Review – Session: Skate Sim

I’m going to be completely up front right now in the beginning to let you know that this review is coming from someone who is not a skater, nor was I expecting such a hardcore sim. My skating game credentials come from the Tony Hawk games and the Skate titles. So this review will be coming from someone who enjoyed more of the arcade style skating games. I thought Skate was realistic for its time, especially comparing it to the Tony Hawk games, but Session: Skate Sim makes Skate feel like a Tony Hawk game. If you were looking for a review from a skate enthusiast, this isn’t it. If you are like me and liked the arcade skating games and you were thinking about grabbing Session, you might want to read on.

Session: Skate Sim starts out with your main character being reintroduced to your skate friends, and this plays out as the tutorial. Apparently you went through a nasty skating accident that required some surgery and rehab time and now you want to get back on the board and keep skating. Your friends will take you through a series of tasks to see if you still have what it takes.

Session Skate Sim Missions

Completing missions earns you XP and Money to buy new clothes and unlock new items.

Immediately the controls threw me for a loop, not that they didn’t make sense, but because it is very different than anything I played. Essentially, the left stick will control your left leg, the right stick your right leg, and the left and right triggers are what lean and turn your body. Simply trying to navigate on the board took me a while to get used to, because I kept wanting to turn my body with the left stick and that would just make me lean in to begin a trick. It’s not a huge deal, just something I had to get used to, but one thing I’ll say is turning with triggers is not as accurate as being able to use a stick.

The controls start to make more sense once you get into the trick system and how you use the sticks to setup tricks. Holding the right stick positions your back foot, and then you’ll use the left stick to initiate a trick. For example, holding the right stick down and then flicking the left stick either left or right will do a kick flip in that direction. Pressing up on the left stick with do an Ollie and so forth. Getting into harder tricks like BS Pop Shove-It 360 requires you to position and then do a rotation of the right stick, and then using the left stick to stop the board spinning mid air.

Session Skate Sim Video Camera

You can setup replays of your tricks and create cool edited cuts from different angles and different filters.

It makes sense on paper when you’re reading the trick list, but the difficulty comes from knowing the timing of these stick rotations and presses. What makes it even tougher is that the tutorial and hints give you no sort of help or tips, and to be honest, even if the tutorial did give more help it felt like half the time the character would not even respond to the correct inputs. This put me in a constant loop of trying the trick over and over and over until I got it luckily. Because I did the same input twenty times, and after repeating it so much I can’t tell you what I did differently to try and do it again.

That, unfortunately, is the gameplay loop of Session. They give you the ability to save a starting position, called a session, and then if you fail the trick or set of tricks you can simply reset from the beginning of that session. This is awesome because it keeps you focused and you don’t have to worry about repositioning every time. However, it became infuriating when you’ve reset thirty times and you don’t know why the stick inputs just aren’t working.

Session Skate Sim Trick List

On paper these moves look like they should be easy to input.

There is a story structure here where you basically meet up with your old crew and they give you tasks and such to complete. These provide money and unlocks for the best feature of Session, being able to build and place objects in the world. Once you start unlocking objects you can find areas of the map that are perfect to add a rail that will gap over a flower bed, or add a ramp in front of a water fountain. You can essentially create your own skating area and challenges by placing things around the map. I had fun with this, more so than trying to accomplish the mission tasks that require the head bashing tricks. The crappy part is you can’t unlock a lot of the objects without finishing these missions.

Visually, Session isn’t a great looking game. It has muddy textures, bad character models, and the city is completely empty even during the day. There is a good variety of locations you can visit that offer plenty of skating and building opportunities, but none of it is going to wow you visually. Sound design is a bit better, but minimalist in nature. Not a lot is going on other than listening to your wheels rolling on varies surfaces, which are accurately done. Besides that you have the soundtrack which is good, and felt appropriate for a skating game.

Placing Objects

Piecing together objects to extend or enhance the local areas for trick set pieces is a great addition.

Session: Skate Sim is one of the most rage inducing games I have ever played, and not because I didn’t want to try and learn to get better. It simply felt like overcomplication just for the sake of it. The inputs make sense, what they show on the trick sheet make sense, but it just doesn’t translate into the game. Then even when I would complete the trick, I only felt ecstatic because I wasn’t forced to have to do it again, not because I accomplished anything. I feel like even if you love skating and you have the patience to fail over and over, it still won’t be satisfying because it was never clear why the inputs weren’t working. How can I learn the timing of the trick when I didn’t even know what it was I did right or wrong?

 

Graphics: 6.0

Not visually impressive, with poor character models and muddy textures. There is a nice variety of locations though.

Gameplay: 5.0

Controls are complicated, but make sense as you get used to them. However, the high level trick inputs are rage inducing.

Sound: 7.0

Sound design is decent with realistic sound effects for the various materials you’ll skate on. Soundtrack is good.

Fun Factor: 5.0

There is a sense of satisfaction when completing a complicated trick, however, it’s more so because I never want to do it again. Being able to build and place objects in the world for tricks is great.

Final Verdict: 5.5

Session: Skate Sim is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X.

Reviewed on Xbox Series X.

A copy of Session: Skate Sim was provided by the publisher.