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Joystiq feet-on: Skate It


What to do with the balance board now that you're totally fit? Well, you could ... skate it. We'll confess that stepping onto the yoga mat-turned-skateboard for the first time was intimidating. The original Skate taught us that even fake skaters have to practice their cool (and sent posers packing in the process) -- and that was just thumbs! Putting our body in the spotlight at a recent "feet-on" event that featured EA's Wii spin-off, Skate It, was another reminder that what looks easy on TV is just a carefully orchestrated illusion. Thankfully, our play session didn't end in a faceplant.

Gallery: Skate It: Control Diagrams (Wii) | 4 Photos

Skate It isn't difficult because it's broken. Skating around the unfinished build on display felt as natural as skating has ever felt to us; no doubt emphasized by a number of ill-timed tricks and wipeouts. But Nintendo has designed a brilliant tool under our feet, and EA has turned it into a compelling toy. Simply put: This thing works. And with a little imagination, Skate It will truly entertain. Consider the option to auto-push whenever you remove one foot from the board: Obviously, you don't have to kick-push against the floor -- but, why not? Like most things Wii, the experience benefits from a hearty dose of exaggeration.

"This thing works."

Skate It does require more concentration than the average Wii spectacle. So-called casual players may be better suited to couch-skating; not that Skate It is entirely hands-free on the balance board -- making the learning curve all the more intimidating. A Wiimote is required for grabs, at the very least, but can handle any number of standard controls. We imagine the final version of the game will ship with a somewhat customizable control palette with a variety of preset schemes. EA is currently searching for that "sweet spot," the perfect sensitivity setting for the balance board, but if further tests show users prefer a broad range of responsiveness, then the game could ship with an option to tweak the trucks.

Any way you play, the focus remains on movements and gestures that connect players to the virtual world. The physical play doubles as a distraction from the graphical shortcomings inherent in the Wii -- this sure ain't last year's Skate. Developer Black Box has cleverly explained away the downgrade through "natural disaster." The world of San Vanelona is deserted now, in ruins, and looking pretty muddy -- apparently the internet's down too. There will be no online modes in Skate It for Wii. (Ironically, San Vanelona of the DS version has not been through the same disaster and will feature online play.)

Skate It is very much a game to be watched. Not necessarily on-screen, but in the center of the room. Friends and family will gather to giggle and applaud players as they twist and bend and perform X Games-like feats ... or not. Skate It is a safe way to entertain and be entertained, and we look forward to taking a few more turns on the board when the game ships this fall.

Gallery: Skate It (Wii) | 14 Photos

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