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Disney Sports Skateboarding

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Konami
Publisher:  Konami
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Extreme Sports
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  12-19-02

Do you hate your kids? I mean, really really hate them? If so, than this is the perfect present to put under the tree this holiday season. Don't be fooled by the Disney license: this is not a kid's game. In fact, this isn't even really much of a game at all. It's a horrible experiment gone terribly wrong.

The gameplay is hard to explain, because there really isn't any. The trick system is simplistic, with only about 40 or so different tricks to accomplish. I can understand making a kid's game simpler than other "extreme" games, but it's nearly impossible to pull any of them off. This is due to the incredibly sluggish controls and framerate, which results in tricks being successfully pulled off successfully about half of the time the player pushes the proper buttons. So right away, we've pretty much eliminated all of the trick-based objectives (primarily scoring) as difficult to accomplish.

The game does offer up a variety of other objectives in each level that aren't trick based, but these are almost all incredibly difficult to do as well. Some of these objectives involve collecting over 500(!) crystals in a limited time frame, destroying a variety of objects, and making it to several different checkpoints. Never mind that the horrible camera/controls/framerate make skating by itself nearly impossible, but most levels are laid out in a manner that screams "I dare you to find anything!". Level design is incredibly complex for a kid's game, often requiring the player to pull off several miraculous feats in a row to reach out of the way parts of the level required to complete an objective. Even if the little tots manage to navigate their way through this mess, it's doubtful that they'll have the patience to do it level after level.

Complimenting the sluggish controls and spotty framerate is a horrible camera system. The camera swings back and forth wildly, rarely offering a decent view of the action. Often it gets stuck behind a wall, directly above the player, or just completely lost panning around. I think we all know by now how important it is to actually be able to SEE what's going on.

None of this is even touching on the physics, which are best described as unrealistic. For example, once the player starts a grind they can literally grind forever. As they slow down, eventually a base speed is reached where the slide just continues on until the player intentionally jumps off. Performing tricks off of ramps is inconsistent, as the exact same speed in one case results in a higher jump than the exact same speed in another case. Speed is gained going downhill, but that's about the only case where reality intervenes. Of course, who can accurately judge speed at all when the framerate is as horrible as it is?

Graphically, Disney Sports Skateboarding is by far the worst looking GameCube title to date. Each Disney character only has the most basic of animation, looking more like robots than cartoon characters. Even that crappy Mickey steamboat cartoon had more animation than this! Where there are textures, they're both N64ish blurry, stretched out, and/or distorted. And of course, there's very little in the way of "special effects" like light-sourcing or particle effects. This entire nothing graphically is amazingly complimented by a lot of pop-up and even some minor fogging. The framerate is perhaps the worst I've ever seen in a finished product, outside of Ultima IX running two years ago on my crappy PC. At best it's playable in a stuttery way, and at worst it's maddening.

In sum, despite incredibly simple level geometry, bad pop-up, tiny and/or blurry textures, no special effects, and simple animation Konami STILL couldn't get a decent framerate out of a N64ish game running on GameCube hardware. I'm can't really put into words how pathetic this really is. Just an absolute programming disaster.

I don't know who the announcer is, but I hope beyond all hope that I never have to hear his voice again. Not only is the quality of his voice whiny, but he utters a "clever" phrase after every single action the player makes in addition to several other off the cuff remarks. The music is actually decent in an "aimed at kids" way, as are the totally unrealistic sound effects.

Highs:

  • It has Disney characters in it.
  • The trick system is simple, which theoretically is good in a kid's title.
  • There's a multiplayer mode, but good luck finding anyone willing to play it.

Lows:

  • The announcer hates your kids and wants them to go deaf.
  • The framerate fluctuates between approx. 0-20 frames per second, residing mostly in the mid-teens range. Even crap-tastic Universal Studios had a fairly solid framerate.  This alone is enough to make the game unplayable…
  • ...but the game also features a camera system that rarely gives a good view of the action, incredibly sluggish controls, and sadistic level design.
  • This is easily the worst looking GameCube title yet. Where there are textures, they're incredibly blurry. Character models are only slightly animated at best, and this is topped off with a stuttering framerate, fogging and pop-up.
  • Level objectives are difficult for experienced gamers, much less the tykes this game is aimed at.
  • The "training mode" is simply an open area where the player can practice. No real tutorial in a kid's game?!?

Final Verdict:

Please do that special kid on your list a favor and don't buy them this stinkin' pile of horse dung no matter how much they want it. This ain't kiddy, it's crappy.  They may hate you in the short term, but as soon as they get a chance to play it somewhere else they'll run home (screaming) and leap into your loving arms.  If you've already purchased it, then either take it back or blame it on Santa.

Worst graphics yet + eardrum-shattering commentary + a modicum of gameplay rendered unplayable by framerate/camera/control problems = the worst GameCube title yet.

Overall Score: 1.8

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