Down at the skate park the other day I was really impressing the betties with some kickturns, handplants and ollies. Yep, even If I say so myself, my skating is bio! And if you haven't any idea what I'm on about, then maybe Skate Or Die is for you, teaching you hip skateboarding lingo while you compete in five gruelling events.
You start off in a road junction where you pick a multiloaded event to compete by skating down a street, and it's not as easy as it sounds. In the Freestyle event there's a large U-shaped ramp - you have ten passes to pull such rad stunts as Rail Slides, Rock 'n' Rolls and Footplants. Stunts are chosen by moving your joystick in two grey-coloured 'pump zones ' and timing is vital. The U-shaped ramp is also used for the High Jump, you have five passes to score a maximum height by pressing fire at the top of your jumps, building up momentum.
A completely different sort of event is the Downhill Race, here you have a tilted, overhead view of your skater as he zooms down a smoothly-scrolling obstacle course. There's one and a half minutes to jump over, duck under and dodge around all the objects in your path. Or if you'd prefer a bit more violence there's the much tougher Downhill Jam where you race through city backstreets in competition with another skater, controlled either by the computer or another player. If the other guy looks about to overtake you can punch and kick him!
Yet more violence crops up in the Pool Joust where you confront either a friend or one of three computer opponents. The rules are simple: two guys enter the empty pool, and one has five passes to try to knock over his opponent, using a buffing stick (oo-er). The first person to win three bouts is declared the winner - a tough event, but too simple to make you persevere.
Skate Or Die is an interesting collection of games, most of which are quite playable and enjoyable but none of which really stand out. If you're a skateboarding freak this is good value for money, and even it you're not there is some quite compelling gameplay, but it's not a game I'll be returning to that often.
MARK ... 67%
'Skate Or Die isn't really much fun at all. The graphics are poorly drawn and badly coloured. Gameplay is limited, either whizzing about in the U-shaped ramp, zooming downhill or suffering the awful Pool Joust. Most of the events are reasonably enjoyable to get to grips with, but addictiveness is low - particularly if you haven't got a disk drive. As for the sound, well if you do actually find any, then congratulations to you - I couldn't! Skate Or Die is unattractive, unaddictive and uninspiring.'
MIKE … 41%
I'm a sausage. There I was, thinking There's something a wee bit odd about the controls on this one matey,' and I was playing in the ridiculously silly 'goofy foot' mode all along. What an embarrassment, eh?
Perhaps I'd better explain. Skate Or Die is a skateboard sim, and whilst you're groovin' along on your wheels you can execute your moves using two different sets of controls - the 'regular foot' option which means the board goes more or less the way it's meant to, or the 'goofy' one that makes it all a bit more wibbly. This oddity apart, you'll find that this is actually very much along the lines of last year's 720'.
You start in Rodney's skate shop where you sign in. Then it's off to the town square where you must choose the event you wish to take part in. Do this by skating down the right path. But beware you don't always end up playing the 'deadly' downhill race which is very easy to select if you're not paying attention.
You have a choice between playing the events in a set order, or going to whichever you prefer and plugging away at that. I've outlined the various events in the box to the side, so I won't go into too much more details here, except to say that unlike its rivals this seems to rely more on a sort of violent 'knock the other guy over' gameplay than on executing neat tricks all the time. Should you not have a pal at hand, you can always play the machine which provides three villains - Poseur Pete (he's easy to beat), Aggro Eddie who's a pretty tough customer and shop owner Rodney's little lad, Lester, who's one mean mutha.
And that's basically it really, except to point out Skate Or Die's particular strengths, the biggest of which is the colour - certainly. when compared to the monochrome 720' - it's a riot of seasonal brightness.
A rather addictive and very playable game then, as these things tend to be, even if it adds nothing to what 720' and the bonza roller-skate game Skate Crazy have done before.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £8.95, Diskette: £14.95
ICE COLD AND JAMMIN
If you enjoyed the half-pipe freestyle event in Epyx's California Games, Skate Or Die is for you, because it's devoted to that most rad of transports - the skateboard.
Event one is similar to the Games one but with more moves available. High Jump also takes place on the half-pipe ramp but altitude is the aim. There's a swift journey through a park in the Downhill, and an equally fast but perhaps dangerous one in the Downhill Jam two-man race. The rivalry gets stronger in Pool Joust, where the two skaters roll around an empty swimming pool and attempt to knock each other over with a 'boffing stick' (oar or paddle).
Released a long time ago on the Commodore 64, it's almost as enjoyable now on the Spectrum. While the High Jump's too simple and Pool Joust too tricky and boring, the remaining three events are great fun, particularly with friends.
Most screens and their elements are black on white, and though things sometimes become a jumble of pixels, the visual elements work reasonably. Sprite movement and scrolling, where used, is adequately done. A fun package of events that's well worth a look.
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