing a course means you must constantly be on your toes and learning the behavior of enemies and platforms. Yet, despite the game’s exceptional job at achieving the best parts of a retro look, it also achieves the worst parts. The colors of each stage, while undoubtedly retro, are lurid and painful. I could only play the game in short bursts due to the aching that would start in my eyes. Even those shorter sessions would lead to me seeing my living room constantly scrolling to the left as well.
Skatemasta Tcheco on Xbox One is stuck in the past in the best and worst ways, and half the battle of completing a level are its frustrating controls. For a platformer, that is the very last thing that you want. The amount of health pickups is incredibly sparse for a game that barrages you with damage, and the auto-scrolling levels compound the frustration. The best reason to give the game a go is to see the incredible work that was put into creating something that feels like it just arrived via a time machine. Sadly, in its efforts to harken back to the days of gaming yore, Skatemasta Tcheco ignores all of the lessons that game development has learned since then.