Secret Shelf: SkateBIRD Is The Skating Game About Trying (And Flying) Your Best
Is it just us, or are alternative sporting games making a comeback? Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 must have started something special, because ever since we’ve had the likes of Knockout City and Mario Golf: Super Rush arrive to carry the sporting torch past the obligatory FIFA and Madden titles we’re used to showing up every year with a defeated ‘hurrumph’. Plus, 2021 is yet to see the likes of Riders Republic, Shredders and OlliOlli World grind onto consoles. Among them, however, is the little bird that could.
It’s clear that skating’s impact on the indie game world doesn’t start and end with the delightful The Ramp, as Glass Bottom Games have something under their wings that could very well contend with the greater world of skateboarding games.
Flying In The Face Of Giants
Skateboarding games have long been in need of a little bit of diversity, and luckily, Glass Bottom Games were ready to answer the call with SkateBIRD. The classic arcade skater with a feathery twist has been in the works for some time now, and even before the game’s launch, many media outlets are singing its praises, with Kotaku boldly claiming that the game could yet be better than the long-awaited Skate 4. And Glass Bottom Games’ founder and SkateBIRD’s lead developer Megan Fox is still struggling to process the attention.
“[It’s] f*ckin’ weird”, she laughs. “The game has been significant enough in a lot of press that I start to depersonalise the numbers, like ‘oh, this can’t possibly be mine. Did Steam screw up and show us the wrong store stats?’ [...] It doesn’t feel real. None of this feels real, and it probably won’t until we launch. And then I’ll probably be stumbling around in a state of shock.”
It must feel like a bit of a whirlwind to be on the team behind SkateBIRD, but it’s clear to see why audiences have latched onto the game. Wholesomeness in gaming is in its golden age, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons showing the wider world that sweetness sells. The likes of Here Comes Niko! and Button City are proving that loveliness has its own special world away from the FPS frontlines, and if any game can exemplify this niche at all, it’s one about rotund birds clattering off of finger skateboards.
A game all about skateboarding birds of course isn’t one that tries to take itself too seriously, and thankfully, it translates directly into the gameplay. SkateBIRD’s attitude is all about simply trying your best, and emphasising that it doesn’t matter how trick-rich your adventure is - the only important thing is that you have fun. The programming of the game is designed to be forgiving, offering moments that’ll have you saying “how did I land that?” in the very best way. Even when you do stack it and roll off your board in ragdoll (ragbird?) formation, it won’t matter. You still did your best, and that’s all you can do.
But this is what makes SkateBIRD so damn special - it offers you the creative sandboxes you’d find in the likes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or Skate without chaotic input orders, or the pressure to be flashy or impressive. The expectations of standard skateboarding games are pecked away by your spherical feathery protagonist, and gives you the chance to experience a new way to have fun on a board.
Higher, Feather, Faster
“SkateBIRD is a game about a bird that tries their best”, says Fox. “It’s a game about being small in a large, largely uncaring world and managing to make a difference to make yourself heard, despite your obvious lack of any kind of inboard talent or trait that would allow you to do this.” It might seem like an overly earnest and deep way to describe a game about skateboarding birds, but it’s hard to deny.
Since the game’s incredible success on Kickstarter and a Nintendo Direct announcement trailer that’s amassed over half a million views, the game has been able to build beyond its humble beginnings and develop a whole story mode that takes you on a journey across your owner’s bedroom (which GGRecon can exclusively reveal drew some influence from the absolute classic that is Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure) and beyond. It’s grown exponentially, and has given way for cosmetics, story beats and printable bird toys alike that make SkateBIRD truly feel like something much bigger than the parts that made it.
SkateBIRD could be on the edge of sending Glass Bottom Games into the stratosphere. Its launch is long-awaited and already predicted to genuinely compete with the Tony Hawks of the world, and there’s every chance that it could. And even if it doesn’t, we know for certain that the team, much like their birds, have tried their best. And that’s all anyone can do.
SkateBIRD launches on Steam and Nintendo Switch on September 16.