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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hen Electronic Arts released “Skate” last year, everyone thought that it would change the face of the skateboarding genre forever. So why doesn’t the company’s Wii-specific version, “Skate It,” feel just as revolutionary? Well, because it’s not. Falling somewhere in between the realistic simulation of its big brother and the arcade style of the “Tony Hawk” series, “Skate It” won’t wow players with its average graphics or flawed controls, but it still offers a fun pick-up-and-play experience that casual fans of the sport will enjoy. In other words, it’s a Wii game.
For as little story as the original “Skate” had, this version has even less. After a series of freak disasters leaves San Vanelona in ruins, you take full advantage of the destruction (and sudden disappearance of everyone in the city) by turning San Van into your very own personal skate park. When skate pros like Rob Dyrdek and Mike Carroll begin to take notice, you’re invited to partake in a series challenges, photo and video shoots, and competitions around the city (and the rest of the world) as you attempt to land a sponsor and win the title of Thrasher Skater of the Year.
Though the challenges themselves are similar to “Skate,” the way you play is completely different. In fact, you have three options to choose from. The most natural is the Wiimote/nunchuk combo, which maps steering and player movement to the analog stick and everything else to the Wiimote. The buttons on the controller handle all of the basic stuff (pushing, breaking and grabs), while the Wiimote itself activates the actual tricks. Tilt the Wiimote forward or backward to perform manuals, flick up and down for ollies, and flick in a variety of other directions for kick flips. It’s not quite as intuitive as the Flickit controls in “Skate,” but it still works pretty well.
The same can be said for the Wiimote-only option. It’s a little more difficult using the Wiimote for both movement and tricks, but those familiar with “Super Monkey Ball” will prefer the streamlined controls. The only problem with both control schemes is that you don’t always perform the trick you’re trying to do. The different ways you're supposed to flick the Wiimote are very similar to one another, so while you may be trying to pull off a Pop Shuv-It, you’ll do a 360 board flip instead. Thankfully, “Skate It” doesn’t task you with performing certain tricks at a given time, and though it may be frustrating for hardcore players, it doesn’t really get in the way of your progress.
The third and final control option is the Wii Balance Board, and this is where “Skate It” really does a face plant into the concrete. Though it’s obvious that the game wasn’t designed for use with the board, EA has decided to take advantage of the “Wii Fit” fad anyway by making it compatible. You still use the Wiimote to push the board and activate grabs in the air, but everything else is done while standing on the board. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work the way it was meant to. The board is so sensitive that instead of performing a simple turn, you get stuck going around in circles, and setting the sensitivity lower makes it impossible to do any tricks. It doesn’t really effect the overall gameplay since you have two other control schemes to choose from, but it’s a frustrating addition nonetheless – especially when it had the potential to be just as groundbreaking as the first game’s Flickit controls.
“Skate It” is far from the top-notch experience that its predecessor offered. The Career mode is too short (though beating the game doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve completed every challenge), the multiplayer Party Play mode leaves much to be desired, and loading takes so long that you'll avoid digging into the plethora of licensed skater gear just to save yourself the agonizing delay of maneuvering through the menus. There’s still plenty to enjoy, however, and though most skating fans would be wise to hold off until the New Year for the series’ next-gen sequel, “Skate It” functions as the perfect extreme sports appetizer while you wait.