SkateBIRD (Switch) Review
SkateBIRD first showed up in 2018, quickly grabbing attention with the simple combination of a little bird riding a little skateboard. It was absurd and way too cute, and it was a must-have when it came out. Finally, it’s 2021, and after some all-too-common Covid related delays, you can get out your bird-sized skateboard and get ready to SkateBIRD!
As I already mentioned, SkateBIRD is too cute for its own good. It’s also the most likely thing that grabbed your attention about the game; a little bird on a skateboard. Skating around in the human world, reminded me of playing Micro Machines way back when (and it’s about time for another Micro Machines game). Skate parks made around the mundane human world are of course much bigger for a budgie. It’s fun seeing what’s been used to make the skateparks on a small scale.
Because you’re just a tiny bird, it’s understandable that the spaces are so big, but they feel a little too big. The large open spaces feel empty, and getting around the levels takes more time than you’d want in a skating game. Because it’s so open, it also makes it hard to see where the mission-giving/story-progressing birds are around the level. You’ll want to pick up missions when you can because it’s how you open up more levels. You can, of course, take your time and explore, finding more bird accessories and music tracks to unlock.
Whereas Tony Hawk games would have you completing typical objectives for each level, SkateBIRD will give you seemingly random ones.
SkateBIRD thankfully adopts a similar control scheme to the Tony Hawk games, making it easier to jump into if you’ve played any. The game is also great for helping you get used to the button prompts, which you can turn off if you don’t want too much guidance. Unlike steering a human skater around, controlling your little bird is an ongoing nightmare. I understand it’s part of the whole playing as a bird deal; they are little things with wings flapping around. Only it doesn’t work well when you have to control that bird. Flapping your wings does give you a little boost upwards or can carry you forward further, but it’s often at your detriment. Way too often, it would mean I’d overshoot a landing, or it didn’t get enough air, which sucks when trying to nab some of those collectibles. One thing I did enjoy was the game is more generous with the balance meter on moves. In fact, if you don’t want the meter at all, you can turn it off. The accessibility settings can help reduce the number of buttons required or give you a more forgiving time to land tricks.
Something you’ll notice almost straight away is that SkateBIRD is inconsistent with what will and won’t knock you off of your board. Sometimes you’ll emerge unscathed from tricks that should have knocked you off the board, then other times you’ll fall over just because. Once again, the accessibility settings can help alleviate some of the frustrations, but it’s still not 100%.
This brings us to the camera. Once again, it’s likely easier when you’re having a camera follow a person skateboard. Replace them with a cute little bird, and it becomes chaos. It’s at its worst when you’re in a more confined space, combined with the controls, and it’s just not fun.
As you skate around each area, birds will offer you missions to complete. Helping them leads to new environments. I liked that there is a guide arrow/bird to point you towards objectives, as it’s not always clear where you have to go. The bigger difficulty is finding your bird friends in the first place. When you’re moving around, they’re small colour blobs or you’ll only see them because a button prompt shows on the screen. It wouldn’t be so bad if unlocking more levels didn’t rely on completing these goals.
There are moments when you abandon looking for your bird friends and just skate around listening to the game’s tracklist. The more you unlock along the way, the more variety you get. It’s not really a Tony Hawk Pro Skater soundtrack, but it’s fun if you like your lo-fi beats. You’ll find yourself appreciating all the goofy cute things this game has in it. In no other game will I get to control a Kookaburra wearing a little scarf and aviator glasses on a skateboard.
SkateBIRD is a game you’ll want to love, it’s hard to be let down by it. Unfortunately, all of the issues keep this game grounded. Get it for the bird, not so much the skating. Developer Glass Bottom Games made a cute indie skating game, and it seems they’re still supporting the game so it could address some of the issues. For now, SkateBIRD’s appeal depends on how much you like to commit to a bird-based skating game.
+ Too cute
+ Cool lo-fi tunes to skate to
+ Getting to be a cool skateboarding Kookaburra
- The camera is untameable
- Big empty spaces for a small bird
- Controlling a skateboard bird is chaos