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I stepped in it again: Skate Attack/Skate City Heroes Review

OK, I did it again. I played another completely terrible, hateful game. This isn’t the worst one I’ve played, but that almost makes it worse Skateboard Madness. That game was made in a month and it’s broken. This one has design, decent graphics and it doesn’t really have glitches or any obviously broken problems. It’s just way overambitious and underbaked.

You know how the Tony Hawk series slowly added in new features every year? Tony Hawk 3 was basically just like Tony Hawk 2. But 4 added in free roaming levels, Underground added in vehicles, and on and on and on. Eventually you’re doing basically everything except riding a skateboard. I never really cared for that stuff before, but now I have a ton of respect for Neversoft for making it actually work okay.

But imagine that they tried to shove all of that stuff into Tony Hawk 3. They spent 20 minutes adding in cars, an hour to add in a story, and all that kind of stuff. That’s what we’ve got here with Skate Attack. Except that they aren’t Neversoft. It was developed by company called Zeroscale. More like Zeroskill, am I right?

Halfway through playing this game, I found a game called Skate City Heroes at a game store. This looks like a Wii port of the same game, based on the storyline stuff on the box. But it also supports the balance board! I can’t imagine anything I’d want to do less.

So let’s jump into the game. It starts out pretty promising. You have an interesting looking anime world. Having an actual theme and decent graphics is nice. Most of these terrible games are just generic real world settings. The girl looks like she’s a Team Rocket ripoff, but that’s fine.

Skating around feels good. Steering around and ollieing and stuff really isn’t bad. One weird thing with the controls is that you grind with R1. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a little weird. Triangle is used to taildrag and stop. Which rarely gets any use. 

What grinds do you have? Bluntslides… which are actually tailslides. or sometimes noseblunts.If you approach backside, a blunt is actually a noseslide. A noseslide… which is actually a nosegrind. 

The flip tricks are just as bad. Kickflips flip the wrong way. Of course. There’s a 50/50 chance they’d get that right with zero research, so I’m not surprised. Shove its are okay, although there’s no scoop there. They also spell it in the worst possible way.

Kickindy is of course a kickflip indy. It looks good and I don’t have a problem with it, except for the fact that there are a million more common tricks that they skipped over to put this one in there.

I can’t tell what the impossible is supposed to be. It’s like a front foot impossible, sort of. But not really. And the 180 flip is a varial heelflip. It looks okay, but I just wish they named it right.

You’re seeing me do tons of late heelflips with this. It’s because holding down square will just have you do it on repeat. So if you hit square and hold it for a frame too long, you’ll add in a late heelflip. If you want to call it that.

The game has manuals, which is fine. The balancing is really easy in this game though.

The grabs are generally okay. They spelled Lien air wrong, but whatever. The one especially weird thing is that spins are called “ThrillSeeker”. Yeah.

Rock and rolls are actually rock fakies, but what’s not the end of the world either.

This game also has a special meter, which is called adrenalin in this game. It makes you go faster and lets you crash through certain kinds of fences.

Speaking of breaking stuff, there are also battles. This isn’t a new idea. I’ve played quite a few skating games with bosses now, like Evolution and Yanya Caballista. But this one has robots that you fight. You hit the grind button and dive at them. You can juggle attacks together and get combos. There are a couple of very minor differences in the moves here, but it’s incredibly shallow.

One more thing is health. You have to collect blood drops to keep your health up.

So are you seeing the problem yet? There are a bunch of trick categories with 3 or 4 tricks. There are battles… with 2 fighting moves and an extremely basic combat system. So far we haven’t run into any major flaws. It’s just incredibly shallow.

After the tutorial, we get into the story. There’s a city with a casino in it. The machines get a virus and the virus becomes a sentient robot, who captures your fellow shredder. So you hurry up and do a boneless kickflip indy to go save him, but the virus gives you some challenges. That’s the background of the game. You’ll do challenges for the game referees, and challenges for the resistance.

So what are these challenges like? Imagine having your fingernails torn off and your bleeding fingers soaked in boiling saltwater.

A lot of these challenges aren’t that bad by design, but they’re stretched out to a completely ridiculous degree. We’ll talk more about that in a minute. But a lot of them are just collecting. The first one is to grab some dragonflies.

There are tutorials where a character who looks exactly like you shows you some moves. Again, this is just extending the game and showing that it has way too many systems. You learn wallrides and all kinds of other little things.

One of the other challenge types is just going to different places. This could be a ‘follow me’ type of challenge or something along those lines. This is one of the worst parts of the game. Traveling around this world is torture. It’s just designed to slow you down and be annoying. There are cars that run into you every few seconds. There are signs and trash cans and all kinds of stuff that you can run into. Later, there are laser turrets that shoot you everywhere you go. There are breakable walls that respawn a few seconds after you break through them. This just gets worse later on in the game, and it’s the main reason I quit playing it.

Another challenge type is the battles. You get jumped by robots that you have to kill. In this one, you kill them to collect coins that do… something. Do you spend these on something? I don’t know. Whatever.

