Skate City was released for iOS back in 2019. Developed by Agens Games and Room 8 Studio, and published by Snowman, it’s now making the jump to consoles and PC. The game is a side scroller that sees players skating through Los Angeles, Oslo, and Barcelona while vibing to chill lo-fi music.
The controls are simple and approachable. Pushing the skateboard is done by holding a button, while tricks are executed by flicking either of the analog sticks. Each direction corresponds with a different trick while one stick does the trick regularly and the other performs the nollie variants. In addition to flips, players can press the bumpers to spin 180 degrees in either direction, manual by pressing a trigger before landing, and a few different grinds when doing tricks by rails.
With those tricks in hand, players can play two different modes in each city: free skate and challenges. Free skate is exactly what it sounds like, allowing players to skate for as long as they like or try to complete specific tasks like doing tricks over a gap in an infinite loop of the level. This mode is where Skate City shines.
With its origins as a mobile game, Skate City is not trying to recreate the experiences of other skate games like the Skate or Tony Hawk series. Instead, Skate City aims for a more meditative experience. The visual design is soft, and the relaxing music combined with the intuitive controls make flowing through a level in free skate calming. The tasks, however, are generally uninspired. Most of them are very simple, like doing a kickflip over a trash can. Others are obtuse and reference locations within the map that aren’t clear, leading to completing them by just doing the required trick over and over until it completes.
Each level also has 21 challengers, each with completion rankings up to three stars. There are a variety of types of challenges that pop up across all three levels. Some give players a score goal to hit within a time limit, while others see players racing or trying to outrun a police officer who is on foot. Others dare players to beat several challenges, such as doing three combos with manuals. Most of them offer little difficulty, with the most engaging ones being the line challenges that task players with making the correct moves in specific locations to complete a tailored line.
However, the most difficult ones are the pedestrian challenges that task players with getting so many points while avoiding running into people staged around the level. Players have to switch back and forth between skating and grinding to avoid running into them. Unfortunately, the difficulty comes from the player battling the arbitrary and slow-to-respond controls to jump on and off rails rather than a true test of skill.
Completing free skate goals and earning stars on challenges rewards points that can be spent in the store to customize the player’s character, unlock special tricks, and level up the player’s four skills, as well as unlocking Oslo and Barcelona. The customization options are disappointingly simple. Players can buy different shirts, hats, glasses, pants, and shoes but the options lack any real personality. Once a player looks through the options and purchases their favorite from the dozen or so options in each category, there is little reason to purchase anything else.
Leveling up skills give players the most bang for their buck. Players can level up their spin, flip, balance, and speed. The prices for leveling the skills are rather low but have a massive impact on gameplay. Many later challenges, especially in Oslo and Barcelona, are impossibly difficult without the player leveling up their skills, especially the races. However, it is easy to level up the skills very quickly at the beginning of the game. But by doing so, trivializes many of the earliest challenges.
The special tricks that players can buy are much less impactful. Each trick is performed by holding a button while flicking an analog stick in a direction, but they do not add much to Skate City. They carry high point values but are effectively only worth purchasing to complete any free skate goals they’re associated with.
The disappointing lack of depth to the special tricks permeates all of Skate City. The game is well designed to be played in short bursts, just doing a couple of challenges or a quick free skate session. This leads to Skate City struggling to keep one’s attention through play sessions that reach any longer than five or ten minutes, and there is very little in the way of a learning curve to be found.
This makes the proposition of Skate City as a console game a difficult one. When the easy flow and music clicks just right, it hits well, but there is little else on offer here. Its lack of deeper mechanics or aspects for players to sink their teeth into is rather disappointing and leaves Skate City with nothing to hook players after experiencing the vibe it offers.
Skate City is available now on iOS as part of Apple Arcade and is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One on May 6.
When the easy flow and music clicks just right, it hits well, but there is little else on offer here. Its lack of deeper mechanics or aspects for players to sink their teeth into is rather disappointing and leaves Skate City with nothing to hook players after experiencing the vibe it offers.