Are you a closet skateboarder? Do you look at ramps in local skate parks, wishing you had a board, a nice sunny afternoon, some liquid refreshment, a loud punk band, and guts enough to actually use the damn thing? If you do, Street Sk8er will let you live out that fantasy pretty darn well. Street Sk8er (SS) is published by Electronic Arts, but all the development work was done by the team at Micro Cabin.
SS is a game that attempts to blend the intensity of a timed racing game with the artistry of a freestyle competition. Sound confusing and difficult? After about 15 minutes, you’ll understand what they’re trying to do and either find it fun (oops, I mean rad) or lame.
There are three play modes: Free Skate Mode (for practice), VS Mode (alternate play and see who scores the highest number of points), and Street Tour Mode (upon which this review will focus). This mode combines a high-speed race against the clock along with street tricks to gain additional points. There are three stops through the tour (LA, NY and Tokyo — not that you can really tell where you are), which are made up of a track with different routes that are unlocked as you score more points. This pretty much follows the standard style of racing games these days — win races with enough points and get access to new stuff like new boards, characters and routes. The game does take advantage of the dual shock controller, but it really doesn’t add much to the overall gameplay.
Now it’s time to play the game. First, turn up the stereo as loud as possible. EA signed up some of the best punk/ska bands from Epitaph and Capitol Records. We’re talking about Less than Jake, Pietasters, All, H2O, I Against I, and Gas Huffer. I’m surprised that a mini-mosh pit didn’t break out in my living room while I was playing! Without appropriate decibels, you aren’t taking advantage of one of the best parts of the game. Second, choose any character and start jamming. LA is the first course, and you start with some time on the clock but no points. As you progress through the course, you get extra time as you reach checkpoints. While finishing the tracks within the time limit is super easy, gaining enough points to advance to the next course is not. To score these points you use the half pipes, ramps and other structures that let you take flight, doing acrobatic moves that would make Mary Lou Retton jealous. Actually performing the tricks is easy—just push the ‘x’ button and a direction and the game picks the move. The faster the speed, the higher the jump, which means more points. There aren’t any ‘Street Fighter’ combo moves to learn—it’s all quite basic. When you finally have enough points, you can upgrade your skater’s skills (acceleration, jumping ability, etc) and then you move to a bonus round to earn extra time, which is added to the standard time allotted for the next track. These bonus rounds consist of either a half pipe or a bowl, where you either try to score lots of points or a maximum ‘big air’ jump. The gameplay doesn’t really change as you go through the tracks, although the challenges do increase.
Where does this game shine? It’s got that famous ‘If I just play this once more then I’ll be able to make it’ quality that all games strive for. I spent WAY too much time playing this game, trying to finish the next level. What else made it fun for me? How about a simple cry for ‘Medic!’ whenever you wipe out? My favorite trick was the rail grind—for beginners, this is when you grind the trucks of your skateboard on the metal handrail found on steps. It’s a risky move, but really fun when music is blaring and you pull it off.
As fun is the game can be, it isn’t very deep. I pretty much wasted both the game and a day playing it. So far, I haven’t found any really new tracks and it’s been a long time since I opened a new route through the existing tracks. I have found two new characters (one is a monkey!) but they really play just like all the others.
Want to save your game? No problem—as long as there is empty space on your memory card. God forbid if they’re both full, though. There’s no option to make room on existing cards, which is a crime for a fifth generation PlayStation game. These routines should be written somewhere—use them!
The graphics in this game are mediocre by today’s standards. As a matter of fact, they’re not even worth mentioning, which is a testament to the overall gameplay. The trick animations are pretty cool, but it’s the fun of the overall experience that pulls it off. There is a replay mode when you’ve completed your ride which is quite good, but I never made it all the way through one before I got bored and wanted to play again.
Have a few days to kill? Don’t want to tax your mind with some real-time strategy? Like loud music, skateboards, and racing games? Want to go about 40 mph and turn around more times than ‘spin art’? Then get on your board and go find this game!