There was a glorious time when every extreme sport seemed to have its own video game. From BMX to surfing, nothing has come close to the popularity of surfing games. While the majority of these titles were arcade games and allowed players to do impossibly long combos and descend from gigantic heights without any wobble, in recent years we’ve seen more realistic skateboarding games. Signal Session: Skate Sim, where the clue is in the title as this might just be a more accurate skateboarding game yet. But does this added realism mean less fun?
Originally released in Early Access back in 2019, session It has come a long way in terms of development. The team at creā-ture Studios has greatly improved upon the original build, and now the game is finally ready for its 1.0 release. Or so it seems. Although how good session Compared to the first few years, there are still some kinks that need to be ironed out for it to be a solid title at full price.
session It starts with creating an incredibly simple character that lets you choose from a few pre-made sliders before moving on to a tutorial on the basics. Directing the player is an old friend, whose dialogue was so annoying that I mostly skipped the script to save the rest of the brain cells. Fortunately for the player (and rationale), he doesn’t come across too aggressively, as there is no story mode. Instead, you get three maps to walk around while you tackle some basic tasks that usually tell you to “go to point X and make a move Y”. However, these things are worth doing, as they reward you with money or some new equipment for your character. Particularly early missions will help you learn the complex mechanics of the game, so while it can be tempting to go and explore, they are useful when getting started.
Although the graphics are in . format session Not incredibly classy, especially the character models and environments look great and the trick animations are really cool. Whereas previous designs had the skateboard overlapping the players’ feet as they rotated under them, you can now see the character’s legs move to avoid hitting the board, and even if it seems like a slight touch, it adds an extra layer of realism to an already very realistic title. Smaller things like the menus and user interface look unfinished, especially the nice screen you’ll see when you complete a task, making it clear that this is definitely a game about substance, not style.
The sound design is probably as close as possible to the actual skateboarding sounds you’ve ever heard in video games. Boards pop and fall with crunchy, fun sounds, and you can almost hear paint peeling from the bottom of your surfboard as you grind out a particularly rough edge. The music – while it doesn’t feature any real bands like the Tony Hawk franchise – strikes a nail in the head when it comes to the sounds of skate culture, with the beats of Lo-fi hip-hop and slightly higher tempo indie music to skate along to.
Get ready to learn a whole new control system; session Not friendly to newcomers and will quickly test your patience. Changing some of the wide range of settings (like how high you can get from the Oollie, or making the grind easier to pull off successfully) can smooth out the steep learning curve somewhat, but you’ll still need to learn a lot. You’ll push your board with one of two face buttons – one of which depends on whether you prefer the normal press or the mongo – and then turn with the left and right triggers. You can get off your board at any time (although the animations make this seem like a feature that isn’t quite ready for the full 1.0) to overcome annoying obstacles that you can’t quite fool around as well as being able to put things into the world with the press of a button. The main appeal of session is how analog sticks are used to represent how a skater’s feet move to perform tricks faithfully. Hold the right stick down and (if you ride with a regular stance) it will bend, preparing yourself to appear in a trick, which will vary depending on which direction the left stick is being pushed. There’s plenty more, too, with pressure swings, twists and lag twists to add to your bag of tricks.
Go from flipping motions to crunchy motions and lip tricks and the same rules apply to bulk. You’ll set the board up in the air (or as you get close to an edge in the case of lip tricks) to land in a particular grind, but don’t expect session To help you by snapping the board to the rail as seen in most other skateboarding games. No, accuracy and timing are essential here, land in the wrong position or wrong timing and you will eat concrete. It’s something I’ve never felt like I’m mastering, and just like in real life, I found myself going back to my designated breeding point over and over to finally make a smooth glide down 12 flights of stairs.
When you get control with left foot = left stick and right foot = right stick then session It’s incredibly rewarding, and even just a shuv-it in the tailslide will have you watching your replays to capture that moment of triumph. The physics system plays a big role in successfully performing tricks, and while the player model looks robotic and lifeless, everything about skateboarding is great.
Although not very user friendly – I had to search online for a lot of tricks and features the game doesn’t explain – with things like primos and darkslides disabled in menus by default, and no tutorial on how to pull them off once enabled, I still spend time cool with session. It’s unpolished, has no real objectives outside of some of the core missions, and features some off-looking character animation. But what it does offer is some of the best skate physics, a fun set of maps full of hidden spots to tear up, and a real sense of accomplishment when you finally spot a line you’ve been working on for an hour (before spending the next hour in the detailed replay editor to create video artwork).