SkateBIRD (Switch) review – Vooks
SkateBIRD first appeared in 2018, quickly gaining attention with the simple combination of a little bird riding a small skateboard. It was absurd and way too cute, and it was a staple when it was released. Finally, it’s 2021, and after a few all-too-common Covid-related delays, you can pop out your bird-sized skateboard and get ready for SkateBIRD!
As I mentioned before, SkateBIRD is too cute for its own good. It was also the most likely thing that caught your eye about the game; a little bird on a skateboard. Skating in the human world reminded me of playing Micro Machines back then (and it was time for another Micro Machines game). Skate parks built around the mundane human world are of course much bigger for a parakeet. It’s fun to see what was used to make the small scale skateparks.
Because you’re just a little bird, it’s understandable that the spaces are so big, but they seem a bit too big. Large open spaces seem empty, and moving through the levels takes longer than you would like in a skating game. Because it’s so open, it’s also hard to see where the mission-giving / progressing birds are located in the story. You’ll want to choose missions when you can, because that’s how you unlock more levels. You can, of course, take your time and explore, finding more bird accessories and music tracks to unlock.
While Tony Hawk games would have you complete typical objectives for each level, SkateBIRD will give you seemingly random objectives.
SkateBIRD luckily adopts a similar control scheme to Tony Hawk games, making it easy to access if you’ve played it. The game is also great for helping you get used to the button prompts, which you can turn off if you don’t want too much guidance. Unlike leading a human skater, controlling your little bird is a lifelong nightmare. I understand that is part of the game as a bird; it’s little things that flap their wings. Only it doesn’t work well when you have to control this bird. Flapping your wings gives you a little push upwards or can take you further forward, but it’s often to your detriment. Far too often that would mean I’d overshoot a landing, or there wasn’t enough air, which sucks trying to grab some of these collectibles. One thing I liked is that the game is more generous with the balance meter on the moves. In fact, if you don’t want the meter at all, you can turn it off. Accessibility settings can help reduce the number of buttons required or give you more time to complete tricks.
Something you’ll notice almost right away is that SkateBIRD is incompatible with what will knock you off your board and not. Sometimes you’ll come out of tricks that should have knocked you off the board unscathed, then other times you’ll fall just because. Again, accessibility settings can help alleviate some of the frustrations, but it’s still not 100%.
This brings us to the camera. Again, it’s probably easier when a camera follows a person on a skateboard. Replace them with a cute little bird, and it becomes chaos. It’s at its worst when you’re in a more confined space, combined with the controls, and it’s just not fun.
As you skate through each area, the birds will suggest missions for you to complete. Helping them leads to new environments. I liked that there is an arrow / guide bird to point you towards objectives, as it’s not always clear where you need to go. The biggest difficulty is finding your bird friends in the first place. As you move around, they are small spots of color or you will only see them because a button prompt is displayed on the screen. It wouldn’t be so bad if unlocking more levels didn’t depend on completing those goals.
There are times when you give up looking for your bird friends and just skate and listen to the in-game tracklist. The more you unlock along the way, the more variety you get. It’s not really a Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack, but it’s fun if you like your lo-fi beats. You will find yourself enjoying all the cute and wacky things that this game has to offer. In no other game will I be able to control a Kookaburra wearing a small scarf and aviator goggles on a skateboard.
SkateBIRD is a game you’ll want to love, it’s hard to get discouraged. Unfortunately, all issues keep this game grounded. Get it for the bird, not so much the skating. Developer Glass Bottom Games has made a nice indie skating game, and it looks like they’re still supporting the game so it can fix some of the issues. For now, the appeal of SkateBIRD depends on how much you enjoy engaging in a bird-based skating game.