I used to love the Tony Hawk games—Underground’s antagonist Eric Sparrow might still be the most punchable villain in gaming, and shredding the half pipes of Pro Skater 3’s Warehouse level to Goldfinger’s Superman was a formative experience.
But all good things must come to an end. I eventually betrayed my Pro Skater roots to EA’s Skate games. It’s been years since I’ve balanced on a grind rail of any description, and I’m sure that muscle memory has completely atrophied. It’s going to get a workout soon though, because Phantom Coast’s skateboarding action roguelike Helskate looks like it could bring me out of retirement.
This trailer, shown at The Future Games Show at Gamescom 2023, displays a little more of what Phantom Coast’s got cooking. It aims to use the base structure of Pro Skater’s mechanics, then smashes those together with the roguelike stylings of games like Hades, building a combat system out of the classic skateboarding series’ old bones.
It’s ticking all the right nostalgia buttons, connecting them to my current appreciation for roguelikes. I love the off-the-wall builds typical of the genre, so when the narrator describes combining a 800% damage barrel roll with a 40% critical chance grind as a setup for a massive hammer blow, I’m excited to see how that feels to pull off myself.
I do have my reservations about whether the sheer momentum of that Tony Hawk template will combo well with a roguelike’s difficulty. In the Pro Skater games it’s difficult to do anything other than go forward, and I’m not certain that’ll gel well with the need for fine combat control. I can easily foresee a future where I accidentally manual my way into a death zone. While that’s fine in a game where you instantly respawn, bailing on a run because I couldn’t steer my skater in time doesn’t sound too appealing.
Still, if Helskate lets you work with that sense of momentum, I can quickly see it becoming a favourite, even if it’ll take me some time to shake off the rust and keep my manuals balanced. Helskate’s plans to have an early access period of about a year, with a start date yet to be announced—head over to its Steam page for more info.
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