Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
SkateBIRD is a neat little casual skateboarding game that reminds players of the glory days when Tony Hawk Pro Skater was huge. It is a relaxing experience that focuses more on the casual player than it does on die-hard fans of skateboarding. SkateBIRD features some awesome music, amusing nods to real-world media, and excellent bird customization.
SkateBIRD is a nice laid-back game that features birds on skateboards whose mission is to help their owner. It is a game that is aimed at the newest generation of gamers with its simplicity, charm, and meme references. And even though I grew up being a fan of skater guys and Tony Hawk games, SkateBIRD’s rudimentary callbacks to the glory days made me smile – even though the title is much less polished.
I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact that SkateBIRD has a number of issues surrounding gameplay that I wasn’t a fan of. For one thing, the game has a questline that ties each level together, but finding these quests isn’t readily obvious. Players are able to find the other birds that give quests through sheer luck or by consulting the map. It is a point that bothered me for a couple of reasons. At first, I wasn’t even aware that there were quests to complete until I accidentally discovered a bird. The second point is that even though the map tells you the general location of the birds, the map can only be seen in the pause menu. The final point that frustrated me about the quests was that players don’t see an objectives list until after a bird is already found.
Another misstep of SkateBIRD is the fact that the controls are rudimentary in a couple of ways. Oftentimes, I struggled to collect quest items because the game didn’t register the fact that the player skated over top of them. The other rudimentary aspect of the controls has to do with the lack of tricks that can be executed. I’m not going to claim that I’m a skateboarding expert, but when you grow up watching a lot of skateboarders, you learn a few things. But the big kicker was the lack of accomplishment by completing the quests. The tricks don’t feel epic like they should in some cases and combos can be destroyed by a landing that didn’t get executed because of the game’s odd understanding of physics. The tricks in SkateBIRD feel like a walk in a park even when something was well executed. While none of these issues doom the title, they don’t exactly spell out the word masterpiece either.
Essentially, SkateBIRD is a great game to kill a couple of hours playing but it will not challenge the players or feel as meaningful as we’d like it to be, and that makes me sad because it is a really cute game.
Graphics and UI
The graphics are quite good in my opinion. Again, it is not a game that requires top-of-the-line graphics to play, making it a highly accessible title. What SkateBIRD does well is using everyday items in clever ways to show off its bird themes. Ramps are flattened out pizza boxes or curved magazines, railings are bent straws or soup bowls, obstacles can be objects like crumpled up Pepsi cans. Giving SkateBIRD this type of aesthetic is wonderful because it gives the game a specific feel. The questline that players follow is to help a human boy (‘Big Friend’) clean up his room because the boy is always tired.
Another graphical aspect of the game that is like is the customization of one’s bird character. Players can choose a variety of different birds to play and they can outfit them with different accessories like sunglasses, hats, or headphones.
As for the UI design, I like it overall because it’s simple and unobtrusive. That said, the issue I have with the UI is the lack of a minimap or indicator of quest locations. I’d even settle for a simple line on the right side that says, “There are five quests on this map. Be sure to complete them to progress to the next level” or something. Quite literally any indication would be good for players who want to try out this casual title.
The music I actually enjoy in SkateBIRD but unlike most sports games where players have access to a decently sized soundtrack or mixtape, it has a few songs. Additional songs have to be found as players skate through each of the five levels. Players have to find the cassette tapes that are scattered throughout the levels, which then unlocks the songs in the playlist. The thing is, I love the concept of finding more music to add to the soundtrack but sadly the first few tracks become too repetitive which could drive players mad.
That said, the music is unique and created by Nathan Madsen who is an established composer and sound designer. He has almost 16 years worth of experience and a load of credits. As for his work on SkateBIRD, the tracks were specifically composed for the title and can be found on Spotify. This is obvious because a few of the tracks feature clips from nature documentaries and bird sounds. If that’s not convincing enough, on his website Mr. Madsen says, “We knew we didn’t want to mimic edgy, rock, or punk driven soundtracks of other, previous skateboarding games. It wouldn’t fit the vibe and feel of SkateBIRD.” Frankly, I love the soundtrack because it’s not what I expected.
Birb’s final thoughts
While I love the aesthetic, the concept, and even some of the current meme humor, the game will not age well because of the audience it is aimed at. It has a lot of great features and interesting ideas, but in my opinion, it’s not quite at a high level like I had hoped.
Overall, SkateBIRD is a great game about skateboarding that could be the next great title but misses its tricks a little bit too much. The game has a great foundation and is really entertaining, but it needs a bit more work to really nail it in this genre. I think it is quite fun, relaxing, and casual but it’s not a title that people will stick around for long play sessions.Score: 8 / 10