Developer: Glass Bottom Games
It's been a busy time with the new year, but I also got to play some games over the holidays so I'm excited to bring these new reviews. I'm back with another Kickstarter game, this time I'm a little late on finally getting around to playing it. SkateBIRD was a cute project that I forgot I had backed and was pleasantly surprised when I received an e-mail. I backed it in 2019 since I though the concept was really silly and creative, and I haven't kept much tabs on it since then. SkateBIRD is exactly what it sounds like: a skateboarding sim where you play as a little bird on a skateboard. SkateBIRD surprised me with its story and challenged me improve my skills, although the quest systems was at times confusing.
SkateBIRD starts you out with a really great little character creator. You pick your type of bird, skateboard, and clothes. You can give your little bird a hat, cape, bow, headphones, belt, and even sideburns. You can spend a lot of time just on this character creator, so it's good to know you can always go back and edit your bird - once you find new items, even. You're just dropped into a tiny bird skate park, which upon closer inspection you can tell is all one studio apartment for a human. You can choose to just start skating, but your first quest is already available to you if you talk to the nearest bird, named Jodie. Your bird (named Birb) talks to Jodie about how their "Big Friend" is never around anymore, and how you might help them out by cleaning up their room. You're "cleaning up the room" but really, you're learning to use the basic skateboard tricks through this quest. You'll continue to go on missions to make your Big Friend's life better, making bird friends along the way who will assist you on quests - and sometimes, on bird crimes. Look, they're willing to do whatever it takes to help Big Friend have a better life, even if it involves setting a computer on fire. I definitely went in not expecting SkateBIRD to have a story, but it sure did. It was wholesome and funny, and I enjoyed getting to know each of these silly birds. The sense of humor of this game definitely feels a little "meme"-y but it works for me like 90% of the time.
As is essential in a skateboarding game, the soundtrack is on point. There's both the expected pop-punk and ska tracks, with perhaps a new indie flavor, and there's also a soundtrack full of chill, jazzy songs that make skateboarding feel relaxing. There's a couple songs I switched to while I was skateboarding that were just really fun and upbeat, like "Cemeterrarium". In most of the game, the art really pops and looks polished. The birds look pretty realistic, despite them wearing cute clothes, and the environments look like a true mini model world within a regular office or apartment. However, I wish the map would've been a little clearer to read. The dots on your map that signify quests are sometimes hard to see and it's also hard to tell where they are on the map especially if there's multiple floors to the level. Even though I was focusing mostly on the gold dots, since those were the main story quests, I had to often times just hit up all of the blue dots, or side-quests, on the map in order to advance. It seems silly that they would call certain quests "side-quests" even though you need them in order to advance and get the next "main quest" assigned to you. I didn't mind doing these side-quests, I just wish the game would have told me which ones I actually needed to complete to move forward.
When I opened up the game for the first time I was hit with a sudden realization: I hadn't actually played a skateboarding game since briefly I was like 8, messing around in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Skateboarding games give me a feeling of nostalgia because I grew up watching and hearing my brother and cousin play them, so maybe I had allowed that and the cute birds to convince me into picking up a game I wasn't actually going to put time into it. However, that definitely changed. What I really loved about SkateBIRD was how I was able to see myself tangibly get better at the game. I went from being an absolute beginner at skating, bailing pretty much all the time just trying to get around the map, to being able to rack up combos of like 50,000 points. I know to some people that may not be much, but it took me a lot of tries to be able to beat some of the point-based missions in the game. I felt pretty proud of myself and was able to realize I actually like skating games. The game allows you to change the difficulty - I was very close to doing this myself but I ended up pushing through and beating it. However, I do recommend this option for anyone who's very new and might feel frustrated with getting used to the controls. It took me about 10 hours to actually beat the main story of the game, despite the fact that many reviews say the game can be completed in much less time. The game at first felt like it wasn't giving me too much direction on how to play, but I realized I just had to continue to do as many quests as possible and that way I would learn to do more tricks and moves. I would say that the first level of the game perhaps should've been a little easier to navigate, as I spent a long time on that level just trying to get back up to the top floor, but the other levels I believe had a good amount of difficulty.
If you've played a lot of Tony Hawk or Skate, you would probably enjoy SkateBIRD as a different flavor of that same genre. It's hard for me to compare the two, but of course this is an indie game so it's not going to have as many levels or items. For those who are new to skating games - so was I! I still really enjoyed this game and felt like I was able to learn a lot; plus, the game offers really welcoming difficulty options. SkateBIRD is silly, adorable, but also really challenging if you want it to be. I was pleasantly surprised about the story and I think it makes the quests worth completing. I may be more willing to play skateboarding games in the future, and I'm also likely to jump back in to SkateBIRD if I felt like racking up some more points or finding more collectables.
SkateBIRD is available on PC, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S
Played on: PC
Playtime: 11 hrs