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PAX East 2020: Skate Story – First Impressions

It has been a topic to discuss whether or not the gaming landscape is prepared to take on another skateboarding sim to any degree. Although properties like Tony Hawk with 2015’s Pro Skater 5 have attempted to reiterate on the basis of the arcade-like formula of generations before for current console hardware, the game failed to do so atop of the plaguing problems that the title was shipped with.

Disregarding the nostalgic grab that happened then, players were introduced to a different subgenre altogether which redefined the definition for a skateboarding game even earlier on. I’m talking about the Skate series: implementing more tangible controls with stick-flicking maneuvers and ergonomic gameplay mechanisms is a foundation that many are anticipating to be on the verge of an announcement. But inching close to a decade now, there are no positive signs that fans will experience a fourth entry.

Regardless of the current expectations that players hold for the ecosystem of related titles, I feel it’s time that a new approach is taken to reinvigorate this genre once again. In particular, this conversation is directly referencing Sam Eng’s Skate Story. During PAX East at the beginning of the month, I got the chance to demo the very early build of the game available on the show floor and wanted to express the potential this new and upcoming project holds ahead.

What makes this new indie-developed title so unique, to me at least, is the linear approach that is given to the player on how the game is structured. While this does shed to be primitive at the surface, it is how Eng translates the experience for the player.

In contrast to currently available and upcoming alternatives that follow the already-established route, Skate Story does something different and pursues to be an experience of its own with no set objectives or any laid out text telling you what to do. While the basis through my interpretation shows to be the ‘punk rock’ of skateboarding games, the design itself is sleeker and negates the gritty streets of a metropolitan city. This being the most evident aspect of the project, seeing it in action is an entirely separate encounter.

The environments laid ahead are geometrically-structured with high doses of monotone colors painting the area. Designed with jagged platforms for you to jump over progressively becomes more intuitive with how complex later levels evolve into. The technical infrastructure of the game also matures into a striking impression through the overtone lighting and developing otherworldly traits of tall-standing columns and the basking moon in the skyline.

When completing a select number of levels, a brief clip will play telling a story of the main character’s ambition towards touching the moon. Illustrated very vague, it is appreciated utilizing a different approach while simultaneously fueling the ‘a e s t h e t i c’ that is easy for the eye to grab. Playing certain levels also harbors unique perspectives: one when hopping a fenced gap will freeze the camera position when finishing the segment while another following the player through a maze of marble columns close to the ground mimics the appearance of a skateboarding promo.

Even more, the player them self is blanketed with this congruous appearance depicted with a full crystalline anatomy. As you would expect from the likes of delicate-looking objects, when bailing on your board will turn you into a pile of scattered pieces. However, the slightest bump into a wall or curb resulted with the same outcome, but being an early build is understandable with expected calibrations to come in later iterations.

Concerning the control scheme, button layout actually returns to the structure introduced by Neversoft, i.e. B to ollie rather than using the analog stick to perform the action. The demo itself is fairly straightforward only teaching the core essentials to reach the end. It wasn’t until after playing when speaking with Eng himself that tricks are in the game, but aren’t mentioned throughout the duration of the demo.

While my experience with Skate Story was brief, the impact is truly one that keeps me anticipated to learn more later on. Especially noting that the demo available is still an early build of the finished product, witnessing the development form together in the coming future will ultimately be one worth checking up on.

Eng posts daily updates on the game’s development via @skatestorygame on Twitter. Interested users can also sign-up for the project’s beta on the game’s website here.

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