L. Sahara McGirt
Soothing Games: Skate City Now Available on Consoles & PC
By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag)
Available on: Apple Arcade, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, Playstation, PC (Epic Game Store, Steam)
Review console: Xbox Series X
Welcome to Stack Up's first edition of Soothing Game Reviews. The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as such, some of our articles about games will cover the mental health aspect of video games, gaming, and gaming communities. Which are all a part of Stack Up's mission is to help active military and veteran mental health through gaming and geek culture. Why video games? Read all about that here.
Our Soothing Game Reviews will focus on games or genres of games that our writing team finds relaxing. Perfect for those times when we want to play a game on our PCs or consoles or open up an app on our phones and relax.
If you remember, back in February, we posted a Hype article for the announcement that Skate City is coming to consoles and PC. Skate City is now out on consoles and PC, and I got a chance to play it, thanks to the folks at popagenda.
I really enjoy skateboarding games, whether it's a Tony Hawk game or Skate. Something about these games has always been soothing to me. It could be the continuous play of riding a skateboard down a street, through a course, or the sound of the board's wheels as my character coasts along on concrete. Or even the wooden pop of the board as I trigger a kickflip and the resounding click of wheels against the pavement as I land the trick. Whatever it is, Skate City takes everything I enjoy about Skating games and takes it to another level.
To begin with, Skate City uses the Xbox controller's thumbsticks to pull off and execute the simpler tricks. The trigger and bumper buttons are used to do manuals and spins. This control setup makes me think of my elementary school years in the 90s playing with Tech Deck fingerboards. The motions are not exactly the same, but the sense of flicking still reminds me of them—much simpler times when the worst that could happen was my teacher taking my fingerboards away. (Ms. Allen, if you read this, thanks for at least giving them back at the end of the day.)
Skate City has two modes: Challenge Mode and Endless. While I did try the Challenge Mode, Skate City shines in its Endless Mode. Challenge Mode is what it says; a goal is given, whether it's doing tricks and reaching a certain score within a time limit, a race against an NPC skater, or doing specific tricks within a zone. This game mode can get frustrating, but it is the only way to earn SC to unlock the other locations and buy gear to customize your character.
Endless Mode gives players a chance to ride along in their chosen location at whatever speed or goal they want. Whether it's to practice endless tricks with no pressure or just to take a Sunday stroll on a skateboard while admiring the game's vibe. Endless Mode is not bogged down by time limits or challenges, and all sense of urgency is easily lost as the background visuals and nameless NPCs glide by.
Interestingly, Skate City is set up as a sidescroller. This is a bit different from what I am used to, but it works for Skate City. My customizable skater coasted down sidewalks, the background scenery changing as they went. The background depends on location, Los Angeles, Oslo, Norway, and Barcelona, Spain. Los Angeles, in my opinion, was the more laidback of the settings of the game, as obstacles did not seem to be as frequent, and the background includes such scenery as a sailboat, basketball courts, parks, and palm trees.
Skate City's visuals are best described as easygoing. The colors are muted and soft. Sharp edges of the backgrounds almost seem to be softened with a kind of hazy blur. The day/night cycle of the game adds to the easygoing vibe as day lazily and subtly drifts into the night and back into day. Not unlike the oblivious skater I control drifting along the pavement as the background changes. The weather changes, sometimes with a blazing sun and other times, it rains. Still, the controlled skater rolls on, mindlessly skating and skating some more.
All of this happens to a soundtrack of relaxing Lo-fi beats, matching the visuals of this relatively comfortable skateboarding game. The scrolling sound of the wheels of the skateboard against the pavement are there in Skate City, just as they are in other skateboarding games. The wooden pop of successfully pulling off and landing a trick ensures that Skate City will probably be added to my continually growing number of skateboarding games to play in that last hour before bedtime.
If you get tired of sidescrolling, Endless mode in Skate City includes a camera control for players to get a closer look at their character as they do tricks. This mode is also useful for taking screenshots, with a slow-mo control that allows the player to capture their character doing tricks a little more easily. As shown below:
Performance-wise, Skate City is pretty smooth-sailing. The worst a player might encounter is accidentally landing a manual right before an area where they need to jump and getting stuck. Luckily, Skate City provides an easy restart button that puts the player right back at the beginning of the course.
Overall, Skate City is a fantastically soothing game, and it comes with a rather low price tag of $14.99 in the Microsoft Store. The game is also available on the Nintendo Switch, Playstation, on PC via the Epic Game Store or Steam. Or you can download it from the Apple Arcade for the convenience of playing while waiting for your appointment at the doctor's office.