I wrote my first Skatebird preview back in June during the summer Steam Game Festival. It was only a small glimpse at what this unique skateboarding video game would be in the future, but I left my hands-on time with that demo excited.
I would have played the demo more, but then the festival ended, and so too did my time with the game. Until now…
Eight months have passed since I last had the opportunity to play Skatebird. And as you would expect, a lot has changed.
Here is what Skatebird‘s developers posted on Steam before the event.
It’s a very, very different demo from what we had up before. Different level, a year’s worth of control refinements, the actual story, etc etc. This is close to what we’ll be launching.
At the latest Steam festival, which ran from February 3 to February 9, folks had the opportunity to play an almost-finished version of the game, in addition to its second level.
Here’s what I liked and disliked after my week spent with Skatebird.
Skatebirding (On Rooftops) Is NOT A Crime
The first and most noticeable change in this version of Skatebird is the environment. In the alpha, users could push and kick their way around a bedroom littered with old Thrasher skate magazines, soft drink cups, and everything in between. It was awesome, but only the beginning, as I came to see in this latest demo.
Skatebird‘s second level felt like I was at one of those old concrete skateparks. Maybe that’s the retired skateboarder in me, or maybe it was the way this level was intentionally crafted. Nevertheless, to design a skatepark across several rooftops with connecting powerlines, kickers, quarter pipes, and ledges to skate is genius. I mean, really? Where else would a bird choose to skate?
This level was prime for stringing together different grinds and combos. Stalls were also easy to execute on the ledges and were the perfect break during a long combo to collect your bearings. Most impressive was that this level was not only one rooftop. As mentioned above, it was connected by different beams and power lines. There was a connecting ledge that made it easy for players to go from one area to another.
Skatebird‘s gameplay and controls also felt more refined. The bird had apparent weight to it, which was not something I necessarily noticed in my previous playthrough. Tricks looked better than ever, and things just felt more natural — or as natural as controlling a bird on a skateboard can feel. Another added dynamic to this demo compared to the last is the beginning of what the developers refer to as the actual story.
I saw two examples of what the story mode might look like. During one task, skaters had to shred around collecting toolboxes so the birds could implement a filtration system. With another objective, players had to transfer from one ramp to another. We also had a fellow skatebird introduce us to what landing on a fan does to our character, which quite simply launches them into the sky like Buzz Lightyear after introducing himself to Woody and the gang.
This, I would quickly learn, was my favorite way to get from one rooftop to another.
What I Don’t Love And What I’D Like To See In The Future
This does not qualify, but I despise the fact that I have no way to play the game now that the festival is over. Give me just one level to play to hold me over between now and the official release. Please! Heck, I’ll order Pizza Hut or read a book for Book It. Whatever it takes. All I want is unlimited time with a Hawk named Tony and the Glass Bottom Games’ equivalent hangar level. Is that too much to ask?
Anyway, I write all this out because there’s just not a ton I don’t like about the game right now. There were times when I thought I had successfully grabbed a toolbox only for the game to tell me I had not grabbed one. A few times my epic runs were stopped short by a questionable bail or fall. But all in all, these are occasional bumps and bruises I would expect to endure during any skateboard session. Plus, that type of stuff happened in Tony Hawk, so I can’t be too hard on it.
All in all, there’s not a whole lot to dislike about Skatebird. But then again, that could all change when the game is officially released later this year.
The truth is, the biggest concerns I have about the game relate to how much is still unknown. It’s a mystery. And I have to believe creator Megan Fox likes it that way.
Will there be a create-a-bird feature?
Could we see an instant replay system with the ability to edit and cut your own skate videos?
Is there online play?
When will I be able to play the full retail version?
What does Glass Bottom Games have planned next?
And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
Skatebird is shaping up to be a fantastic game. A game that I am starting to look forward to as much, if not more, than EA’s highly anticipated Skate sequel — which is a game that I have been patiently waiting for through the years. Maybe I’m enamored with Skatebird because it’s set to release later this year, while Skate is still extremely early in its development. Then again, maybe this is just a testament to how bright the future is for Glass Bottom Games’ skateboarding birds.
Years ago, I remembered dreaming of a time when skateboarding video games would steer more towards the sport’s realistic side. That shift happened. Now, countless skateboard video games truly represent what skateboarding is all about. But now, I want something that can be light, fun, and honestly, different.
From the first time you step on your bird’s miniature board, to every creative and outrageous obstacle in between, Skatebird is different.
Yes, I am thankful for all the skateboarding games that came before, but now, I’m Skatebird or Die.