Skate City Review: Taking ‘Casual’ a Little Too Seriously
Skate City wowed us early last year, when it arrived on Apple Arcade. Now, it’s back for a second run, but this time, it’s on consoles. Does the transition make sense? The iPhone maker’s video game subscription service brought a wide array of games from various genres — all free-to-play and free of ads. Skate City was in fact one of the first games I tried from the Arcade collection, and I was pleasantly surprised. Skate City felt like a zen endless runner with touchscreen controls that were really easy to master, and a soothing mix of music and visuals that truly put you at ease while playing the game. Oslo-based developers Agens have brought the game to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and PC, but want gamers to shell out $15 (roughly Rs. 1,100) for what essentially is a casual skating game.
After trying out Skate City on my PS4, it’s hard to see why people would have want to do that. Here’s what you need to know about the game.
Skate City gameplay: Casual at best
If you’ve played Skate City on Apple Arcade, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the game on console — there are no notable differences between the two versions. For those unacquainted, Skate City is a side-scrolling skateboarding game where you control a custom character through hurdle-ridden sidewalks and esplanades of Los Angeles, Oslo, and Barcelona. By default, Los Angeles will be available for you and you can unlock the other two cities as you play.
For each city, you can choose between “Endless Skate” or a challenge. In Endless Skate, you get to skate through the entire city map in an infinite loop. You score points by performing tricks. The Skate City controls are pretty easy to pick up as well. You can perform ollies, nollies, and a wide variety of classic skateboarding tricks by flicking the left and right analogue sticks in different directions. On a PlayStation controller, tapping the cross (“X”) button will help you increase speed, while holding the circle (“O”) button lets you perform powerslides. While in air, pressing L1 or R1 shoulder buttons will let you spin in the desired directions for more tricks. Pressing the L2 or R2 trigger buttons allows you to enter or exit a manual. To grind a nearby bench or rail, all you need to do is jump in the air.
If (and when) you get tired of Endless Skate, you can choose from a set of challenges for each city. Challenges range from Callout (where you perform the specific tricks prompted on screen), Beach Race (racing with an AI rival) or LAPD (outrunning a hard-nosed police officer). Challenges are named differently for different cities, such as the LAPD Challenge on the Los Angeles map is called High Stakes for the Barcelona map. However, the basic gameplay mechanics remain the same no matter the moniker.
Like most other endless runners, Skate City starts off easy and gets incrementally tougher as you clear challenges. However, even when the going gets tough, you can still manage to master the game within a few practice runs by just timing your moves correctly. Even Super Mario Bros. takes skills and time to perfect. This one doesn’t.
You earn points by pulling off tricks and clearing challenges. These points, dubbed “Skater Cash” (SC), can be used to purchase new hairstyles, t-shirts, shades, and shoes for your character alongside deck stickers, colourful wheels, and custom trucks for your skateboard. Skater Cash can also be used to unlock locations and special tricks such as Impossible or Benihana. While playing Skate City, you can start recording at any point. When the recording is stopped, you get an option to sell your video to “sponsors,” who will reward you with Skater Cash, depending on how “cool for school” your run was.
Accumulating Skater Cash is not too tough. I was able to unlock both Oslo and Barcelona after completing a handful of challenges and goals within less than 3 hours. There are no microtransactions within Skate City as of yet and you can only unlock things using Skater Cash that you earn in-game.
Skate City graphics: Leaves much to desire
Skate City looked gorgeous on my iPhone screen. It instantly reminded me of another gem of a zen runner, Alto’s Adventure, from the Skate City publisher Snowman. I was hoping that the game would look even better on a TV screen, boosted by the graphics prowess of a PS4. Sure, the PS4 is last-gen, but this is a mobile-first game with cartoonish graphics we are talking about. Disappointingly, the developers haven’t managed to improve here as Skate City looks exactly how it looks on a mobile screen. You might as well play Skate City on an Apple TV — it’s included with Apple Arcade for Rs. 99 a month.
For what it’s worth, it’s still a good-looking game. The day/night cycles and the overall colour palette is incredibly soothing to the eye. However, I expected more from Skate City given its already solid foundation on Apple Arcade. But on the PS4, it feels like playing any other mobile game that has been casted onto a big screen.
And unlike most other games, Skate City never even prompts you to customise your character. So, in a way, you can finish the entire game without even hitting the customisation menu.
Skate City review
Skate City is far from the greatest skateboarding game out there. It lacks the high-on-adrenaline gameplay and larger-than-life challenges found in the critically acclaimed and best-selling Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series. It also lacks any glitches and bugs that might make it a fun cult hit in the lines of Skate 3. It doesn’t even have online or offline multiplayer to at least enjoy the game with a friend. Alas, I cannot justify the game’s $15 price tag, especially when much better games such as the remastered bundle of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is available for just a little more.
At its best, Skate City is just another casual endless runner game. It doesn’t challenge you enough. It doesn’t motivate you enough to put in hours and skills only to unlock a few cosmetic changes. It doesn’t encourage you to tinker around with your skills, tricks, or customisations as most of its challenges can be easily dealt with.
Skate City takes being casual a little too seriously. If you have the money to spare, but don’t wish to splurge on an Apple TV, you can fire up Skate City on a big screen with its release on consoles and PC later this week. You’ll probably enjoy the relaxing visuals with some lo-fi music playing in the background. If it were up to me, I’d just boot up Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 instead.
- Smooth gameplay
- Relaxing visuals
- No microtransactions
- Doesn’t motivate the player enough
- No multiplayer
- Not challenging enough
Rating (out of 10): 5
Skate City is set to release on PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X on May 6.
If you pre-order Skate City before May 6, you can get it for a special introductory price of $9.99 (roughly Rs. 750) on Nintendo eShop and Epic Games Store. It will be available starting May 6 on Steam, Epic Games Store, Nintendo eShop, PlayStation Store, and Microsoft Store. Post launch week, Skater City will carry the regular price tag of $14.99 (roughly Rs. 1,100).