Crea-ture Studios is looking to satisfy the hunger of those eager skateboarding fans waiting for a Skate 4 via their own project by the name of Session, which has just launched a Kickstarter campaign, and lucky for us there's a free demo to try the game out as part of the pitch, which is exactly what we did after hearing about the oh-so tantalising comparisons to EA's Skate franchise. After all, not even Tony Hawk titles are providing a satisfying skateboarding experience in games, so something needs to be done.
We booted up the demo and jumped into the tutorial, learning that A/X is push (we were using an Xbox controller), depending on your style, and that you turned with RT and LT - not quite conventional, sure, but we got the logic behind the decision, and so we gradually got used to that, as we did with the manuals, which required you to push a little bit down on the right stick, as with Skate.
But then came the bombshell. Whereas in Skate you used your right stick to flick down and then up for ollies, changing the angles to do tricks and going up to down if you wanted nollies, here the control system has one key difference in that you hold right stick down but then flick the left stick up, which felt all kinds of wrong for our fingers, as did pushing a little bit up on the left stick to do a nose manual (again, this would've been the right one in the EA series).
As a Skate fan with engrained muscle memory from years of play, having to flick the left stick up clashed with everything we knew, and that's going to be a sticking point for a lot of players, who will no doubt do as we did and forget which stick you need to flick, instead ragdolling off your board as you crash into any and all obstacles.
A big part of Skate's appeal, especially with streamers and YouTubers, was also its humour, so this audience will be pleased to know that this ragdoll feature is indeed in Session too. We can't criticise a very early demo too much, but right now the ragdoll effects don't seem very satisfying, as the appeal in Skate was that you felt a crunch and the impact of things hitting your body (hence why Hall of Meat was so great), while here it seems a bit lifeless, like your body turns to jelly.
We had quite a bit of trouble with grinding in the demo too, as when you were near a rail or ledge in Skate the game gently helped you onto it for the most satisfying connections, but here there didn't seem to be any such assist, instead requiring very precise jumping to land right on the rail, which we achieved only with great difficulty.
This all sounds like we're complaining about the game, but it's a catch-22: if you make the exact same game, that's just a ripoff, so this needs to be different, even though some might not like that. With the control scheme, we're sure we can get used to that, and what's more important is that crea-ture Studios has nailed the feeling of Skate, with the funny tutorial and the sandbox-style approach, even down to the visual style.
Of course this all needs polish, as there are clipping issues and everything feels a bit clunky right now, but you can tell that the team behind the game knows Skate well, and this should hopefully translate to a great spiritual successor once the game progresses, including a refinement of the skateboarding and improvement to the visuals. For now, we're struggling to nail our tricks, but we're impressed by what we've seen, and we just want to get back on the board even more now.