Going down the tubes

Skate of the Art logo

TIME was when getting air meant going for a quick stroll, and a real hip skateboard was a short plank with half a skate at each end. Sheesh, even the very term getting air is a little old hat - all the juves groove to atmospherics these days.

Trouble is, skate parks are either pocket handkerchief affairs with about 40,000 skaters per square metre, or huge, soulless places which cost a fortune to get into. So all the mad, bad and rad dudes have started building their own courses, wherever they can, and with whatever they can find.

Skate of the Art starts, against all possible odds and LRT's safety standards (whichever is the lesser), on the platform of Earl's Court tube station.
Various bits and bobs are arranged in a one-dimensional way along the platform, for the special delight of your little skater. Tasteful brick ramps must be climbed at just the right angle and then coasted down gracefully.

Manholes, and what look indistinguishable from piles of books and filing cabinets, must either be jumped or flipped, depending on their size.

There's no bonus for completing a course without error - they can only be done in one faultless run otherwise you lose a board and have to sit through the whole tedious business of the little skater setting his board down at the start.

Each of the courses is short. The real skill lies in timing the movements just right. The 20 courses track your progress through the skateways of the world, with various panoramic views and geographically relevant obstacles.

The preamble to the game is quite well done, with a series of simple but effective attract screens. The controls are explained in rather a neat way. You are presented with a picture of a joystick and your little skater in a small window. You move the joystick, the joystick on the screen moves, and the homunculus obliges with the relevant action. Simple, but neat. It kept me happy for half a minute or so.

Although the attract mode works, the in-game graphics are not great. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, they're blocky and wouldn't be that remarkable on a C64. Most of the screen is taken up by a huge upturned skateboard whose wheels move in sync with yours. It really only acts as a scoreboard.

The top hundred or so pixels do the interesting bit. The smoothness of the scrolling would be remarkable on a lesser machine, but we are in the real world, so I'll try not to mention it. The tunes can be lives with, but the game effects are limited to a rather pathetic "Aah!" as your skater wipes out again.

By making the first course very difficult until you learn it, and then making it a mere formality when you know how, Linel has killed any urge to progress with the game. It's too simple, too hard and too dull to charge any more than £1.99 for, despite any effort that went into it.

Skate of the Art's only claim to fame is that it comes from Liechtenstein, the little principality which is too small to hold Captain Bob and his bank account simultaneously. Unless you're on a "Buy Liechtensteinian" drive, the atmospherics are better elsewhere.

Skate of the Art logo

LINEL £19.95 * Joystick

Twenty stages viewed-side-on skateboarding action. Controls are limited: scoot (for speed), lean back, lean forward and flip are the ones you'll use most as you move left-right across the screen at great speed, jumping obstacles and shooting up and down ramps.

Though there are twenty of them, the levels are all short and it's simply a question of remembering which moves come in which order and hitting the fire button at just the right moment to get through them. Should you misjudge a jump, however, you go sprawling across the road and have to restart the level with one of your initial five lives gone. Make it through the stage and you are rewarded with a 'flip' bonus, decided by how many jumps you did, plus a time bonus, decided by how quickly you finished.

Skate of the Art, so far from being state of the art, is basic stuff indeed. Although it looks all right, it is simple in design and quite frustrating in gameplay. Even hardened 'boarders out there will find their interest evaporating quickly with this one.

Skate of the Art logo

Linel, AMIGA

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hurtle along on a piece of wood with a wheel on each corner with nothing to protect you but a pair of elbow pads? No, neither have I! But now, thanks to Linel, you can enjoy skateboarding without the risk of broken limbs or hospital food.

Skate of the Art places you on a skateboard and the idea is to stay there. This would be easy if you were the normal run-of-the-mill skateboarder, content to zip up and down the high street bothering pedestrians, but you're not. To prove your worth you must negotiate twenty increasingly difficult levels and become Skate of the Art champion.

You start on a skateboard track in Earls Court station and must progress through Holland, Miami and the World Skatepark. Each level scrolls from right to left and includes things like ramps, jumps and various other obstructions that must be overcome.

As with all Linel's releases, Skate of the Art is a highly polished piece of software. The graphics for the courses are crisp, detailed and very varied. The main character is a little blocky but is well animated and certainly passes as a skateboarder.

There are very few sound effects and what there is, is sub-standard. Thankfully, there are a few good tunes that more than make up for this. To help you get used to the occasionally awkward control system there is a joystick training mode which partially makes up for the lack of any helpful documentation. To start with your biggest opponent is the joystick but once you've got the hang of it you'll find yourself performing flips and jumps with ease and thoroughly enjoying it as well!

In the early stages it's hard to put the joystick down as you try to finish another level or improve on your best score. However, as you progress to more difficult areas of the game it gets a little annoying that you have to work through the previous levels all over again.

I think that Skate of the Art will appeal to most people but especially to fans of the Kikstart genre.