With its mind control and magical abilities, you might expect the gameplay to be just as daring. Unfortunately it's nothing more than a refined version of Electronic Arts' Skate series. You use the left analog stick to push off and move your character, while the right stick is dedicated to tricks and ollies. These controls work well enough, but they never become as complicated and deep as the Skate games. Thankfully players can earn points to buy new tricks, but even then it's hard to get past how basic all of the moves are.
The shallow gameplay helps illustrate the half-assed feel of the overall game. Too many missions involve you doing nothing more than scaling a top location or taking out flow-zapping pylons. And when you're not doing that, the game usually just makes the character perform a bunch of simple tricks in order to earn enough flow to move on. The problem here is that the world isn't interesting enough to play around in and there aren't enough moves to keep things exciting for long. I tried my hardest to show off my awesome skills, but I had just as much luck doing the same two tricks over and over in a half pipe. The missions simply don't offer a compelling reason to experiment beyond your comfort zone.
The other problem is that the mission structure doesn't mesh well with a skateboarding game. Too often you're asked to perform tasks that are only made more difficult by standing on a moving block of wood. Players can get off their skateboards, but their movement is limited to running around (no jumping, climbing, etc.). For a game about skateboarding, there are more than a few missions where the board feels secondary.
To the game's credit, there are a number of optional side challenges to complete. In these events you will try to earn points doing specific moves or tricking off of a chosen location. These challenges are a nice diversion from the repetition of the main quest. Unfortunately they are a little too easy and not diverse enough for my tastes, it's yet another potentially awesome idea brought down by second-rate implementation.
Although the different locations are all linked together, I wouldn't call it an open-world game. Each area is limited to a large box with invisible walls and poorly marked exits. As you progress through the story you'll open up new areas in that box, including the ability to quickly warp to other (more interesting) levels. In a sense, this is no different from Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. Sadly, the levels we are given also feel like they were ripped out of a five year old Tony Hawk game.
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but you get to skate in a giant city, through an amusement park and, gasp, even an old factory. To be fair, it's hard to think of a suitable location that hasn't already been mined in a Tony Hawk game, but these Shaun White Skateboarding levels feel especially lazy. With the exception of skating in the air, nothing is added to these generic locations to make them feel specific to this new skateboarding franchise.
Page 2 of 3