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A Skate Story demo has me yearning for its knee-shattering flow state

A glass act

The stone bust of a philosopher speaks to a skateboarder made of glass.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Devolver Digital

I too desire to eat the moon. In Skate Story, you are made of glass and you will burst into a thousand miniscule shards if you bail. You have signed a four-page contract with the Devil, cursing you with this fragile body yet blessing you with a fearsome skateboard with which to fulfill your quest to digest Earth's only natural satellite. I've only now got hands on a demo shared earlier this year at Tribeca games festival, and I'm reverberating with pleased energy at the dreamlike atmosphere of this demonic kickflip simulator.

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To put on my reductionist green visor for a moment, Skate Story feels like a mash-up between skating sim Session and surreal saunter 'em up Tales From Off-Peak City. You're skateboarding down winding hillside tracks towards a goal while heelflipping over spikes and powersliding through archways, gathering a currency called "soul" to spend on decks and wheels. But you're also getting into boss battles with the giant talking marble bust of an ancient philosopher. At one point you meet a huge grinning box of stone in an enclosed garden of learning. "I am unable to express anything but a smile!" it says, with great annoyance. It is called the Happycube.

A huge smiling cube greets the skateboarder in Skate Story.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Devolver Digital

I'm in danger of liking the deep unseriousness of the game's voice more than the actual skateboarding (and the skateboarding is not bad!). Everything is said with a grandiose sense of weight and significance, turning the speech of rabbits and statues into a kind of bloviating poetry that makes me smile with the same appreciation that only certain lines of Disco Elysium or thecatamites games can bring. "It has come to my attention that you have been skateboarding," says the philosopher at one point. "A sin beyond sin."

It helps that the game looks like a piece of modern art. Everything is covered in a destabilising grain of wibbling noise, while the reflections of your character's gleaming body cast prismic rainbows onto the camera. The hard-edged underworld has the look of a realm under intense heat and pressure, as if at any moment everything you see will be crystalised from gritty coal into sharp diamond. The ground beneath your board at times takes on the appearance of a localised event horizon. Concrete blocks spawn dozens of little centipede legs and start walking across the level, only to retract back into the cuboid stone when you approach.

A large monolith declares that the ollie is a skateboarding move that takes "an eternity to master".
A skateboarder pushes on the board down a hallway in a classical Greek building.
A skater pushes towards the moon.
A skateboarder speeds past a chainlink fence.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Devolver Digital

The tricks (in the demo, at least) are simple - ollie, kickflip, heelflip, shove-its. And, for all the otherwordliness elsewhere, there's no sense of exaggeration to your movements compared to something like Tony Hawk games. It doesn't feel as involved or complex in terms of controls as something like Session or Skater XL. And there are subtleties to the leaning of the analog stick, allowing for chill manuals. Sometimes my hands - trained on years of OlliOlli - want it to be quicker, more sensitive to my own twitchy pace. But the game won't budge on that, a tempo I will learn to respect. Designer Sam Eng has mentioned elsewhere that the game is partly about flow state. And in the longer downhill levels of the demo, it really shows. It is like the abstract rhythmodivinity of Thumper got introduced to the Lo-fi Girl.

We don't get a lot of skateboarding games, compared to the world of car racing or ball sportsing anyway. And it might be 2025 before we see the next Skate game appear. I'll be happy if Skate Story can address the gap.

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