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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Developer: Glass Bottom Games
Release Date: Sept. 16, 2021


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Switch/PC Preview - 'Skatebird'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 20, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Grind on bendy straws, kick-flip over staplers, and carve killer lines through cardboard and sticky tape parks in SkateBIRD.

The resurgence of extreme sports games has led to two hardcore skateboarding games vying for the attention of simulation fans. Arcade fans aren't left in the cold, as Skatebird is coming in to fill that void. We took a look at the demo made available for The Game Awards, and while the early build was short, we came away impressed.

The premise of Skatebird is both hilarious and cute. You are a tiny bird who loves skateboarding. Seeing as how you'd get crushed if you were to try skating in a human-sized skatepark, you head to a skatepark no bigger than a desk that's perfectly suited for your size. The rails might be made of straws and paper clips, and the ramps may be nothing more than curved skate magazines and cardboard, but it's good enough for you to bust out some cool tricks.

The demo is a small one, consisting of one small skate park, no time limit, and a brown bird wearing a Santa hat. That might not seem like much until you remember that the original demo for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on the PSOne also had one small level with a timer. The reason to bring up that game is because you'll instantly recall it the minute you pick up the controller here. The controls are the same for ollies, grinds, stalls, air tricks, and grabs. You'll twist in the air with the trigger buttons. There's no reinvention of the wheel here, as someone who just played Neversoft's most popular series can easily jump into Skatebird with no learning curve.

The team didn't just get the controls right, though. Just about all of the basic moves are here, from tailgrabs to stalls and spins, but it is the ease with which you can create lines that makes this immediately fun. Transitions from benches to ramps feel natural and made especially for big combos. Ramps are always capable of getting you enough air to pull off a grand trick in time, and you always hit top speed to ensure you get the chance to get air. There's even a cool transition ramp to get you over a wall. There's just the feeling that you're good at skateboarding, a hook that was always present in the best of the old skateboarding games, and that comes through nicely in Skatebird.

Right now, the main issue haunting the game is the camera. By default, the camera stands at a good distance behind your bird, so moving and grinding is fine. Go up tall ramps, though, and the camera starts to come in too close and has a bad time trying to adjust to get the perfect distance again. You'll manage most of the time, but there are situations where the follow-through becomes disorienting until you move forward on the ground and the camera quickly snaps into the correct position.

At the very least, the presentation is charming. There's only one track in the demo, but based on this and the first alpha that launched months ago, the choice for a completely lo-fi soundtrack does well to set up the game as a more relaxed experience than in the older extreme sports games. The look of the environment is perfect, with the everyday items like curved magazines, erasers, and straws looking wonderful as they mesh together to form the tiny skatepark. The bird's movements look quite natural, and the tiny bird looks cute enough that you'll be relieved when bailing doesn't result in a horrible, mangled mess.

As stated earlier, Skatebird still has a vague 2020 release year. Even so, it shows a lot of promise as far as nailing the moves and pick-up-and-play nature of a Tony Hawk game while boasting an absolutely adorable aesthetic. Provided the team can fix the camera issues and add more parks to skate in, arcade extreme sports fans will have an awesome game to look forward to.

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