Years have passed since we got a major skateboarding video game from a AAA studio. EA hasn’t said word one about a hypothetical Skate 4, so indie studios have kicked off with their own attempts. Enter Easy Day Studios, the development team behind Skater XL. I got my hands on a build of the game at a Microsoft event right before PAX West, and as a fan of the old EA games, I had to test it out.
Getting a Grip on Skater XL
After 20 or so minutes with Skater XL, I learned something about myself: I’m god awful at Skater XL. It’s a complicated system that goes beyond the somewhat complex controls of the original Skate games. For the uninitiated, Skate let you use the right stick to pull off tricks. By drawing out a pattern, you somewhat mimic the movement of your feet on the board, translating to a kickflip or a 360 flip, for example.
Skater XL takes things one step further by letting both sticks control your character, one for each foot. While this provides even more precision in how you want to do tricks or grind, I found it hard to override years of Skate muscle memory at first. I only started getting the hang of it toward the end of my demo. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun with it, and I persisted until I could pull off a decent grind.
Despite how early into development it is, Skater XL feels great to play. I wiped out a lot, but it was never long until I got back on my board and tried again. The devs built a system that lets you set a new spawn point as well, letting you practice specific parts of a park until you’re satisfied. I could see myself spending hours trying to practice a few tricks around a park.
Trucking Along in Skater XL
The build of Skater XL I played had two maps, both based on popular skating locales. Neither map was huge, but there was enough to work with. One had abundant opportunities for grinding, which let me practice the mechanic a bit. And trust me, I still need way more practice, especially since the board purposefully doesn’t snap to edges.
The extra-fine control you have over your feet lets you angle the board in whatever way you want. If you want to do a 50-50, just line up your trucks. If you’re looking for a tailslide or noseslide, you know what to do. I found it tough to line things up in the short window of time I had, but I started finding some success after many tries. That feeling of finally pulling off a boardslide was so satisfying, even though that would’ve felt like baby steps in any other skating game. I didn’t even care that I wiped just seconds after landing.
If you have a Skate 4-shaped hole in your life, Skater XL might flip your world upside down, and for the better. It’s still in Early Access, so it’s hard to say how the final product will shape up. Regardless, its current build feels like a great proof of concept. Easy Day Studios provides us with a lot to play with here, and I’m eager to see how the game will blossom in the next year.
Skater XL isn’t the only attempt at skateboarding games to come from the indie scene in recent years. The OlliOlli titles take a great arcade approach to skating, and the wacky yet endearing SkateBIRD shows a lot of promise. Meanwhile, Easy Day Studios’ most direct competitor likely lies in creā-ture Studios’ upcoming title, Session. Nonetheless, Skater XL looks to be a strong contender in this dark, post-Skate 3 world.
Skater XL is currently in Early Access on Steam, with Xbox One and Nintendo Switch releases on the horizon.