Review – SkateBIRD
It feels like forever since we all saw SkateBIRD shown off in 2019. Those cute little avian creatures riding around on skateboards were a surprise of the show for me, and I have been waiting to get my hands on Glass Bottom Game’s adorable take on Tony Hawk. Time to see if this was worth the wait.
Full disclosure: I have never been a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater guy. I say this not to mean that I didn’t enjoy them, I did. I just know Tony Hawk people are DIE-HARD TONY HAWK people. There is a love there that can not be replicated. They are the ones who started skating and listening to ska and punk because of the series. I can’t claim to be as enamored with the franchise as others so I won’t pretend to. If this is also you and you want the opinion of someone in this mind set, gnarly. If not, I totally get it.
The game opens with you choosing your bird type and wardrobe. After scrolling through a number of species and design choices, you are launched into your first room, Humble Bedginings. As the name implies, it is a makeshift skate park set up in your “big friend’s” bedroom, complete with discarded laundry and cardboard cups and empty pizza boxes. This area gets you acquainted with the movement mechanics and gameplay in SkateBIRD. You will learn how to traverse the area, perform basic tricks, combine them, and how to take on missions.
Finding another bird and skating up close to them, you can view missions they offer. Once found, pressing the L button accepts the mission, giving you a time limit to perform one, or multiple, tricks or achievements. For the most part, all the missions are fairly simple and nearby so there shouldn’t be too much issue completing most. There is also a rotating compass below your avatar, showing you the way to the next closest goal, to make it that much easier. Completing tricks and missions check them off your checklist, allowing you to access new parks. While free styling around levels, you also grab cosmetic items and sound tracks to add to your mix tapes, making your bird as unique as you want it to be.
That, over and over again, is the root of SkateBIRD. Enjoying the level, rather than just going after missions, is key to any skateboard game. Unfortunately, the levels aren’t really all that fun. Once the cute whimsy of tiny birds riding Tech-Decks through multiple makeshift parks made up of bedroom and office items wears off, and it quickly does, there isn’t much of a skate game underneath.
Finding your previously mentioned feathered friends to hand you a mission can be a chore in itself. Sometimes requiring you to aimlessly skate around a room until you happen to notice a bird standing idly by. The trouble is when you are looking for that last one or two but you keep seeing the same few you have already completed the missions for. Board tricks feel so small that an ollie looks identical to a kickflip. Hitting a stall almost jarringly ignores physics with how it sticks. Although the soundtrack can get meaty, if you really want to hunt for all the tapes, it is rarely anything more than background white noise on a handheld. Last but not least, there is a camera system that seems to have a deep desire to fight you every step of the game. Controlling the camera was harder than controlling the board, most times.
It isn’t that SkateBIRD is bad, there is just nothing there to make any part of it more than ok. It feels as if Glass Bottom Games spent all their energy high fiving each other over the idea of putting tiny birds on tiny boards and making real world environments into skate parks. There just wasn’t anything left in their tank to make the rest of the game as interesting. As easy as SkateBIRD is to pick up and play for ten minutes, it is even easier to put it back down. This is only made more obvious with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 releasing just last year prior, reminding us all of just how magical these games were and can be.
Cute ideas but overall, feels entirely empty in its designs.
Once the idea of birds on skateboards wears off, you are left with an overly simplistic skate boarding game with bad camera controls.
Can be meaty if you hunt down all the in-game tapes to build out your mix-tape. But by the time you do, it all feels like background white noise.
Fun Factor: 6.0
Missions, tricks, and rewards are all easy to grasp and execute, but with little reason to actually want to.
Final Verdict: 6.0
SkateBIRD is available now on Switch and Xbox One.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of SkateBIRD was provided by the publisher.