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Skate City is a side-scrolling skateboarding game in which you skate left to right across the screen achieving objectives. Tricks are mapped to the joysticks, spins to L and R, and manuals to ZL and ZR. It played great handheld and played great docked, with no complaints about either method.
Though the name of the game is divine relaxation via skateboarding, your trick list is slim compared to the rest of the genre. You can grind and manual to extend combos, but the 900s, Kickflip McTwists, and even Quad Heelflips of THPS lore are not what Skate City is about. This realism really makes for soothing sessions, especially when your skater is comically and violently thrown (with ragdoll physics) to the ground when you hit an object or mistime your landing. It would jolt me out of a meditative playthrough, but it was almost always hysterical.
However, in Skate City, landing the exact same trick feels so natural and poetic, soaring through the air with perfect spin on both the board and the skater. You land it and it feels wonderful, scratching an itch in the same way that having the exact amount of tomato paste for a recipe and perfectly squaring up a softball at the batting cages do. This, ultimately, is the foundation of the Skate City experience. The challenges are there, and it is certainly fun to try and stretch out some long combos, but the game is totally content with players skating across the screen and doing whatever they want to relax them.
Skate City only has three levels, and unlike the THPS series, there is not a ton of tremendous variance between each level. Many of us can remember the first time we dropped into the expansive School in THPS after conquering The Warehouse, a superb example of how different environments can shape different skateboarding journeys altogether. But, regrettably, I did not get that same feeling going between Los Angeles, Oslo, and Barcelona.
If you've been hankering for a little 2D side-scrolling skateboard action but Roll7's OlliOlli series is just a bit too hardcore for your liking, Agens and Room 8's Skate City might just be right up your vert ramp. There's no precisely timed landing of tricks required here, no sweaty palms, complex combos or finger-twisting barrages of inputs to worry about. This is a much more relaxed affair and one that, for the most part, sells its dreamlike, laid back take on urban skate action rather well.
Originally released on Apple Arcade back in 2019, Skate City is certainly a rather slight affair, with just three small locations to ollie, nollie and grind your way around but, with all-important online leaderboards present and correct alongside a handful of unlockable special tricks, upgradeable skills and a skate shop from which to purchase trendy gear for your little ragdoll avatar, there's still a decent amount of fun here for avid skaters to sink their teeth into, especially given the game's budget price.
If you've played OlliOlli or its sublime sequel on Switch in the past you'll pretty quickly get a feel for the ins and outs of the controls in Skate City, with the same rhythmic stabbing of the 'A' button propelling your skater forward and various flicks of the right and left thumbsticks instigating a bevy of slick jumps and tricks. Grinding is contextual, simply pushing a direction with either stick near a railing, bench or other grindable surface sees you attach to it, and pulling off sick mid-air spins is as easy as hitting either the right or left bumper buttons to rotate your character in the direction of your choosing. You can also add manuals to the mix, hitting 'ZR' or 'ZL' when airborne allowing you to land down on either the back or front of your board and, as with grinding, you'll then need to balance yourself in order to sustain your chosen move by using both shoulder buttons to keep your body weight centred.
To top all of this off, Skate City also comes with a photo mode where you can place your skater around levels, pause, zoom and tilt in order to capture your tricks, skills and whatever clothing you've happened to purchase from the game's skate shop. It's a simple offering, and one that doesn't really hold up quite as well here given the Switch version's rather muddy visuals, but it's still nice to see its inclusion. Touchscreen controls also make the jump fully intact from the game's Apple Arcade incarnation, although we doubt anyone is going to prefer this method as it just doesn't feel quite as reliable as a good old controller.
Skate City is a laid back, chilled out alternative to the more hectic skateboarding action of the likes of Roll7's OlliOlli series. The various tricks and skills here won't take you long to master, putting together little runs through Los Angeles, Oslo and Barcelona feels satisfying and the overall aesthetic suits the rather simple, straightforward nature of proceedings. However, there's an undeniable lack of actual challenge and variety here, alongside a few niggling framerate issues on Switch, that result in a game that's reasonable enough value for a quick bash, especially given its budget price point, but one that won't last anyone beyond the most avid of skateboarding fans for much longer than a couple of hours.
This game is pretty much what I wanted OlliOlli to be. That game was so demanding it was basically an auto-runner/rhythm game. This is much more of a true skateboarding game, and it's interesting being a side scroller essentially.
Parents need to know that Skate City is a two-dimensional skateboarding game that allows players to perform tricks while skating left to right through lightly populated public spaces in familiar cities. The player's skater -- whose gender, skin color, and appearance can be customized -- doesn't seem to bother the people around them. They are focused on practicing and mastering common tricks such as ollies and grinds. They fall frequently, but are never bloodied or permanently injured. Players may find this game rouses an interest in skateboarding and physical activity.
SKATE CITY is a side-scrolling skateboarding game set in public spaces within familiar cities around the world, including Los Angeles, Oslo, and Barcelona. Players tap one side of the screen to increase speed and swipe in various directions on the other side to perform tricks, such as ollies. You can also grind on certain objects, tapping either side of the screen to maintain balance. A traditional gamepad controller can be used instead of the touch screen to enable more precise control. Play is broken into free skating -- a relaxing mode that lets players skate endlessly, practicing their tricks -- and challenges, a series of objectives that encourage players to perform a series of specific tricks. Players earn currency as they progress that can be spent on a range of upgrades, including base skills such as speed and balance, unique tricks, and personalization options for your skater, such as shirts, boards, and hats.
The skating mechanics are solid, and that's enough to make you keep skating over and over again. Skate City isn't looking to emulate the iconic Tony Hawk games with a three-dimensional open world designed to facilitate extreme stunts. Instead, it wants to provide a different kind of skateboarding experience, one with its own aesthetic and vibe, and it largely succeeds. Its artsy visual style -- muted colors and an almost hand-drawn look -- ought to appeal to the skater crowd, as will the simple but authentic clothes, hairstyles, and boards with which you can equip your skaters. The tricks are similarly faithful to the sport, the sort you'd see performed by talented amateurs at your local skate park, and are all the more gratifying because they're so real. This is a game meant to appeal to people who enjoy and appreciate the subtle beauty of skateboarding rather than non-skateboarders looking for outrageous stunts.
That said, there's a little room for improvement. Music is important to skaters, and the soundtrack is sadly bland and forgettable. And while the touch controls are blissfully simple and easy to understand, it's hard to achieve a mastery level of precision on a touch screen. It's better played with a controller, but most people are unlikely to have one handy while out and about, which is where they're most likely to play a game like this. These are far from deal-breaking issues, though. Skate City is perhaps the most Zen-like skating game currently available for mobile devices, and just the sort of experience that ought to satisfy people who love skating in the real world.
Skate City will have players taking on different challenges throughout the three cities offered: Los Angeles, Oslo, and Barcelona, along with an endless free-skate in any of the cities. Los Angeles and its challenges are available right away while the other two cities need to be unlocked. Challenges range from simple high score runs to slightly more complex trick-lines. With the completion of each challenge, players will earn in-game currency that allows them to unlock skater skill points, new clothing options for their custom skater, and the other two cities.
This is where Skate City comes up short compared to other skateboarding games, however. There just isn't enough content to keep players engaged, with only three cities and 30 short challenges in each city, the game ends quite quickly. The free skate mode is enjoyable but each city loop feels small and the actual gameplay isn't challenging enough to really warrant that 'one more play' mentality that other high-score games can offer.
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