|What with the massive
hype of THPS and the X Games, as well as the recent acceptance of skateboarding as an
actual sport, skate parks are being built in cities everywhere and the kids can't get
enough. Likewise, skateboarding games, a genre that had stagnated since the glory days of
720 and Skate or Die, have gotten a shot in the arm lately. THPS is generally considered
the top of the heap on the console systems, but the THPS Game Boy Color port was a solemn
disaster. That being only the second skateboarding game for the GBC (the first was a sorry
port of 720), the field is still wide open.
Enter: MTV Sports Skateboarding featuring Andy MacDonald. The day before this game showed up in the mail I was watching Andy Mac on ESPN2 pulling insane tricks in the pipe. The Birdman himself was praising Andy. The man has clout. MTV Sports Skateboarding is the best skating game for GBC so far, and manages to be fairly entertaining apart from its genre, but there's still a long way to go.
Andy MacDonald is the only pro skater you'll play in Skateboarding. You may also play Dieter, Harry, or Toshi. Each skater is from a different country, adding to the game's international feel. You can play several different modes: Free Skate, US Tour, European Tour, or World Tour. In the Free Skate you cruise around a park pulling tricks. It's a good place to get your bearings, but not the most fun level. The tours take you to different cities, ranging from Seattle and LA to Rome and Moscow. In each city you ride around a park trying to complete a certain task. You may have to earn enough points, grind enough rails, or maybe pick up icons.
The control is pretty tricky at first, and eventually it gets OK. That's not to say I ever find myself really happy with the controls. The buttons are used for ollies, tricks, and pushing. The A button is only for pushing and a couple of tricks (handstand and nose wheelie). I would have liked to see the pushing aspect removed and had the A button used to provide more complexity in the trick controls. As it is, you only have to jump toward a rail to grind it, and there's no way to really control what kind of grind you do. It's also pretty tough to transfer between rails often you just fall right through the rail and occasionally even become stuck in it. The steering is a bit tricky, too. The character turns on a dime, and there's not a lot of leeway given on ramps and obstacles, so it is very easy to bump into a wall or edge and have your approach ruined. I found it way too frustrating just to ride over most of the obstacles at first and had to force myself to keep on. Eventually, I got used to the steering enough to play the game, but the obstacles still occasionally seemed needlessly difficult to navigate.
The graphics are pretty decent. The characters pretty much all look the same, with different colored shirts, and the levels don't have any real outstanding graphical features, but there's a cleanliness about the design that makes it easy to look at. While Skateboarding won't ever make you take note of the graphics, it won't become difficult to figure out what's what and where it is, which can be an issue in some GBC titles.
Overall, it's true that MTV Skateboarding is the best thing we've got so far. With what's come before, it may very well be the best thing we have for awhile. It would be nice to have a multiplayer mode, and it would be cool to see more variety in the course design, so there is room for improvement. But if you're dying for a portable skating experience (that is, aside from the real thing), check it out.