Ever since its boom in mainstream popularity in the nineties, skateboarding has seen itself represented many times across different media, with one of the most prominent examples being skateboarding video games. We’ve had the classic arcade types (the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Skate series’) to the more recent simulator style games like Skater XL. Now, in this year 2021, we have the newest skateboarding game to hit the digital shelves – and it’s one where you play as an adorable bird. Yes, you’re reading that right.
Just modelling for the next front cover
SkateBIRD is a super-cute skateboarding adventure where you and an assortment of other birds take on challenges in order to help out your Big Friend. These challenges can vary from traditional ‘gain X amount of points’ missions to ‘collect snacks for a bird so he will help you break into an office building’ kind of objectives. Each of the main missions will have you talking to the game’s cast of birds, in moments full of chuckle-worthy dialogue and references that you probably won’t see coming. Since your birb is quite small (small enough to fit onto a Tech Deck-sized skateboard), almost all the levels have a real Honey I Shrunk The Kids vibe with environments consisting of things like tupperware containers for inclines, magazines as quarter pipes and stationary as grind rails. The game takes place over five uniquely designed levels that each have their own feel and quirks in how you traverse them and what kind of challenges you can expect to come up against.
Skating in this game is fairly straightforward. You have an ollie (which can be used again in mid-air to flap your wings and get more height), both flip and grab trick buttons (that can be modified by using the directional stick), and a grind button along with other tricks that can be used to increase your combo meter for higher scores. Unfortunately sometimes the geometry of the levels, along with the occasional camera frustration, can lead to annoying bails while you’re trying to build high scores and combos. Luckily these are few and far enough between that they aren’t a game breaker. Consistently building combos is also one of the ways you can fill up your FANCY bar which will increase your max speed for as long as you can stay on your board. This is super helpful when trying to string together big air combos or trying to reach those pesky secrets and collectables in each level.
This little birb is taking flight
Speaking of collectables, SkateBIRD is full of them. Most you will come across naturally as you complete each of the story missions in each level but some will have you surveying your environment to piece together what moves you’ll need to do in succession in order to reach them. The collectables range from new cosmetic items for your birb to new skate decks and wheels. You can use these items to make a completely unique character with over thirty different species of real life birds to choose from as a base.
As well as visual collectables to appease your eyes you also have hidden cassette tapes across all of the maps that will unlock a mixture of licensed tracks. Tracks from bands like We Are The Union, Illicit Nature, Grave Danger, and HolyWOW do an incredible job of bringing the ska, punk and surf rock vibe ubiquitous with skateboarding into this game, nailing that nostalgic feeling of playing skating games of the past. These bangers are well worth the trouble of exploring each level and navigating treacherous grinds to seek out. That’s not to short sell the game’s original OST, the self-described ‘lo-fi bird-hop to skateboard to’ tracks that also include individual themes for each of the different characters you meet provide a great balance alongside the head-banging unlockable tunes.
Always gotta turn up if there is snacks
There’s something great about being able to turn on a game for one or two hours at a time and just smile and jam out. SkateBIRD gives you the chance to channel your inner Tony Hawk in the most adorable and fun five-to-seven hour arcade style experience that I’ve played in a while. It’s a simple game about a birb trying to help out their Big Friend by skating their little heart out, what isn’t there to like?
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher
- Glass Bottom Games
- Glass Bottom Games
- PC/Mac/Linux/Xbox Series X&S/Switch/Amazon Luna
- September 16, 2021