It’s amazing how badly four light sensors and accelerometers can mock your terrible coordination. Tony Hawk Ride made it painfully clear that physically inept nerds won’t be able to use games to pretend they’re faster, stronger, deadlier for much longer.
The controller is a plank that curves up at both ends, like a DA haircut, to make it easier to tip one direction or the other. It’s like a skateboard with no wheels, made out of the sturdy plastic they use to make to non-styrofoam coolers. There are four light sensors you can see—two on the tips, and two in the centre on opposing sides of the board, forming a cross—not to mention the accelerometers you can’t. It’s how the board detects when you do a hand grab. Along the edge are Xbox control buttons. It’s not very heavy. I never felt like I going to break it, but I’m also not very heavy, about 70kg.
“You ever skateboarded or snowboarded?” Cody, who was running the demo, asked me. I’ve snowboarded. I was afraid to step on it immediately, since I figured it’d control the menu like a Guitar Hero controller. It doesn’t (hence the buttons on the bottom). So I planted my feet perpendicular to the board, and almost immediately nearly fell off as it pivoted because I leaned too far forward. Leaning is how you turn. Since my balance sucks, it made playing hard.
I got back on and managed not to fall off this time. We did a trainer course, so I kicked once along the side of the board to simulate thrusting myself forward, and my onscreen counterpart zipped forward along a rail. To jump, you have to pop the board up quickly on one end by leaning back. It really does have to be a snapping motion. “Like a Wiimote,” Cody offered. Turning is a matter of leaning left or right, and that was natural and easy. To do a hand grab, you have to trigger one of the sensors on the end. You don’t have to go all the way down and literally touch board—in fact my knee triggered it more than once on the half-pipe section.
The carpet onstage, which wasn’t luxuriously thick by any means, made keeping the board totally flat difficult, so if you have some seriously plush carpet, using Tony Hawk Ride’s board is going to be frustrating, I suspect. And you’re not gonna wanna play it on hardwood either, since slamming the board back on end to jump is going scuff it up like a swarm of dogs on steroids ran through your living room.
I have to wonder, however, if the game’s difficulty was a result of my personal athletic deficiencies or the game’s—it’s supposed to be designed for people who’ve never skateboarded. I wasn’t the only one having problems playing, by far. But maybe it just has a steep learning curve—you’re doing a lot more than waving a wand or clicking a button while holding another one, after all. I definitely want to play in a group for at least a couple of hours to really lay a solid judgment on this thing, more than my own skills.