Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pro Skate

Another week, another sub par skate game. I know, with my crappy balance and crappier knees, I'm never going to tear up a half pipe any time soon. Still, I like to pretend I could grind my way down city streets, usually living vicariously through the characters of games like this week's victim, Pro Skate. Except when I fantasised, I was never a gangly drunk apparently without a skeleton.

Pro Skate isn't really a skating game. It's more of a balance game, riding from one end of a two-dimensional track to the other without falling. The goal is to do this as quickly as possible while picking up stars for extra points and grinding along rails. All in all, there isn't much to the skating; your mode of transport just happens to be a skateboard, but it could be anything and it wouldn't make the game any less enjoyable than it already is - by which I mean, not at all.

In fact, sticking this loose-limbed relative of Forrest Gump on a bike or in a car probably would have made the game slightly better. The controls are so damn sensitive that he spins left and right with the slightest of taps, crashing in a heap of barely attached body parts. He moves like someone dressed up a crash test dummy and nailed it to a skateboard. Why the game designers thought a rag doll was a good idea, I'm not sure, but as the skaters arms flail wildly back and forth I'm left feeling rather confused.

The one thing that gets you more than anything else is the complete lack of sound. There's no theme music; there are no sound effects save for one grunt at the beginning of each level, like it pains the game every time it has to load the next track. Well, I'm sorry, Pro Skate, I didn't realise I was being such a burden on you!

It's so unnervingly quiet that I actually had to put on some music just so I would have a noise, any noise - anything but the awful silence that filled the room while I played. That's never something I've had to do before. I got through Platform Robot 2 without sound, and that's unquestionably the worst game in human existence! But Pro Skate's eerie quiet left me feeling as if something was trying suck my brain out through my eye sockets.

The game takes place in a construction yard for reasons I couldn't begin to fathom. Most skating games take place in, well, skate parks. Some take place on city streets. Not many are set on building sites for the simple reason that it would be retarded to skate in a bloody building site. Regardless, you skate one, trying not to fall over (and failing, repeatedly) while collecting stars. The stars, it seems can only be gathered if you touch them with your skateboard; I went right through plenty in the course of playing with no result. That's really all there is to it. Unlike other games of this type, Pro Skate doesn't feature any tricks. You can hold onto the board by pressing the "C" key if you want to flip in the air, but why bother? You'll probably just land on your head and you get more points for just finishing the level quickly.

I found that the best strategy was just to move slowly across the screen, not attempting to do anything other than reach the end. It got me to the later levels but it was, naturally, about as exciting as Sundays with your grandmother.

Lacking good gameplay, good controls and good graphics, as well as any sounds at all (which I don't normally comment on, but which in this case just bugged me) Pro Skate is an ironic title, if ever I heard one. There's no real skating, and none of it happens in a professional environment. Every level is the same bland grey with a generic city silhouette in the background. There's no enjoyment to be gleamed from winning, and losing is far too easy. Considering there are already some really great skating sims out there, Pro Skate had to deliver far more than a slapdash balancing game to garner anything other than apathy.

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