Skate City Heroes Review
Skate City Heroes box art
System: Wii Review Rating Legend
Dev: Zoo Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Zoo Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 24, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Typically, skating games aim for a teenage demographic, working in heavy doses of skater fashion, punk music, intricate lingo describing tricks, and realistic visuals. Zoo Games' little-noticed Skate City Heroes takes a very different approach: the characters still look like stereotypical skaters, but the game has a futuristic, cartoonish feel obviously intended for younger audiences.

Skate City Heroes screenshot

You'll make your way through a series of courses, not only pulling off stunts but also skating past robotic enemies and attacking them, in a quest to save a friend who's been kidnapped. Skate City Heroes will do little to sway players who can't stand skating games to begin with, and skater-game veterans will find it out-there and simplistic, but it works exceedingly well as a "my first skater game" title. This is the disc to buy your eight-year-old nephew whose knees are always scraped up.

The quality of any skating game rests on that of its control scheme, and the setup here is quite usable. Most players will opt for the Wii-mote plus the Nunchuk, but those who've ponied up three figures for Wii Fit can throw the Balance Board into the works as well. (When attached, the Balance Board is used for tricks, grinding, and manuals, and you can choose to have it control steering as well.)

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Without the Balance Board, the Nunchuk takes care of most of your movements, and the A button jumps. There are countless tricks to perform by combining various movements with various button presses. Whenever a challenge requires a certain move, the necessary inputs appear on the screen until you're done, so you're never left fumbling around until you complete the challenge by accident or flip through the instruction manual. Many other games only detail the moves in the tutorial or in the intros to the challenges, so this is a welcome addition. It's a great way to have a huge set of moves in a very accessible game, even though some of the directions leave out crucial details (such as the need to jump before executing a given move).

Skate City Heroes screenshot

The only problem with this control scheme (besides the bizarre decision to have the 1 and 2 buttons, rather than the plus and minus ones, bring up the menus) appears when you suddenly face a balancing problem. When performing manuals, grinds, etc., you have to tilt the Wii-mote back and forth to keep an arrow in the middle of the onscreen "Balance-O-Meter" bar. This works when you're expecting it, but to start a manual, you tilt the controller quickly forward or back. This movement occurs by accident far too often: whenever you're coasting and relax your right arm, your character will start a manual, and you'd better bring the controller back to balance him, or else hit A to jump, or you'll take a spill. It's akin to starting to set the controller down toward the end of a Mario Kart Wii race, and having your racer veer off the track right before the finish line, except it happens far more often.

By contrast, when using the Balance Board, you'll still jump with A, but you'll also be shifting your body weight, often in conjunction with button presses, to pull off other maneuvers. This adds a level of realism (especially when you opt to steer, in addition to performing tricks, on the Balance Board), but unconscious movements still trigger plenty of accidental manual and other movements.

Skate City Heroes screenshot

You'll start by choosing one of two characters and attending a brief tutorial, and from there it's on to the Old Downtown location, where 100 medals await. The story takes a backseat; quick cutscenes introduce the challenges, but don't do much in the way of character development or tale-telling.

The open-world nature of each environment is a rather minor element in the game as well. You can explore a bit instead of taking up challenges, and it's mildly amusing at first to run over pedestrians and hear them yell "Hey!", but it's hard for an E-rated game to recreate that Grand Theft Auto feel of debauched recklessness. Skate City Heroes does, however, sometimes manage to create that Grand Theft Auto feel of irritation when you fail a mission and have to go all the way back to the beginning before restarting it. Soon each world feels like a giant map screen, with an arrow pointing you to the next challenge location and little reason to play around with anything else.

Screenshots / Images
Skate City Heroes screenshot - click to enlarge Skate City Heroes screenshot - click to enlarge Skate City Heroes screenshot - click to enlarge Skate City Heroes screenshot - click to enlarge

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