Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Publisher: Glass Bottom Games
Developer: Glass Bottom Games
Release: August 31, 2021
Reviewed on: Xbox Series S
Also on: PC, Nintendo Switch
Growing up, there seemed to be a plethora of skateboarding games: Skate or Die, California Games, the Skate series, and of course, Tony Hawk. Heck, even The Simpson’s had a skateboarding game. And while there was a bit of a dry spell for skating games, they certainly seem to be making a comeback. You really need to try something different to break into the genre, and Skatebird certainly took up that challenge.
If the name didn’t give it away, you play as a bird that skateboards. And the game has a pretty deep character customization. You can pick between several different species of birds. Being from Wisconsin, I naturally picked a robin, though the design of the robin in the game is based on the European robin and not the American robin (who knew there were two different types of robins? Well ornithologists obviously do). Besides picking the bird species, you are given quite a few options for hats, eyewear, and scarves. Seeing that there was a set to deck out your bird to look like a pirate, I had to go with that theme.
From there you begin your career. You start in the bedroom of the human you live with and it’s a mess of a room, which adds to the “skate park”. You find other birds in the room (how did they get here?) and this is how you get missions, by talking to the different birds. This is how you progress in the game and while most of the missions are fairly easy, some are not that intuitive which hurts the overall enjoyment of the game. When you pick up a mission, a timer starts, and you need to complete all aspects of the mission before the time runs out, otherwise you need to start the mission all over. And you can’t pick and choose which missions you want to start with or try next, the missions are very linear. You also can’t progress to a new park until you complete all the missions on the current park you are on.
As you play through the first few missions, you are learning the ropes and how to do different tricks. Mechanically speaking, the tricks are easy to pick up on, but there aren’t that many tricks you can do, and because of this, the game becomes very repetitive. The tricks you can pull off are ollie, fliptrick, grind, stall on a lip, grabtrick, and transfer (which allows you to go over one side of a ramp to the other). Since you are a bird, you can do a double ollie (basically a double jump) which allows you to reach higher places in the park. There is no progression or leveling system, so once you know how to do the tricks, there’s not much more to the game except going around and completing the linear missions. You are given a score for each trick, and there is a multiplier for stringing scores together, but outside of bragging rights, there isn’t really a reason to try to get a higher score. There’s no achievements or goals for achieving a certain score.
The game also has some camera issues. There will be times when you go up a ramp and expect the camera to be behind you, but it changes and suddenly what you thought was going “forward” is now going backwards. This often results in going the wrong way, back down the ramp you just went up. This is mainly due to the fact that you use the left stick to move your character, and when the camera gets wacky, it throws off your character movement.
The game does have some positive aspects. Besides the character customization, there are some hidden items throughout the levels, additional music tracks, and clothing you can use to dress up your bird. And the music in the game is great. It’s not music that you’ll recognize from the radio or from your youth, but it’s chill and ties into the game well.
And maybe that’s the whole point of the game, to be a chill experience. But with a lack of tricks and progression, it feels shallow.
Final Grade: C-
What Skatebird does well, it does really well. The character customization is great, the music fits the game well, and picking up how to do tricks makes it easy for anyone to pick up and play. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough to sustain the game and keep your interest. The lack of any character progression, the simple list of tricks, and absent overall level achievements make for a lackluster experience. The concept is unique but just misses the mark in keeping your interest.