Developer: Glass BOttom Games
Release Date: September 16, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Glass BOttom Games
Genre: Skateboarding action simulation
If you were to ask me a decade ago, what kind of games would be released in the future? There is no way I could have fathomed that birds on skateboards could have been a possibility. Yet here we stand at the apex of gaming, in the third quarter of 2021, and I am about to review the legend that is SkateBIRD.
Developed by Glass Bottom Games, a studio that is continuing its tradition of making “cozy games about animals doing people things,” SkateBIRD is a relaxing skateboarding adventure about a bird who is looking to help its “big human friend” with the crippling depression that is existence.
Before you begin the adventure, players can customize their “birb.” This is more robust than I had assumed it would be, as you can choose from over 35 different species of bird and some sublime accessories such as chill glasses, headphones, iced-out gold chains, and dapper hipster scarves. It’s as adorable as it sounds and really easy to lose some time just kitting out your bird to be the best-looking bird around.
The levels of SkateBIRD consist of your big friend’s room, rooftops, and an office. The environments act as your skatepark. Shred on laptops and soiled pizza boxes. Kick flip off microwaves and catch some sick air doing a nosegrab over dirty laundry. In typical video game skate fashion, it’s possible to combine these tricks using grinds and manuals to pull off some lengthy combos and increase your score.
To add to the structure of the levels, you find yourself in the good company of woodpeckers, kingfishers, and seagulls. These friends invite you to complete challenges such as collecting snacks and landing tricks for photo opportunities. Completing specific challenges can change your environment and even open new areas to skate. As you start each mission, a small golden bird compass appears, helping you navigate to the next area where your next collectible or challenge is.
When entering a new area, you are treated to some background lore on each of the birds as well dialogue that tells you about the state of your big human friend. The interaction between birds is cute, often filled with subtle nods to famous skaters, influential video games, and bird puns.
Hidden throughout each level are collectible accessories, new decks, and unlockable music tracks, most of these are often placed at some of the most challenging areas to reach. The soundtrack is diverse and eclectic, from subtle hip-hop-infused jazz instrumentals to that fresh off “Warped Tour” ska-punk rock, this collection of music feels right at home for a skateboarding game.
Sadly, the entire experience never really lands. As you complete levels, you are at the mercy of enjoying the pure excitement of being on a skateboard as a bird, but I found myself fighting the controls more often than not. It seems some attempts were made to differentiate this experience from other skateboard video games, but the physics never caught on. It’s really something you have to be in the mood for and does more than any skateboarding should, but after a while, you’re just following the motions until the credits roll.
Controls end up being the biggest contributing factor to where this game crash and burns. It’s fun in concept, but it’s so basic in execution that you casually ease your way through the five playable stages without much pushback. There’s definitely an audience for this game, but there are no real options to increase the difficulty to grow and improve their skills with the design, which makes it an experience that you may never return to once finished.
SkateBIRD is a serene and meditative experience but relies a little too heavily on nostalgia with its design while removing any real challenge. Controls hindered the opportunity to get more out of this experience, and I found my bird spent more time rolling on the ground than around on the skateboard. The mission, dialogue, and overall narrative were fun to uncover but isn’t there enough to sustain your interest after completion, essentially clipping the wings of replayability.
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