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Skate It (Wii)

Rated: 7+.

Story: The city of San Vanelona has been hit by a series of natural disasters. All is not completely lost, however, since this has handily created some excellent impromptu skate parks. Practice your skills, get filmed pulling some tricks and then join the professionals, performing acts of skateboarding derring-do around the world.

Or, if you're as uncoordinated as me, wrap yourself round a railing and then bump down some stairs on your face. Over and over again.

Gameplay: You must skateboard around large levels, completing challenges to unlock new events and locations. Challenges usually involve racking up a certain number of points by landing enough tricks within a time-limit, in an unbroken run or on a particular piece of scenery.

There are three available methods of control.

  • The wiimote can be used on its own, rotating it to steer, tipping it forwards and backwards to tip the board, and flicking it and waggling it to do tricks.
  • The nunchuk can be attached to the wiimote, allowing the thumbstick to be used for steering.
  • The wiimote and Wii Balance Board can be used together. Steering is achieved by leaning and tricks are pulled by putting weight on a particular part of the board. The wiimote's buttons are used for things like kicking off and braking.
Save System: Autosave after completing tasks. The save file takes up around 125 blocks of the Wii's internal memory, though, compared with 1 block for most games. You may need to clear some space.

Comments: When the controls for the Wii were first demonstrated, gamers the world over dreamed of myriad possibilities: sword fights and light-sabre duels, torch pointing and drum playing, billiards and basketball. All kinds of things.

Unfortunately, the wiimote isn't actually up to most of these things and plenty of games limit themselves to using the buttons with a touch of gimmicky waggling thrown in. Apart from shooting games, two years on, Wii Sports, Wii Play and Wario Ware remain the best examples of the wiimote being put to good use. As for the Balance Board, the most entertaining use for it I've heard of since Wii Fit came out is in Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party - that apparently allows me to toboggan down a virtual mountain using only my bottom to steer.

Fun as that sounds, I suspect it's not really the zenith of intuitive and accessible gaming that people were expecting. Suffice to say, no one seems to have delivered on Nintendo's early promises for the Wii...

Woh, hold on a minute. Look at this! Skate It has three different control methods and they ALL use the Wii's various controllers in imaginative ways. Tilting the wiimote backwards and forwards and seeing the skater on screen react accordingly recaptures the magic of playing Wii Tennis for the first time. Leaning this way and that on the Balance Board to steer, then pressing hard to jump and flip, is fantastically fresh and exciting.

Well, for a bit...

The problem is, whichever way you play, Skate It is at least twice as hard as any other skateboarding game. Using the Balance Board is about four times as hard. Just skating in a straight line can be hard work and tricky. Pulling off stunts at the same time without either a real or virtual injury, is almost beyond my worn and exhausted housedad body. I can't imagine children much under twelve coping with it at all.

More than that, the controls can be imprecise. Performing specific tricks consistently (either by foot-pressing or frantic waggling) is next to impossible. Luckily, this doesn't affect gameplay much, since in most challenges, any old trick will do.

You can skate around looking for the challenges but it's much easier choosing them from the menu and jumping straight there. Handily, you can also set a marker at the beginning of a good line and teleport straight back with ease if you mess up the run. Together, these things cut down on frustration considerably but make the game feel disjointed. There's no great compulsion to master the controls and keep going.

Nonetheless, if you have a Wii, a Balance Board and a gnarly teenager in need of distraction, then Skate It is worth a look. If you don't know a manual from an ollie and you're a little lacking in coordination you might want to stick with a rental or avoid it entirely.

Conclusion: The most thoughtful use of Wii controls yet... but you'll need to like skateboarding quite a lot to persevere.

Graphics: Good enough. There's a long draw distance and the animation is fine. Unfortunately, some of the locations are bland and ugly.

Length: That depends. If you got into, you could spend a long time perfecting your tricks. It's just as likely you'll give up in despair after half an hour, though.

Rating: 3/5.

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