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You should care a great deal about Skate Story, it's one of the best indie games in development right now

There are skating games, and there is Skate Story. In with a brief hands-on I am beyond excited.

Skate Story press image
Image credit: Sam Eng / Devolver Digital

Skate Story is currently my most anticipated indie game. Having played around 45-minutes of it at Summer Game Fest 2024, in a small dark room installed in sunny California, it matched every expectation I had for it. Scratch that, it surpassed them, leaping over my initial hopes for the title with a little kickflip, leaving me genuinely astounded. Skating fan or not, it's a game you absolutely have to have on your radar.

It has been on my own radar ever since its reveal during Devolver's digital showcase in 2022. Its striking visuals and otherworldly soundtrack captivated me. It looked to be a game attempting to capture the spirit of skate videos in a mythical, post-modern box. But how that game actually played, whether that trailer magic transferred well to a tangible play experience, was a mystery. Devolver Digital, after all, is a master of presentation, of nurturing a particular style of cool subversive game and presenting it in a funny, earnest package. Tempting to video game lovers like MSG is to the tongue.

My discovery that Skate Story is astounding was like building a dream PC and booting it for the first time, cheers escaping your mouth as all the lights turn on like they should. Whoever signed the game at Devolver must have felt like they found buried treasure. And they may have actually done so.

Skate Story trick
I mean look at this | Image credit: Devolver / Sam Eng

Sitting next to Sam Eng - the solo developer behind the game - I was able to play the first portion of the game. You're thrust onto a Skateboard in an occult ritual (with the vague goal of eating the moon) and are let loose on a true skateboarding journey. You start with no knowledge, no tricks. Instead, you learn the basics of how to get on and off your board, how to increase your speed and do a simple jump. At this point, eating the moon seems as impossible a goal as becoming a great skateboarder, dotted with myriad failures and crushing botches. This seems to be the point of the game, a rite of passage filled with failure – but one you must persevere through. It's an approach to skateboarding games that I love.

As you progress, you are gradually introduced to new skills – such as the ability to do kickflips and ollies – and rather than rush you onto new challenges and new tricks, it leaves you to try out these new-found skills. It literally opens a portal for you, shooting you through these rad corridors where all you've got to do is reach the end. No time limit, no requirements, just a narrow playground to mess around in. Skate Story understands that trying and nailing a trick is its own reward. Skateboarding is cool, and you don't need to force players to do it.

This on its own would be fine, but the presentation in Skate Story just takes it to a whole other level. The aesthetic is this VHS 'video hell', buzzing flames bar your path and send your glass skater crashing into pieces. The game will suddenly switch between a midnight modern metropolis, to stone ruins, to a Y2K vapourwave thought-palace. A lesser game that threw you into a Dante's Inferno skating story would plaster the game with fire and brimstone, halfpipes, and random rails torn straight out of Bam Margera's garage. Skate Story goes in a totally different and, frankly, unique direction that sets this game apart from other titles in the genre, building a home among boundary-pushing creatives in the corners of the video game industry.

Pair this with a soundtrack from Blood Cultures and John Fio and you're teleported into Sam Eng's head. There's a contradiction here: chill, often upbeat music you can genuinely vibe to, and your character barreling down a path at 50MPH doing kickflips over flaming thorns. These clashing opposites have the same effect as smashing sea salt and caramel together; it elevates the whole experience. I must have looked an absolute dork in that preview room, laughing and nodding away at Skate Story's brilliant presentation.

Skate Story hallway
This in motion is frankly a step above other games I've played recently. | Image credit: Devolver / Sam Eng

During previews like this, it's common that you stop playing the game for a few moments to note down interesting aspects of the game - things you liked or didn't like - then pick up the controller and jump right back into it. Skate Story ensnared me. To the degree that I had to hop onto a seat outside the Devolver booth and quickly note everything down. Skate Story is a game that's painful to put down.

Oh, and then there's the camera. Rather than slap your view over-the-shoulder – as is the norm with these kinds of games – you're often given a bottom-up view, behind and to the side of your character's legs, as your skate. This approach, with the fish-eye lens effect on the game perfectly emulates legendary skateboarding videos that helped popularize the sport. Landing a trick is one thing, but the game seemingly knows the perfect place to set the camera so that when you do land that perfect ollie, you get this wonderful front row seat to it. A visual feat that's equal parts as exciting to watch and listen to as it is to play.

If I were to make a comparison to skate videos right now, I'd say this. Skate 4 - the highly-anticipated skateboarding game - is like the Halloween Hellbomb series. Big, bombastic. More focused on the hype and outrageous stunts on display - much loved and widely appreciated as a lot of fun. Skate Story is more Pizza Skateboard's "Beaks": a relaxed expression on the love of the sport itself, with its camera right up next to the board as the skaters land that golden trick, bloody mouths and peeled skin be damned.

Skate Story is aiming for a vague 2024 release date, and you should keep it in mind if it sounds like your sort of thing.

But instead, I'll say that each and every one of you should wishlist it right now, and buy it when it eventually comes out. It is looking that good.

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