Skatebird | Review | Nintendo Switch

Video Review

Introducing The Skatebird Switch Review

Human Skateboarding games have reached a new level with Skatebird! Take flight, somewhat, as you flap like a bird, flip like a bird, grind like a bird, and skate like a bird in this adorable indie game from the developer of Hot Tin Roof and Spartan Fist. Skateboard games are making their comeback and this time, there’s an adorable twist that creates a unique gaming experience. Join us for our review of Skatebird on the Nintendo Switch.

Big Friend, Big Help

How did all these birds get in here…?

In SkateBird, you take control of a helpful skating bird that you design. You’ll make it look as ridiculous and strange as you wish it to look with hats, glasses, belts, rings, and its very own board. The ‘helpful’ part comes in as you move around each area on your skateboard and take random birds’ requests. They’ll range from ‘do tricks to amass this amount of points’ to ‘collect this amount of things in this amount of time lest you have to start over.’ You complete these missions in… some sort of sequence in order to help your, “Big Friend,” who every bird knows and is worried about.

Big Friend apparently works hard, hates their job, and is constantly thinking about skateboarding because every environment they occupy is built more like a skatepark than a functional room. So it is then up to animals the size of apples, and a seagull, to team up across town to help Big Friend out. Of course you do this by collecting snacks, skating in circles, and shooting off fireworks in the middle of crowded town areas! It’s nice to have your pets, and your pets’ friends on your side.

Always Forward…Into Walls.

I…am stuck.

The controls for Skatebird are some of the worst this reviewer has ever played with. They are sloppy, untested, constantly shift according to a camera angle that will shift wildly if it or you get stuck. They will only serve to complicate and frustrate simple tasks that, for some reason, have a time limit attached to them. This is a game that was in desperate need of updates to the controls even as demo phases rolled out, but the mistakes were attributed to the fact ‘they will improve at some point’ but they just never did. This reviewer is positively baffled that controls like this were considered the ‘final version’ for a full release game.

In SkateBird, forward movement is a constant and you can slow yourself by holding the left control stick down, but it will only slow you. You will still careen into walls, rails, ramps, and other obstacles. It’s almost laughable how easy it is to knock yourself off your board because of obstacles, or sometimes for no reason at all. Birb will simply decide not to be on the board anymore and begin rolling around on the ground. Pressing B will set you back up on your board. Reset points can be placed most places to allow easier resetting during missions. Considering how easy it is to be knocked off the board, reset points are either integral to your gameplay experience, or an absolutely ignorable mechanic. This reviewer chose to ignore them as they became more of a burden than they were helpful.

You’ll notice this Fancy Meter on the bottom left of the screen, along with your combo meter. The combo meter will fill back up every time you complete a trick and increase your score multiplier. This Fancy Meter will fill as you do tricks and go down ramps and will mark an increase in your speed. You can also just ride back down larger ramps to fill the Fancy Meter as it only pertains to your speed, not how fancy you, or your tricks are. Unfortunately, both your Fancy and your Multiplier meters reset when you fall off of, are knocked off of, or decide not to be on your board.

Metrics of Failure

Why…is there…A TIME LIMIT!?

One of Skatebird’s major failures is the introduction of Time Limits for each of your missions. Why? For what reason do any of these missions need to be completed in 180 seconds? There is no penalty besides forcing the player to start over. Time Limits are only imposed to give the player a metric by which to measure their own failure. There is no point to time how fast I can build momentum on ramps that make no sense to collect 30 paper clips that don’t stand out on a blurry background.

Another major improvement Skatebird needs is to make objectives stand out more. There is one mission where you must collect 30 paper clips in a set amount of time. They are on and above several ramps nearby but they are almost impossible to see before you skate by them or collect them. Similar issues arise when you must build momentum to collect items that float far above ramps. Collectables desperately need outlines to indicate where they are. There is this useless bird pointer on screen that will point in the general direction of your objectives, but will be very unhelpful when collecting paper clips, snacks, or other smaller collectables.

Final Thoughts

What is even happening here?

The concoction of story beats that are 100% pointless, controls and hit detection that are perfect for an Alpha Demo, and metrics to measure failure that didn’t need to be added to this game for any reason, is borderline unplayable! Also, quick reminder, every single character in this game is some form of BIRD! There is no point in trusting any of the objectives to another bird, who will only limit itself to a single wing flap after it has performed an Ollie. Birds can fly! Why do they require help collecting paper clips, landing on wires, or collecting snacks?

This reviewer tried their hardest to suspend their disbelief for as long as possible, but within 30 minutes this game proved itself to be too frustrating for the casual player. While most Tony Hawk games were not gems themselves, this game considered none of the refinements made from the very first game onward and opted to play like a Pre-alpha demo instead of the game it was intended to be. This is a game in desperate, powerful need of a complete overhaul that it will never get, and this reviewer firmly believes Skatebird can receive 100 updates but it will still never amount to a pleasurable experience. Skatebird is a game that amounts to nothing more than a fun name, an interesting yet ignorable idea, and confoundingly awful controls. This reviewer is disappointed to have to inform you that Skatebird is nothing more than a fun name and a fun concept, but is an absolute trainwreck in execution. This is by far one of the single worst games this reviewer has ever played.

Pros

  • Uhhh…They’re birds and birds are cute..?

Cons

  • Controls are unpolished, sloppy
  • Gameplay loop is repetitive and boring
  • Story is pointless and useless
  • Birds are characters for concept only
  • Frustrating controls
  • No turn-around button to help controls
  • Areas built for skate-park look rather than actually feeling like rooms
  • Environments don’t make sense
  • Characters have no reason to ask main character for anything
  • Time limits exist only to help the player measure failure
  • Plays like pre alpha
  • Never improved from any demo onward
  • Objectives are hard to see
  • Collectibles do not stand out
  • Will fall off board for any reason and no reason at all
  • Building momentum is a headache
  • Ramps not designed in a way that makes sense
  • Loading times

Verdict

Skatebird is a wholly unsatisfying, frustrating, unfinished experience that disappoints from every angle.