When piafs think they are Tony Hawk, it gives SkateBIRD, a little indie game with cool vibes and feelgoods released on Switch and PC. On paper, the title has it all. What could be classier than grinding straws or ollies on top of cardboard boxes? Unfortunately, this Tiny Hawk crashed in midair when it was launched, the fault of a catastrophic technique and camera, only to get back up better thanks to an update that saves it from disaster.
An imperfect Tiny Hawk
The concept of the game is as easy as pie: you are a bird on a skateboard deck. You and your fellows have made it their mission to make your “Friend” happy, the human who welcomes you to his home. A slightly crazy pitch that goes very well with the offbeat tone of the soft and a humor that sometimes hits the mark, at least as long as you play in English. SkateBIRD does offer a French version, but it is so excruciating that we strongly advise you not to try it. The story is rather funny to follow, without the fuss, even if we could hope for a little more in the end. Never mind, it is only a pretext to highlight the coolos birds at will, with well-colored personalities, which will give missions not really interesting but ultimately useful to improve your skills. Because yes, the main goal is to skate or skate as the French version would say (yes, it is at this point).
If you’ve played the old THPS, you’ll be on familiar ground. The key assignment is almost identical, but the combos are at a discount. Apart from a few grinds, ollies or other basic manuals, the gameplay shows its limits very quickly. The movements are always the same and have fortunately lost their heaviness to gain in fluidity thanks to a very saving patch. It’s night and day on some aspects since this update. However, some things do not change.
SkateBIRD can be really fun to play, but there is always a technical bug that taints the experience.
SkateBIRD is trying somehow to bring its own paw to an already well-worn genre but does not really succeed. On the other hand, we appreciate the fact of being able to follow up with a second ollie in the open air thanks to our character’s wings or to catch up in mid-flight to cushion a fall that would empty FANCY’s precious gauge. Like her model, she fills up quite simply by doing and chaining tricks without falling, with an interesting twist: spamming the manuals will be useless. Here, it will not allow you to do a special combo (too bad), but just to increase your speed. And given the cumbersome travel at the start, you really don’t want to eat. Fortunately, all of that has improved and that imperative feeling is no longer really relevant.
A little more exciting since its patch, SkateBIRD still has two shortcomings: its imprecision and its capricious camera. If you bought the game when it was released, you’ve known my pain. Seriously, I don’t think even the early Tony Hawks had one so daisy-like. You were doing a killing death ollie and picking up straight up because you couldn’t look around or zoom out to control your landing. Were you trying to level up for the twentieth time? The camera froze and hello fall. There are plenty of examples, and we only kept the softs, since you could even sometimes be out of the picture. We are no longer in these extremes, but the problems persist nonetheless, even if the whole is clearly more fluid. Since this update, we discover an unsuspected pleasure of play as the frustration is no longer relevant. In the facts, SkateBIRD can be really fun to play, but there’s always a technical bug, an invisible wall, imprecise controls and that stiffness that taint the experience..
Artistic direction is not up to the concept
Perhaps we will have to wait for other future updates as beneficial as the first for the game to be more enjoyable and stable? We hope so, because if the execution had followed, SkateBIRD could have been a nice little indie surprise with a really nice concept and an original, but uneven level design. In the indoor levels, the game shines with its creativity with its improvised skateparks made of small everyday objects. Outdoors, we get closer to tastelessness than anything else, unfortunately. You still have to hang on to unlock the other levels, which require you to accomplish the famous missions that will have to be attempted multiple times because of technical defects. Also, some parks are poorly thought out with, for example, half pipes near tracks that cannot be grinded or with objects frankly not at the right scale to allow fluid combos.
Everything is not to be thrown away, however. We appreciate the customization of birds, which have the avian class at the peak, the OST which is also quite uneven but which offers songs rather well felt, and the game is really adorable at times. Too bad thes graphics are frankly passable at best and that the artistic direction is not up to the concept.