One of the most popular skateboarding video game franchises is the Skate series from EA, which masterfully combined both arcade and technical elements into one stylistic approach. Since the 2010 release of Skate 3, however, fans have been begging for a new entry in the series with little acknowledgement by EA. The Kickstarter-funded Session seeks to alleviate fan frustration by providing a skateboarding experience that is currently absent from the industry and pulls inspiration from the Skate series analogue-stick trick control and respawn system.
Session’s controls are a contrast to Skate’s, despite sharing minor similarities with how tricks are performed via analogue sticks. In Skate, the left stick is reserved for movement and turning, while the right stick is for board manipulation. Session alters this formula by having each analogue stick correspond with the skater’s feet, allowing the controller’s triggers to control the turning. For example, the player could pull the right stick down to crouch, and flick the left stick up to ollie or diagonal for a kickflip/heelflip. Session’s controls require some adjustment from players yearning for a Skate follow-up, even though muscle memory is hard to forget.
The two largest factors for Session’s learning curve are muscle memory and control design. Instinctively, most people will use the left stick for turning as most games do, but Session uses the triggers. To alleviate the learning curve, Session could offer the option to adjust the analogue sticks to represent the front and back foot, instead of left and right. Allowing players to alter the way each analogue represents a foot can simplify the riding mechanics, creating a more enjoyable and welcoming experience.
Session’s development is still far from finished, as the title has yet to implement techniques such as grab tricks. A notable issue is how simple mistakes can cause a player to fail any trick, creating an issue with the game’s grind mechanic. Jumping onto an object properly will initiate a grind, however, a slight movement of the analogue stick or a change in speed can cause the player to fall.
Furthermore, Session does not have a score tracker that registers a successful grind or trick, making most grinds feel like the player is just skating normally. Lining up a jump can be very difficult due to how the game registers player input. Turning while crouched is incredibly slow and can cause the player to crash due to difficulty with making the alignment. Being able to swiftly turn while preparing for a jump is crucial for any skateboarding game, and Session is no different.
Skate’s influence on Session continues, as the Kickstarter title attempts to further showcase how realistic its mechanics can be. Ultimately, most of Session’s attempts falter, due to the lack of real-world physical feedback that would allow people to know their body position. The game has the potential to flow better by providing more leniency for the player’s control to suit their playstyle, and use of some sort of visual cue, such as a score or trick tracker, to tell the player that the game understands what they are doing. The game should keep the technical gameplay the developer is aiming for but add more ways to lower the barrier of entry, making it less of a niche title than what the skateboarding genre already is.
Similar to Skate, players can place a pin and respawn there at will, which is a great feature for those trying to achieve a perfect run or land a difficult trick. Additionally, like Skate 3, when a player is not on their board, they can open a menu and place objects around the world, such as railings and ramps. Being able to place pins and objects is beneficial for the player to customize their experience and add creativity to aspects outside of trick lines and runs.
Sadly, the Session demo did not feature any large areas where the player can gain momentum for longer runs, nor did it feature any good vertical ramps for playtesting. The demo indicates that Session might not feature a fleshed-out momentum system, as speeds seem to be mostly limited to the speed of the character pushing the board.
Music is a subjective matter in games, but the selection of licensed songs in Session will be the main factor to the game’s rating. The songs are mostly harder British rap with a lot of cursing; if the game implements a wider selection of music with less swearing, the game will be able to reach a younger audience.
Session has established a solid foundation for itself; however, it is lacking the extras that make a good skateboarding game. The title’s realistic gameplay is a step in the right direction, despite controls that are seemingly designed for a player base focused on realism. Allowing for the customization of the game’s control scheme could simplify the gameplay so players can focus on what they want to do, rather than the execution. Session shows promise to be something captivating, but at times it feels like the realism the developer is striving for gets in the way of creating an enjoyable game. While the game is still early in development, the team working on the title has plenty of time to smooth out its rough edges and add features that will make Session far more enjoyable.
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