Title: Skater XL
Developer: Easy Day Studios
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Easy Day Studios
Genre: Skate Sim
Growing up in California, you really have to be good at one of two things, skateboarding or surfing. I grew up skateboarding around town with friends to get the most out or boring corner of the universe, and it left me some pretty great memories.
When a series like Skate brought the complexities of board control to controllers, you can bet that I was invested in creating my own lines within the games. However, we don’t see that series anymore, but fear not because developer Easy Day Studios has picked up the torch to deliver us Skater XL. Sadly, while this game does a decent job of skate simulation, there is nothing here to keep you playing past a few hours.
I had a lot of hopes for Skater XL, but all those hopes went away the second I pressed start on the title screen. You immediately begin the game at the school level, which is where you will start each time you boot it up. There is no story or narrative, and after the tutorial, you are free to pretty much do whatever you want. I felt like I was missing something, and after playing for 5 hours, that feeling never went away. I would continuously look through all the menus to find something new, perhaps a story or more content, but the game is reduced to single levels with no guidance.
Still, each of the five levels the developer has created has challenges, but other than the School and LA, I would say the remaining levels are almost too basic to spend more than ten minutes in. The challenges have you follow a ghost character to pull off a line of tricks. It’s fun to an extent, but this is the only content offered, so you’ll pretty much take what you can get. Challenges revolve around each type of trick and also provide a chance to perfect the game’s physics and skate engine. After you complete the list of challenges, that’s it; you’ve beat Skater XL.
When skating a spot, you’ll typically plan out a series of tricks and spend a few hours perfecting it. Unless you do it first try, then you can move on. This idea finds its way into Skater XL as you can freely place a marker around the map to be the starting point of your line. Following the challenges, I found myself skating a box for almost 45 minutes doing tricks that I can do in real life, which is when it hit me that I’d rather be out skating then dealing with this pointless game.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the physics weren’t completely bonkers. Skater XL prides itself on being true-to-life, where the player controls the position of the feet using the analog sticks. In many ways, this works brilliantly, but as you spend time with it, you find ways to take advantage of the engine. Basically, as long as you’re in the air, your board can flip, and if you let the flip go before you land, then you’ll 100% catch the board. Similarly, balance isn’t even required to hold stalls, grinds, or manuals, which reminds you that you’re just playing a game that you’re already not having too much fun with because the developer simply threw you in a playground with nothing to do.
There’s a lot that needs to be addressed here, but I should add that there were moments where I thought, “that’s cool.” Like when I did a Kickflip 180 to Boardslide, but those moments were few and far between. The tricks in the game are very well modeled and animated, but it gets old so fast as you’re left to make your own fun. During my time with the game on PlayStation 4, I suffered from 8 game crashes and frequent glitches that really took me out of the entire experience and made it tough to turn the game back on.
As it stands right now, the community feature is lacking, with only a few stages available, and I’m not sure how to access more. Even the create a skater system is basic in terms of features, but they did manage to acquire some licenses to some great products. Characters aside, the environments just don’t aren’t interesting enough to spend too much time.
I wish the developers spent more time giving players a reason to stay invested in this world outside of challenges. Elements like: do a line to get your picture taken by a photographer or compete in competitions go along with these games, but none of that is here.
One that is certain though, there’s a killer soundtrack here, but I may be biased with anything that has Modest Mouse on it. There’s a variety of genres to listen to as you skate a rail for the hundredth time, which you probably bailed from during 90 of those attempts.
Skater XL has some great trick animations that prove the developer understands the sport and brought that experience to the video game medium. Sadly, nothing else holds up as the environments and playability fall apart the moment you realize there’s nothing to do. The game excels for those who enjoy creating their own fun, but for the price point, I cannot recommend a game that still feels like it’s in Early Access after game crashes and numerous bugs. Anyway, at least the soundtrack is dope.
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