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Street Sk8er (PSX) Review

Background Info

Skateboarding has always been strangely overlooked by videogame developers. With the proliferation of alternative or extreme sports titles in the 32-bit era, it seems odd that Street Sk8er (SS) is the first representation of the sport on the PSX. Skaters are generally very hardcore and passionate about their sport, which is a true subculture with its own language, legends, and ideas. Trying to appeal to the average skater as well as the masses is perhaps SS's greatest dilemma, and is probably the key to whether it will see any sort of success.

Presentation/Graphics : 70
Taking a page from Sega's arcade game Top Skater, EA has created in SS a colorful, bright, cartoony world of large and diverse courses that would probably make most skaters drool. The characters in the game are large and a bit chunky, but not in a bad way, and they animate well. Tricks look especially cool when you pull them off.

Overall, there's very little to complain about, visually. Ramps, rails, curves, turns, bushes, trees and all manner of obstacles are well represented. The simple graphic approach that EA has taken with this game is very appealing, and helps to make sure everything looks solid and moves smoothly.

Presentation/Audio : 70
Well, considering that the sound effects are limited to basic grunts, thwacks, and various other skating sounds, SS is perfectly acceptable. Everything sounds fine, and everything goes where it should. Enough said. The soundtrack is a very extensive mix of underground bands of various sorts, and it's good enough for me. I liked X-Games Proboarder's tunes better, but this is in the same vein, and it's pretty rockin'.

Interface/Options : 60
SS features simple, easy to navigate menus. EA's sometimes-confusing menu hierarchy has been thankfully left out, making adjusting options and starting a game a quick and painless process.

On the control side of things, there is one glaring omission that left me puzzled - analog control. The vibration feature of the Dual Shock controller is supported, but why not analog control? Other than that, there's really nothing very complicated or obscure about the play mechanics of the game. You will be easily doing flips and tricks on your very first run. Too easy? I suppose that's a matter of taste.

Gameplay : 60
Rather than adapt the rather convoluted control scheme from its X-Games Proboarder title, EA has simplified the trick controls to a degree aimed not just at the mainstream, but at as broad a section of the mainstream as possible. When nearing the edge of a ramp, a press of the X-button will make your skater jump, then a press of the d-pad in any of the four cardinal directions will automatically execute a trick, landing and all. As your skater gets more experienced, different tricks become available.

The basic setup of the game is this: you must finish a given course within the time limit while racking up points by doing tricks. You must score a minimum number of points on each course in order to progress to the next. So I approached the first course by doing as many tricks as possible and cutting it as close to the time limit as I could so that I could get more tricks in. Makes a certain kind of sense, right? (I'll assume you said "yes"). But I was getting nowhere - I would always end up a few thousand points short of my goal.

Perplexed, I looked on the Internet for advice and found that it is actually more beneficial to do fewer tricks and have more time left over (which gives you a time bonus) at the end. So on my first try with this in mind I easily scored enough points from the time bonus to progress to the next run. Then I beat the second course on my first run. The third was a bit more difficult, but still more of the same. Personally, I find this a bit disturbing because it removes the focus of the game away from tricks and places it squarely onto beating the clock. Sure, tricks need to be performed, but it feels like they don't matter.

That's not to say that SS isn't fun. It is, but I'm not sure that it will really survive the long haul. EA seems to know this, as well. Look at any of the hints for this game on the net, and to unlock the various goodies (hidden characters, more boards, different routes) usually entails something like "beat the game twice with each character," etc. Beat the game twice? Whatever happened to making a game that took a really long time to beat once, and then rewarding the diligent gamer for doing so? It just seems a bit fishy to me.

Difficulty : 65
SS does provide some challenge, but as mentioned before, with the "automatic" tricks, it's not the type of challenge you'd expect. The courses are complex enough to not get stale quickly, and there are "mini events" like a bowl and half-pipe that can be pretty fun and add a bit of variety. Basically, new routes are opened and the point total needed to progress keeps going up. Also, as mentioned before, you'll need to beat the game quite a few times in order to unlock all of its secrets. How patient are you?

Overall : 66
Off the mark. That's how I'd best describe Street Sk8er. It's doubtful that it will appeal to hardcore skaters because of the severely limited trick mechanics, and yet skateboarding probably doesn't have a wide enough appeal to bring in the masses. This isn't a bad game, but it feels less like a representation of a sport, and more like a formula that needs to be solved in order to move on. A fun rental, perhaps, but SS falls flat pretty quickly due to its disappointingly shallow play mechanics.

By: Andy L. 3/22/99

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