Coming almost a full year after the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game, Skate It is neither a sequel nor a remake. Instead it's something of an expansion of the original game, though not using the same controls and not on the same system. It adds a few new areas, remixes the existing locations and changes up the control scheme, but at no point will you feel like you're playing a completely new game. But who cares, the original game was a lot of fun and there's no harm in giving Wii owners something to get excited about.
Unfortunately this Wii version isn't nearly as much fun as EA's first stab at the skateboarding genre. Perhaps it's because it's been so long since the first Skate graced my TV screen, or maybe it's the fact that the controls seem even wonkier this time around. Whatever the case, I had a much more difficult time getting into Skate It on the Wii, and try as I might I never had as much fun as I did when playing the 2007 original.
Skate It takes place in the same city as the first game, San Vanelona. Seconds into the introduction, the fictional city is rocked by a massive earthquake, which changed some of the landscape and, more importantly, empties the city of all of those pesky pedestrians that get in the way. I'm not sure where these people went; I hope it's not inside buildings, because that could be really dangerous. Oddly enough, it was thoughts of the San Vanelona residents that kept creeping back into my head. I suspect that's because the story in Skate It is so unspectacular that I had to make up my own more interesting narrative.
Once you get passed the introductions and start playing you'll find that Skate It is largely the same as Skate, only this time around you're using your Wii remote (or Wii Balance Board) to clumsily control your moves. By and large you're doing exactly the same thing you did in the first game, such as going from location to location completing events, impressing people with cameras and trying to become the best skate you can be. I suppose there are worse things to be doing, but it's hard not to notice that all of this feels very similar to what you did in the original Skate.
The challenges start out simple enough, requiring you to grind certain objects or get a certain score. However, after awhile you'll notice that the game is asking more and more of you, some of which is hard to pull off thanks to the somewhat tricky control scheme. By the end of the game you are being asked to pull off superhuman scores while linking a number of complicated moves in a combo. Fans of this type of thing will have a lot to work through, while more casual fans may find the game's structure too focused on missions rather than just having a relaxing time.
One thing that has definitely changed since the first game is the city of San Vanelona. Instead of being one large, wide-open world that you can play in, Skate It is split up into eight smaller locations. You have most of the same hip locations found in the first game (the library, a mega park, the downtown plaza, an elementary school, etc.), only without all of the fun of getting from place to place. Once you have warped to the new location (thanks to a map you can access at any time) you will be given a series of events to complete, and then when you've amassed enough skill points at that location you can either stay and do the rest of the missions or move on.
After the first hour or so I felt like I was having a déjà vu moment. Sure the graphics weren't as good and the controls felt kind of strange, but it felt like I had been here before and done all of these things already. And just like that the game throws me for a loop, giving me access to the San Vanelona airport. When that location popped up I figured I would be weaving around airplanes and tricking off of everything on the tarmac. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was about to fly around the world, to places like Paris, Shanghai and Barcelona. Like the areas in San Vanelona, these international locations are all very small and have their own individual challenges to accomplish.
Of course, the draw of the Skate series isn't the cool locations, instead it's the way the game controls. On the Xbox 360 Electronic Arts took the chance to completely change what we were used to and have you pull off tricks using the two analog sticks. This Wii version also has a unique control scheme ... three of them to be precise. The basic has you using both the Wii remote and the nunchuck, pulling off tricks by waving your hand around and flipping the control in interesting ways. There's also a mode that lets you plug in your Wii Balance Board to get more of that skateboarding feeling. The final control scheme involves just the Wii remote ... and that option is so terrible that I'm not even going to waste time talking about it.The game is best when played with the Wii remote and nunchuck, though even that isn't ideal. The Wii Balance Board is interesting, but doesn't work nearly as well as Ubisoft's recent Shaun White Snowboarding game. No matter how you play it you're going to have a steep learning curve to climb. Ironically the controls have largely the same problem that we found in the Xbox 360 game. That is, there are far too many moves for the limited way you control your character. The game asks you to wave your arm and rotate the control, yet there are at least a dozen moves that can be pulled off using almost exactly the same movement. All of this gets even more complicated when you realize that the Wii's motion sensing just isn't accurate enough to do the job. Most of the time this isn't going to be a big deal, but just wait until the game asks you to do a specific trick in a combo and you spend the next three hours trying to pull it off. Talk about frustrating.
Speaking of pulling off the moves, for whatever reason the game seems to think that you should already know how to do all of the tricks. It's not immediately clear how to pull off any trick when you first start playing, so you'll probably want to consult your trusty trick book. Unfortunately the trick book is woefully inadequate for what you need and takes a few seconds to load it up each time. Is there a reason that the game couldn't tell you how to do the moves it asks you to pull off? Heck, at least give us the option to see how it's done before the mission starts. That isn't going to take any of the challenge away, and who knows, maybe after awhile you'll start to get used to how to pull of specific moves. The Tony Hawk series has been helping people out like this for years, so there's no excuse to not lend us a hand and tell us the difference between all of these different tricks.
Unfortunately the control isn't the only downgrade found in this Wii game. As you might imagine this Wii version doesn't have the same amazing graphics that were found on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I knew that going in and certainly didn't expect it to blow me away. What I didn't expect was it to look so rough and unpolished. Maybe it's the art style, but there's something about the way the game looks that just turns me off. I was especially disappointed with the way my character looked. Worst of all there wasn't that big of a graphical difference from place to place, so after awhile it felt like I was just skating through the same levels with slightly different layouts.
Thankfully the sound is a little better, mixing a lot of new school and old school music. The game's audio has largely the same feel of the first game, which was a good thing. Heck, it may actually be the same songs recycled for this game; I didn't go through and double check. On top of the solid line-up of tunes, you also get quite a few good sound effects and even a little voice acting.
When you're done messing around with the story mode you can check out the game's limited multiplayer mode. Sadly this Wii game does not feature the cool online modes found in the original game. Instead you get a few lame pass-the-control mini games where you have to beat each other's score, pull off the best trick, etc. I'm not saying you can't have fun with this mode, but it's a far cry from the action-packed online mode found in the original Skate.
Skate It may not be as fully realized as what we saw on the other two next generation consoles, but it's not a terrible Wii game. Those who missed the first game will likely have a lot of fun with this game, even if that means spending the first few hours just figuring out how to control the thing. There are still a mountain of problems that need to be fixed, but that shouldn't keep you from having a fun time going from challenge to challenge. With a little more time and a tweaked control scheme the Skate series should have no problem taking over the Wii, however this may not be the game that does it.