This is the worst example. You have to crush all of the ViRats…. Which are instantly renamed to ranger rats the second you get to them. So what are you doing? Killing them all? No. You’re trying to get a high score through the combos of killing them. But the problem is that it’s basically impossible to get a combo going and actually land it because you get attacked from your blind side. 

Come on!!

Can you ignore them and just skate and get a combo going with just tricks? Maybe, but then the rangers add up and you’re more likely to get shot. So my technique was to get a multiplier going, then hurry up and try to do some tricks before I got killed. 

OK, I’ve got 45,000 points, and I need 50,000. I have a few seconds left. I’m going to try to squeeze in some more points to this combo to be safe. OK, I got 63,000! 

Uh… Did I win? Nope! This isn’t Tony Hawk, where you can keep a combo going after the timer. As soon as the timer ends, it’s over! Wonderful! Time to try it again!

And I finally got lucky. This took me 12 minutes. Which doesn’t sound that bad. Spending 12 minutes in a hot tub wouldn’t be that bad either. Unless your head has to be underwater. Then it feels like the rest of your life. That’s what this challenge felt like. Trying to scream but only having lungs full of chlorine.

Wait, did I say that one was the worst one? That’s debatable. There are also boss fights. In this one, there is a big UFO that I’m trying to kill. But the only way to attack it is to kill the robots in an area, then find the right angle to attack the ship before it moves. Of course there are extra barriers put up all over the place just to make it annoying. After you kill robots, it even gives you a hint as to how to attack! But it’s not that easy. Hitting it from this angle seems simple, but if you grind the wrong line, you’re screwed. It drops more enemies and you start that wave over again. So look. I can’t grind the ledge here, I have to grind right next to it. It took me quite a bit of time to actually get that hit in. Thankfully, there are 3 different spots you have to hit, so you get to do this all day. 

Come on!

The controls really aren’t that bad… But the level of precision you need for this is just too much for this game to handle. You’ll end up going the wrong way or missing at least a few times.

Finally!!

So the ship moves over and now I attack it over here. With all the barriers and enemies, it’s not clear exactly what I need to do. I’m happy there’s not actually a timer on this. And guess what, the barriers grow back after about 10 seconds so you can’t plan ahead and try to make things easier for yourself.

This third time, the ship is over a quarter pipe. But there’s absolutely no way you can get the air time you need to hit it from the quarter pipe. Hitting it from the side over here doesn’t seem possible either. Oops, out of time. Gotta re-kill these robots in the most boring, shallow fighting system I’ve ever played. How do you hit the boss from here? You grind up the rail and jump over. I missed the actual weak spot, but by some miracle, the game gave me a pass and it counted.

On paper, the way that fight went was fine, but it just wasn’t fun in any way at all.

Here I am wallriding some posters. There are a lot of these challenges where you have to get something. The problem is that sometimes it’s really hard to figure out how you get to them. And you’re on a timer. In this case, it took me a while to figure out that the poster is behind this wall, which requires you to get your adrenalin meter up so you can blast through it. Without knowing that, I didn’t prepare for it, so I had to start over. This seems minor, but it’s just a huge waste of time. Later in the game, I had to hack these ATMs, which means picking up a code and then standing in front of one for a few seconds. Most of them have enemies in front of them that you have to fight. What’s so bad about that? Well, there are 6 of them. Toward the end, one of the codes is in a weird place that’s hard to get to. How exactly do you transfer up here and grind across this wire? It’s hard to figure out. I couldn’t figure it out and ran out of time. And then I had to redo the first 4 ATMs to get another attempt.

Maybe you’ll find everything first try. But more likely, you’ll just have to memorize the route and retry it a few times.

Here’s a rare one that’s actually skateboarding related. Do manuals and grinds to keep the temperature from overheating. Why do those tricks affect the temperature? Mind your business, that’s why. But still, it’s actually skateboarding in this skateboarding game, so it’s better than most.

There are also high score events. These are easy, but they’re skateboarding too, which is a breath of fresh air in this game. 

Here’s a skateboarding one too! 50-50 grind to rocket grab. I like these challenges, but they take one or two tries, so they represent a very very tiny amount of your overall gameplay.

There’s a combo challenge! Instead of collecting the COMBO letters like in Tony Hawk, you’re collecting the virus’s credit cards? Sure, whatever. Just like in every other game, it’s not obvious where to go the first time, so you have to experiment and try to memorize the layout. But it’s not too bad.

Another thing I don’t hate is the map. You have a 3D model of the map that you can move around. That’s okay. The level shouldn’t have been designed to be so hard to get around, but that’s not the map’s fault.

Here’s where the game gets incredibly terrible though. Only about an hour into the game, you get a new power. Slowing down time and jumping to different vehicles. You can ride on cars to get around. It’s not good. You can get caught on level geometry a lot. More importantly, it’s not fun. The control is terrible. It’s all inverted, so aiming your crosshairs is awkward and terrible. The camera is flying around one way, you’re aiming another way, and half of your jumps are completely blind. This becomes really important later.

There are side missions too, if you really want to torture yourself. This is doing random stuff around the level, like destroying cameras and collecting little things. A lot of the collectibles are just sitting around, but there are some hidden behind destructible walls, like these that I found completely on accident.

