Skate originally kicked off on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 around this time last year, but EA opted to leave the Nintendo Wii and DS out. Skate 2's next-gen development is in full swing, but rather than a port, Nintendo fans will be getting Skate It instead, a game designed specifically to take advantage of their consoles' hardware and controls. We recently got our hands--and feet--on the Wii version for a play at an EA event in at the publisher's headquarters in Guildford, UK.
The Vancouver-based developers from EA Black Box told us they wanted to bring the Skate engine to the Wii--while adding some awesome controls to it in the process--rather than porting Skate 2. We've played with the three control schemes before, which all seem to work well and feel quite natural. You can use the Wii Remote by itself, the remote with the Nunchuk, or the remote with the balance board. That's right, you're no longer limited to doing yoga squats on the balance board; you can take your board out into the virtual streets in Skate It. While technically Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party is the first Wii game to allow balance "boarding" (albeit with your butt), you'll be pulling off real tricks including, kickflips, ollies, shuv-its, and nose grinds with aplomb in Skate It. The 30 original moves from Skate are also back as additional moves, and all can be performed in any control configuration you choose.
Skate It's controls are pretty straightforward. The A button is used to push your board, twisting the remote left or right twists your board, flicking up performs an ollie, and facing your remote down or up does a manual or nose manual. According to EA, the building blocks for all moves involve lifts, twists, or twist and lifts of the remote. The D pad cycles through flip tricks, shuv-its, varials, and hand flips. The city of San Vanelona (an amalgamation of San Francisco, Vancouver, and Barcelona) from the first game was ravaged by a series of natural disasters and evacuated. Despite the fact that the city is still deserted, some industrious skaters have taken to repopulating the metropolitan skatepark during its rebuilding. You can read more about the Career mode in our previous coverage, but early on in the game, you'll team up with a video journalist (in town to report on the disaster) to create some gnarly skate videos while unlocking sponsorship deals along the way.
We're happy to report that the balance board control scheme feels just as suitable as the others. Thankfully, there's the option to change your stance on the board, which is useful for the goofy and left-footers (this is also an option on the DS version with the face buttons replacing the D pad for directions). The ability to change sensitivity should also ensure it caters to a broad range of preferences. More experienced players or skateboarders are likely to prefer a more sensitive board, whereas novices may prefer it less sensitive at first while they get the hang of steering and performing moves.
There are three multiplayer modes in Skate It, and we got to check out the uberfunny Hall of Meat mode at the event. Like every good skate video, Skate It wouldn't be complete without some amazing stacks, and this mode rewards you for inflicting the most amount of bodily damage on your skater as possible. The mode involves three rounds, with up to four players, in which to get the best score. After you've built up some speed, you can perform a "self eject" by flicking the remote down then hitting B, jumping off your board at, hopefully, breakneck speed, and meeting the asphalt with maximum impact. You can choose a range of different flying positions, including a human cannonball, spread eagle, and a good old-fashioned nosedive. You'll also rack up medical bills, sprains, fractures, and broken bones in the process. It's a bit unnerving to voluntarily drop from a bridge onto your head, but thankfully, the gore factor remains at respectable levels--the emphasis is on humour.
Skate It looks like it will be a fun and different addition to the series. If the controls, modes, and gameplay in the final version are just as much fun as the version we played, EA could well be on to a winner.