I sunk hours upon hours into skateboarding games as a child and preteen. I often settled for PS2 hand-me-downs that I didn’t give up until my console died. But despite all of the titles that have come out since, I’ve never dove back into the genre. It’s hard to pinpoint what my hesitation was, but regardless Skatebird knocked it right out of me and I’m right back into them. That probably isn’t the case for a lot of people playing this game, though.
Developed by Glass Bottom Games, the premise of Skatebird is literally in the name. It is about skateboarding, but it’s also about just hanging out in worlds that feel too big and not suited for small avian creatures. I really enjoy when a developer decides to take an established genre or game type and do something completely different with it. Games can become monotonous and sometimes a unique point or even new gimmick is exactly what you need. Skateboarding games have always had a strong focus on being technically advanced. Or focusing how realistic the stunts look and how immersive the movement feels. Glass Bottom Games captured that, but not quite in the ways you’d expect.
Before breaking the game down, I really want to talk about the birds you can play as. In addition to the budgie shown in previews, you can even skate around as an owl. Beyond that, you can change so much about the bird of your choice. Add a scarf, put on a little hat, or maybe even a pair of shades. Want a belt? You can have it. That’s the power of customization. On top of it all, the birds have such charming personalities to go with their sweet outfits. Frankly, talking to other bird NPCs and seeing the different attitudes come through was a highlight.
This isn’t the next Tony Hawk game and it isn’t marketed as such. This is Skatebird, which is a good thing! It still has all the same combo chains and tricks you would expect in a game about skateboarding. Zooming around, doing ollies, and attempting to grind on ramps (and cereal bowls) still matter. Unfortunately the ease in which you do so isn’t the best. Skatebird has plenty of options that you can mess around with. None of them really helped me get my footing in the game other than the slow down option. The ability to slow your movement and have a little more control was necessary, as the camera often felt disconnected. Falling off the skateboard seemed incredibly easy to do.
The initial frustration I felt when attempting to clear missions faded as I began to just enjoy my time changing my bird’s look and skating around. I mean, it’s a bird. How smooth can it really be on a skateboard?
Despite it all, I’m absolutely not good at this game. It’s taken me hours of playing to admit that, but it’s the truth. I haven’t been able to find every collectable, and unlocking every level feels like a far away dream. And still, I keep on. I dress up my bird, I search for the elusive Big Friend, and I skate. Skatebird is difficult, but it is so committed to its style and individuality that I still want to pick it up. If you’re looking for a game that perfectly simulates the feeling of skateboarding, this probably won’t be for you. If you like birds or have ever wondered, “What would that look like on one?” maybe pick this up.