SkateBIRD is a single-player skateboarding video game developed and published by Glass Bottom Games. It launched September 16th, 2021 for Mac, PC, Linux, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Amazon Luna. The premise of SkateBIRD is pretty simple, a classic skateboarding game with a fun theme twist. You play as a skateboarding bird, and one of my favorite things about the game is just how much they enjoy running with the concept. Picking and making your character right away is fun, and it’s awesome how many species they have to play as. They are also available to immediately pick from, so you don’t have to wait to unlock the type of bird you want to play. The birds aren’t just simple recolors either, they have different models. You can play as a pigeon, an owl, budgie, finch, raven, sparrow, and a lot more. Besides the birds themselves, you can also make them wear cute little outfits and accessories. You can also unlock additional customization items by finding them hidden throughout the skatepark levels.
The levels of skateBIRD are also really charming and carry the game almost as much as all the bird themes. Instead of the classic skateparks or cities of other games, in this, you play on tiny bird-sized parks. Your owner’s room, for example, using pizza boxes as ramps and grinding on office supplies. These levels are also fun to explore, and scattered throughout are hidden items and birds that give you missions. You spend your entire gameplay time either exploring the level you’re on or doing the missions the birds scattered around give you. These missions drag the game down, they’re generic, repetitive, timed, and many times the instructions aren’t completely clear. What makes the missions most dreadful of all though, is the controls that go with them.
SkateBIRD has some major control problems, and some of them were even pretty rookie development mistakes. Besides WASD, a trick or action is also assigned to a left shift, space, f, r, q, t, and x. It’s really hard to keep them all straight, and they are also all bunched together. The gameplay is designed also in a way where if you accidentally hit the key you didn’t mean to, you can’t cancel it out and will likely mess up everything you’re doing.
Luckily, you can adjust some of the controls to make it easier for yourself but not by much. The best thing I could do was slow the game speed down to about 70% to make it playable. Nothing about the controls feels intuitive, and they don’t get easier with time either. These controls coupled with a janky physics engine, somewhat finicky camera and awful missions make for a frustrating combo. The controls may not be as much of an issue on a console version with a controller, but for me and my keyboard, it was pretty rough.
SkateBIRD does have some redeeming qualities that help keep some fun in the experience. The soundtrack compliments the atmosphere and stays on the fun silly side. Keeping everything feeling light and reminding you you’re a silly bird riding around on a tech deck. They also add the ability to flap your wings and fly to your trick set and throw in other fun bird actions like screeching and pecking up food. It changes up the gameplay from any other skateboarding game, and it’s pretty fun to string bird trick combos. Riding around doing fun combos is honestly way more enjoyable than tackling most of the missions, and you can find some hidden objects while exploring. But the missions make up for more than half your game time, and they suck the fun out of things.
Finally, I think the levels and their design are worth going into further. The physical design of the levels is pretty fun, a skate park made out of a bedroom, and using everyday objects for tricks gets stale pretty quick. They don’t get more original and crazy than that, and honestly, Micro Machines and other games have taken this same concept and done so much more with it. Exploring these levels also goes from fun to frustrating pretty quick with the controls, and a lot of the fun out of exploring much of the level. There were so many times when I saw somewhere I wanted to go, I knew how to get there (grind a rail for example), but a trick as simple as grinding was way too hard to nail and after minutes of trying you just give up.
Overall, SkateBIRD has a lot of potentials and doesn’t take itself too seriously, it has fun with its concept, and keeps things silly. But the awful controls and terrible mission system drag the entire experience down. The lack of any online or multiplayer also shows how much potential this game had but never pursued. I can’t recommend anyone pay full price for this game.
Score: 6.5 out 10
Reviewed on PC