It's still a young franchise, but the Skate series already has two distinct features: its unique "flickit" controls and its realistic depiction of skating. Each system the series has appeared on has used the hardware in different ways to replicate the feeling of flipping a skateboard. The analog sticks did the tricks on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, while the Wii Remote or balance board handled them on the Wii. The DS version features a stylus-intesive control scheme, and it works beautifully. The slick controls and robust single- and multiplayer offerings make Skate It a deep, authentic skating experience worthy of the Skate name.
There isn't much for you to do in Skate It other than win the challenges and move on. Instead of having you skate around an open world like the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, Skate It on the DS takes after the Wii game of the same name and splits San Vanelona and other skate areas into large chunks accessible through a map screen. Each area has a variety of skate challenges including best trick, races, film goals, and more.
Though some of the goals can be tricky, challenging you to perform some precise moves, the single-player campaign still moves swiftly. After completing the required number of goals to move the career forward, you'll be whisked away to the next map for a new challenge. Like the Wii game, this hurts the laid-back vibe originally established with Skate. Without the cohesive open world, the game loses a little of its soul, but thanks to the unique controls, it still feels like a Skate game.
The stylus controls are remarkably precise. Using the bottom screen, you quickly draw your tricks on a picture of a skateboard. An upward slash will give you an ollie, while a diagonal slash will produce a kickflip, and so on. You have dozens of tricks to experiment with, and most of them are easy to pull off. Drawing out your tricks is intuitive, but it does take a bit of getting used to before you can successfully pull off a long line of combos. Thankfully, the margin of error is wide and the recognition is usually good. Every now and then, the system will fail to recognize one of the more complex doodles, but overall the controls are tight and allow for some creative skate sessions.
Once you work your way through the campaign, which could take between 6 and 10 hours depending on how many of the extra challenges you go after, you can fill your time with the excellent multiplayer and skate park creator. You can set up matches locally via single- or multicard play or hop online and challenge your friends or random strangers to a variety of games. The matches we played were lag-free and easy to set up, though like the single-player game, they still suffer from some occasional slowdown. You can choose to face off in one of the many locations in the single-player, or you can load up your own skate park and share it with friends.
Completing goals in the single-player game will reward you with tons of pieces for your skate park. The warehouse you build in is large and the pieces are diverse, allowing you to set up some interesting obstacles. Building is as easy as sliding a piece into place with the stylus. The best part about these custom maps is the ability to set goals and challenges. You can place spawn points for a number of game types and then send them to your friends to compete. Creating custom skate parks is a lot of fun, and the easy-to-use editor adds hours of replay value to the game.
Skate It looks reminiscent of the console games, and while not the most attractive game on the DS, there's a fine amount of detail and some pretty backdrops in the various locations. Other than some hideous faces and jarringly abrupt bailout animations, the skaters look great. They animate fluidly and appear to have real weight and balance on their boards. The camera is set a little higher than the console games, giving you a better view of the action. Sometimes, after respawning from a botched trick, the camera will freak out and face the wrong way. It's not a frequent problem, but it can be annoying in some of the racing challenges.
The sound design has been a high point in the console Skate games, but things didn't turn out so well for the portable version. While it's nice to have actual licensed songs playing in the background, it's annoying when there are only a handful of them and they repeat endlessly. The skateboard sounds are authentic, but they have a tendency to get out of sync with the action onscreen.
With its unique controls, solid multiplayer, and deep skate park customizations, Skate It is a great first entry for the series on portables. There are a few quirks and unrefined patches that take some getting used to, but in the end, it's an enjoyable on-the-go skating game that's worth a look from any skateboard game fan.