As someone who grew up in the culture of skateboarding, I have always tried to find a game which really captured what it meant to skate. Skate captures the essence of popping tricks. The Tony Hawk games captured cruising around environments. Skate Story and Session encapsulates all of those lessons from those games and makes something truly unique. Everything from the smallest animations which capture braking perfectly to the camera subtly shaking as well as the board when you gain lots of speed, and having your feet position on the board indicate if you are doing a backside trick or a frontside trick. These games feel like an accumulation of years of understanding and appreciation of the craft.
Skate Story transports you to the moon. The task at hand? Go deeper, and enjoy the ride. The game opens up with a shot of the sun coming over the horizon of the moon, and then you start to skate. The concept is kinda zany, but it really worked for me. As you dive deeper inside, its environments get more diverse. The levels are fairly simple and have you ride and pop tricks over small obstacles in front of you as you skate your way to a shimmering portal to end a level. The game communicates mechanics in a very simple way. There is a small circle on the left side of your board which shows you the direction of where your foot will be popping it upIf you hit the small line on the bottom of the circle then you hit it perfectly.
One of the best things about Skate Story is how it handles falling off the board. You are made out of crystal, so once you hit anything and you immediately shatter into hundreds of pieces. Other skating games have tried to emulate what it feels to fall off of a skateboard, but having your character shatter like this is a great way to show the pain which follows when wiping out. A dramatic metaphor, but it really hurts. Like, really hurts. I have eaten shit many times. Simply watching a full character fall off, ragdoll, and make some grunts and groans doesn’t express that pain in any meaningful way.
My time with Skate Story ended when the demo crashed. This game is in Early Alpha, and still has some kinks to be ironed out. It’s weird in ways which work for me, and it captures a lot of the little aspects of what it means to skate, but Session captures the experience of skating almost to a T. This game is the spiritual follow-up to Skate that people have been waiting for. I only dabbled with Skate back in its heyday, but this might be the most in-depth skating game I have ever played. It feels more like an actual simulation than a game. The team brought their entire Early Access build, and the two different environments felt painstakingly real. The two areas lead into each other which is something that made the experience feel organic in ways other skating games haven’t.
Being able to explore the Brooklyn Banks and a nearby parking garage took me back to a time when I would leave school early and skate to the skatepark in Ocean Beach, San Diego. The parking garage area really stuck out to me because some of my later memories of skating take place in parking garages late at night. The sound design in this space was stellar, hearing the echoes of your wheels bounce off the walls and hitting the ground after popping a trick and having that loud pop go through the halls was such a nice touch.
Session and Skate Story control in very different ways, and this benefits each of them. The latter opts for a more traditional control scheme, using the analog sticks to control the character’s movement. But when I sat down to play Session, the movement was dictated by using the triggers on the controller. When the character leaned right on the trucks, you went there. The ability to turn like this instead of using analog sticks allows for the sticks to be used for foot placement and popping the board up in specific directions. Even when popping an ollie to grind on a rail, having to put your feet and balance your weight for a certain type of grind showed me that the team at crea-ture is making the ultimate skating game.
The approaches that Skate Story and Session take to the skating genre are very different, and they each have aspects which make the experience realistic in some ways and arcade-y in some respects as well. Skate Story wants you to have fun on a journey through a hellish landscape on the moon which is a perfect backdrop whereas Session represents an almost perfect simulation of what it means to skate through an urban environment.