Oh look, I unlocked a special trick! What is it, a darkslide or something? Oh… a handplant. Just like every other skateboarding game ever made, lip tricks are basically a waste of time. Like my life so far.

Eventually, the game introduces drones. And this is where the game becomes totally unplayable. Now, instead of jumping onto cars, you’re jumping onto drones, which immediately start flying in the direction they’re facing.

You can steer it left, right, up and down, but it feels horrible in a way I can’t even explain. If you hit a direction, nothing happens for a while. Then it builds momentum and swings to the side. You can’t just stop turning, you actually have to fight it back and reverse the momentum. It’s impossible. The first challenge is just crashing into a van. If you can’t tell, I’m having a brutally difficult time. There’s also speed. If you go uphill too much, it stalls out. So that’s something else to try to balance as you fight the steering. Unfortunately, the game loves these drones.

So what does the game do with drones that you can barely control? Oh, just the obvious. Make you very carefully fly them through rings! You know, I’m impressed that this game doesn’t rip off any of the good skateboarding games. Instead they tried to cross genre lines and rip off one of the worst games ever made, Superman 64. Wonderful.

This is torture. They don’t even start you on a drone. You have to find one, which may or may not even be at the beginning. The controls for this are inverted, and unchangeable. This never got to a point where it felt natural.

Oh I almost made it! I just have to crash into…. NO! Somebody murder me, please.

OK, I’ve got another drone before time runs out. Just steer, and…. NO!

Eventually, I got it. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it really really sucked. As long as we don’t do that again, I’ll be okay.

Wait, did you say to do that exclusively for every event from now on?

OK, it’s not quite that bad. There is another type of challenge they throw in, where you lock onto the bus and fly around with it. You have to collect speed boosts and not run into that much stuff. It’s not a drone…. But it does control exactly the same. Enjoy!

Wait, what are these speed boosts? It says they’re gas tanks, but they look like bleach. I’m collecting bleach and blood? I’m going to inject some bleach into my blood if I don’t get through this challenge. But the gas can/bleach bottles have an apple on them? I don’t know. I bet they stole this 3D asset from another game or something because it doesn’t make any sense.

After a lot of agonizing attempts, I finally got through it. I was very near quitting the game at this point. And I actually did…. I didn’t play this game for 4 months after finishing this challenge. But eventually I figured that my suffering would go to waste if I didn’t at least get a video out of it.

When I got back into the game, guess what kind of challenge was waiting for me?

More drones! There’s also another type of drone, which doesn’t move. You just jump on it, aim it, and you can shoot it at stuff. These are a lot easier to deal with in the challenges where you crash into cars. The problem is the timer. Since you just stand on it and wait for your target to come around, you waste lots and lots of time. And guess what? Just like with the ATMs, they make you do a bunch of them in a row.

And it’s not forgiving whatsoever. That was just cruel. I desperately needed to get this finished and it couldn’t even give me a little splash zone on that. Just like aiming the other drones, this has momentum and is much harder to aim than you’d think.

The first time you do this, you just have to hit 5 random cars. It was torture. The second time, I had to hit 5 SPECIFIC cars, which also meant that I had to sit around and wait for it to drive back to my side of the level when I missed. And I missed about 98% of the time.

Instead of Skate Attack, this game should be called drone attack. I’d rather watch a drone attack on my own house than play this any longer.

This is where I just straight up started cheating with save states. I’m playing this game on an emulator. I have a PS2, which I bought for Yanya Caballista, but a Windows update broke my capture card, so that’s not really an option. But it’s for the best anyway, because this was just brutal. I made a tiny bit of progress, and I’d just immediately save. Even so, this was still nearly impossible and took me a half hour.

Believe it or not though, this challenge isn’t the one that finally got me to give up. It was actually a very simple and classic skateboarding game challenge. Scare birds off of power lines. Of course, these birds are robot spies, but that’s beside the point.

What’s so bad about this challenge? In theory, nothing. It’s not particularly fun to try to figure out how to get to the birds while you’re being timed, like here where you gap from the side. Being on a timer means that it’s not about discovering the right angles, and it’s not about speed and reflexes. It’s just about experimenting and figuring out a path, and then hitting retry over and over until you can do it flawlessly.

That style of challenge can work in another game. But this one is actively trying to make this as miserable as possible. As you look around and try to figure out where you’re going, you’re getting hit by cars constantly. You’re also getting shot with lasers. Whose idea were these lasers? This is so infuriating!

Guess what! There is a way to destroy the laser turrets though…. Which is by crashing a drone into them.

No. I’m sorry, but I’m done. I can’t put myself through more of this game. It just feels like a chore. My job isn’t that bad, but I’d honestly rather do the worst parts of my job than play this game. This is more frustrating and tedious than work. 

And it’s a shame too. Like I said, this game isn’t really broken from a gameplay perspective. The skating engine works. It feels fine to skate around and do tricks. But they just did way too much other than skateboarding. Give me a skatepark, double the tricks, no drones or any of that garbage, and this game would have been okay. It never would have been great. But it’s a PS2 game that came out well into the PS3’s lifespan, so you wouldn’t have expected it to be great.

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