Last year, EA released Skate on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and the game revitalized the skateboarding genre with its unique control scheme and freeform goals. This year, the Wii is finally getting in on the party, and it's got a unique control scheme of its own. If you've ever been tempted to skateboard in your living room only to be thwarted by your lack of half-pipe (or actual skateboarding skills), EA's Skate It for the Wii does an adequate job of re-creating the experience.
The story in Skate It is your typical rags-to-riches sports story; it's forgettable, but it gets the job done filling in the gaps between Skate and its sequel. Much of your time in the career mode is spent in San Vanelona, the city from Skate on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Destroyed by some unnamed disaster, San Vanelona is in rough shape, and you and your trusty cameraman appear to be the only two residents left. Instead of giving you the open world of Skate, each section is split into fairly large stages that must be traveled to via a map and load screen. Like Skate, your goal is to complete challenges, get sponsors, and win skater of the year.
The career mode is functional and will keep you busy for around eight hours, but it lacks the open world that you were able to explore at your leisure in Skate. The game briskly pushes you from task to task, making career progression quick and easy. While you can certainly cruise around each stage and find the challenges that await you, it's easier to just bring up the menu screen and zip to your next challenge. The lack of cohesion makes the game feel less organic and more like a list of challenges and tasks.
Not all of your challenges take place in the remnants of San Vanelona; there are a number of European venues as well. Some of the overseas stages are just skate parks that wouldn't look any different if they were in San Vanelona. Others, like Shanghai and Barcelona, offer small towns with distinct styles and plenty of skate opportunities, and these are the most fun to play. Strangely, you'll never see another skater or pedestrian anywhere. This makes sense in the deserted ruins of San Vanelona but not in the other venues, especially when the intro cutscenes show densely populated streets. The lonely levels don't affect the gameplay, but they add to the soulless feel of the overall package.
As was the case with Skate, the big draw of Skate It is the unique controls. There are three different control schemes for you to take advantage of: The Wii Remote alone, the remote and Nunchuk, and the remote and balance board. Unfortunately, none of the control schemes are as reliable as they should be. Whether it's flipping the remote or gyrating on the balance board, repeating the same motion twice will almost always result in two different tricks. The developer seemed to know this, because very few goals ask you to perform a specific trick. Instead, you'll get a lot of challenges asking you to "Do four flip tricks" or "Do a 180 grab." So you likely won't fail too many goals because of the controls, but it's still frustrating to feel so disconnected from your skater. Of the three control schemes, the remote and Nunchuk are the most precise, while the remote and balance board are the least. Skating around on the balance board is fun for a while, but steering your skater can be tricky, and playing through the whole game like that is just asking for a backache.
The multiplayer in Skate It comes in the form of a pass-the-controller-style party mode. There are a number of games like highest score, best trick, and best line, but the inconsistent controls add too much luck to the affair. You might be hoping for a high-scoring 180 pop shuvit, but instead you'll get a worthless ollie.
Skate It makes a great first impression with its slick menus and home-movie style, but that style doesn't carry over to the actual game. The in-game graphics are impressive, though everything does look a little blurry. There are plenty of name-brand clothes to dress your skater in, but there are few customization options when it comes to his or her physical appearance. Facial options, for example, range from ugly to horrifying to what looks like Andy Samberg in drag. At least your attractiveness-challenged skater animates well, realistically flipping the board and shifting weight. Despite their dull appearance, most of the levels are set up well, and many have sections that let you move objects to construct your own sweet lines. Those familiar with Skate will recognize the city, but it's been changed in some interesting ways. The destruction in San Vanelona has affected almost every landmark, leaving skateable debris and rubble everywhere. Even if you've put hours into Skate already, you'll find enough changes to make the city worth visiting again.
The music offers an eclectic selection including Judas Priest, LL Cool J, and variety of lesser-known artists. There are a few duds in the tracklist, but most of it is great skating music. The voice work from your cameraman and various pro skaters is good and often encouraging, but sometimes it comes through sounding muffled. The skating sound effects are terrific, with every texture and surface emitting a different sound.
It's not saying much, but despite its disappointments, Skate It is still the best skateboarding game on the Wii. It's a step in the right direction in delivering a satisfying living-room skateboarding experience, but ultimately, it's not worth the cash in this crowded holiday season.