SkateBIRD is a skateboarding game, developed by indie studio Glass Bottom Games. It was released to PC, Switch, Xbox One, and Amazon Luna on September 16th, 2021.
Birds are mysterious creatures. Some are cute. Some are annoying. According to a subreddit, they aren’t real. They can also do many things. Like swimming in water, or being vicious predators…or skateboarding. Move over Tony Hawk, there’s a new bird in town! Or is there?
The basic story to SkateBIRD is that you’re a bird who knows how to ride a skateboard, and you’re looking for your lost human. How does the Skateboard help you find them? Well that’s a good question, considering you’re a bird. Throughout the game you meet up with other birds who are trying to help you find your “Big Friend”. So you have to find a way to get to this mysterious office building. The game tries to have a basic story, but at the end of the day, it all falls apart. Plus I have no idea how missions ever truly move the story along. How does doing 5 manuals help with anything? The story tries to be a silly adventure, but I just found there was no true structure to it. What was made worse is that I spent minutes at a time after each mission, trying to find the next one, because the game has no radar or marker to point you to the next one.
Now the one true thing I was hoping for with this game, was for the controls and gameplay to be nice and tight. Unfortunately I was disappointed in this aspect as well. It’s clunky, it doesn’t function well, and there’s not much variety to the move set. Which I know, some skateboarding games don’t have a lot of move set variety, but you’re a bird! You can flap your wings, and fly in the air. Which brings me to my first point actually. In the game, you have your typical Ollie move, which acts like a jump button. In SkateBIRD, because you’re a bird, you get the option to flap your wings to sort of double jump. Except this doesn’t work as well as you’d think. Either you don’t go anywhere, you go backwards, or you overshoot where you wanted to be in the first place. In the last level, I had to do a mission where I had to jump into suitcases to get clothes. This was the most infuriating thing I had to do in the game, because it just didn’t work as well as it should’ve! Plus if you tried to double jump in a turnpike to try and get extra air, you’d get tossed out of your verticality instead.
To get more vertical air for more hang time, therefore more trick time, you had to build up a “FANCY” meter. This determines your speed. Now the game tells you to build this up, do tricks and go down ramps, and so on and so forth. But there were many times where I would go down ramps or do tricks, just to not get any extra speed. If your meter is full and you bring yourself to a full stop, hoping to slowly line yourself up with something, the second you start moving again, you’re going full speed instantly. Which would mess up a lot of things for me. So I’d go off something and soar off of it, instead of slowly coasting down. Then being in mid air there was no way to control my body, so I’d roll forward, hit the ground, and lose not only my combo meter, but my fancy meter, so I’d be super slow again.
This was made even more infuriating when I needed speed to get up a high turnpike for a mission objective. So I’d be trying to gain speed, only to lose it all and have to restart gaining my speed. The camera didn’t help this situation either. In most skateboarding games, if you go up into the air, and do tricks, the camera snaps to above you so you can see where you’re going to land, so you can make a compromise for everything. In this, the camera stays snapped onto you. So when you land, you have no idea what’s below you, or where you’re going to go. So when you hit the ground, the camera snaps around to behind you, in such a janky way that it messes up the direction you’re going, and makes you crash. I can’t even tell you the amount of times the camera would get stuck on something, and just jitter around like crazy, thus making it impossible to move, and I’d fall off the board again and again and again and again.
Onto the last bit of the hellish controls, they just didn’t seem to work like they were meant to. The game tells you that if you hold buttons, like the grind button, or the spine transfer button, you’d do each thing automatically when near the opportunities. So if you were close to a grindable object, the bird would jump up onto it. Or if you ride into a wire, your grind would start. But this never worked for me! So I’d have to jump and hope to god that the game would let me grind on the object. Or mash the spine transfer button hoping that it would register. Sure it worked when going from one ramp to another, but when I had to do it to a flat surface, it was a crap shoot!
Now one of my all time favourite things to do in skate games, is to be able to build a park, or play stupid silly minigames against my friends to find out who is the best skater. Unfortunately SkateBIRD has none of that. Outside of the 5 levels you can roam around in, there is nothing more to the game. Sure the game has charm, because you play as a bird, and there are some secret collectibles hidden in each level for you to find. Like more cosmetics and new songs. But that’s it. Once you beat the story, there’s no reason to ever look at this again.
- Game Has Some Charm
- Scratched The Skateboard Itch
- Unstructured Story
- No Park Editor
- No Multiplayer
- Terrible Camera
- “FANCY” meter
I wanted this game to be so good. I had such high hopes. But the terrible controls, the awful camera, and the lack of gameplay options outside of the “story” is a real big issue. It’s been so long since we’ve had a good skateboarding game, but unfortunately this is not the one. I cannot in good conscience recommend this game to anyone. Even if you have GamePass, just street clear of this game. No matter how much you love birds!
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Game & Developer Information
Images curtesy of https://www.glassbottomgames.com/