Rated T for Teen
Released on Jan. 21, 2009
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Developed by EA Black Box
Published by Electronic Arts
Rated E for Everyone
Released on Nov. 19, 2008
Developed by EA Montreal and EA Black Box
Published by Electronic Arts
Some video games are easier than stealing a flat-screen TV from a Grant Park condo.
Others are so hard they make you want to destroy the very concept of gaming itself. Somehow the two most recent entries in the Skate series almost perfectly represent both extremes. Skate 2 cackles gleefully over your constant failure, whereas Skate It gently floats you to the finish line on a gossamer ribbon of moonbeams and fairy-wings. Theyre both still fun, but between the frustration and the lack of challenge, neither lives up to its potential.
Skate 2s the better of the two, despite frequently spurring unwary players into paroxysms of breathless rage. If you played Skate, then you know how Skate 2 controls; the left analogue stick controls direction, while flicks of the right stick cause your little skater to launch into various tricks. Its a pretty slight approximation of the physical act of skating, but still more immersive and realistic than the ceaseless button-mashing of the Tony Hawk series. Its an easy control scheme to get your head around, and it makes Skate 2, like Mirrors Edge, a game thats physically satisfying to play.
The problem with Skate 2 isnt the controls, then, but the career modes absurdly demanding challenges. After a very brief introductory training sequence, Skate 2 doesnt just immediately expect you to be a master of each flip, grab, and grind, but also to be able to chain them together fluidly in very short bursts of time. Instead of progressively introducing you to various ways in which you can link tricks together, Skate 2 requires you to instinctively know how to do that. Its almost like you have to play Skate first to tackle the sequels most basic challenges. That doesnt sound too ridiculous, actually, but its not particularly hospitable to newcomers.
Skate It, the first Skate game for the Wii, suffers from the exact opposite problem. Its almost impossible to not successfully land a trick in Skate It. Sure, its difficult to land any specific trick, since the games three control schemes (Wii remote, remote and nunchuk, or remote and balance board) are all imprecise, but the only way youll bail in Skate It is if you crash into something. This makes the challenges easier, as well, since you can just flick your Wii remote about as long as you want, linking tricks and racking up points, without worrying about a crash landing. Theres simply no challenge to Skate It, eliminating any satisfaction or sense of achievement from the career mode.
If you prioritize a games primary single-player option, whether its called career, campaign, story mode, whatever, then Skate 2 and Skate It will probably both disappoint you. Fortunately theres a lot more to both titles, from the expectations-free Freeskate mode to various local and online multiplayer options. The single greatest thrill of both games is simply skating through the city, doing random tricks with no pressure, and finding the best spots for ridiculously thrilling (if unrealistic) maneuvers. Freeskate provides endless hours of aimless entertainment, and more than makes up for the difficulty issues surrounding the career modes. And between the two, Skate 2s the clear victor, with superior graphics, a deeper soundtrack, and more precise controls. Just be prepared to break your virtual neck thousands of times.
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