Skate Story hands-on: Kick, push, shatter


Push. Push. Push, push, push, jump —

All four wheels reconnect with the glowing pavement in a slap of crisp plastic and crunching wood.

Push, push, push, push, jump kickflip

Another slam, a quick screech.

Push, push, push, ju

A shattering crash. The world flips on its head in an explosion of glittering blacks and iridescent pinks. I let out a small laugh, adjust the controller in my hands, and lean forward. Reset.


In a hyper-chilled demo space at Summer Game Fest, Skate Story creator Sam Eng drew a picture of a flaming skateboard on a business card while I played his game, occasionally lifting his head to giggle at my crashes and answer my questions. He described Skate Story as an attempt to capture the feeling he often has while skateboarding, invincible in one moment and utterly vulnerable the next. Fragile, like glass.

Skate Story absolutely crystallizes this feeling. You play as the glass skater, a demon made of translucent pain, and your goal is to skate to the moon, eat it, and escape this hell. The game takes place in a series of surreal playgrounds in the Underworld, offering long catwalks for gaining speed, winding pathways lined with lethal red shards, and open areas dotted in concrete ramps, gaps and waxed ledges. The Devil and his minions are your enemies, and their only weaknesses are your sweet tricks.

Skate Story
Skate Story (Sam Eng)

Skate Story is coming to PC and I played the demo with a standard Xbox controller: Press Y to hop on the board, A to gain speed, X to powerslide and B to ollie. Holding A pushes the glass skater forward in a steady rhythm, holding B does a higher ollie, and combining the trigger and bumper buttons with a jump executes a trick. I leaned heavily on ollies, kickflips (left trigger + B) and grinds (near a ledge + B), but I also landed a few moves that included these inputs plus a nudge of the right analog stick, swapping stances.

As I ollied my way through the Underworld, I encountered a variety of floating stone heads — some friendly, some vicious — and I collected items to unlock new progression areas, slamming my board into the ground to solve little puzzles. There was a shop with custom decks and parts for sale, and wide-open spaces for practicing tricks. The demo’s concluding boss fight, versus a giant stone philosopher’s head no less, provided a concrete arena for me to perform tricks and deal damage with my rad skateboarding prowess.

Skate Story
Skate Story (Sam Eng)

I’m craving a few uninterrupted hours with the game, ideally at home and after a few edibles, so I can perfect its mechanics, unlock upgrades and learn new moves. I crashed a dozen times in my 45-minute demo, often in the same spot repeatedly and always with a magnificent, shattering explosion — but resets were swift and not too punishing. The crash always hit harder after I’d found a flow state, holding down A to push and jumping smoothly over neon spikes embedded in the shimmering black asphalt, taking a risk and landing a kickflip, reaching peak velocity, feeling completely free. And then I’d clip a sliver of concrete and the ride would be over, sudden and harsh. In Skate Story, sidewalk-high edges are just as dangerous as glowing-red obstacles, and the game requires a constant buzz of situational awareness. A lot like skateboarding in real life, I’d wager.

Skate Story induces a limbo-like haze through its mechanical rhythm, VHS-filtered visuals and the constant, low whoosh of the glass skater's wheels rolling across the Underworld's concrete. Strategy becomes impossible and the only option is to feel your way through the brutalist, pearlescent landscapes. The game's soundtrack is provided by New York artist Blood Cultures and it's a soothing, lo-fi vibe fest, like OlliOlli’s flow music but with a distorted edge. It feels like a perfect fit.

Skate Story encourages you to enter a peak state early on, only so you can chase that feeling the rest of the game. It’s an incredibly compelling loop, with room for payoff or failure in every push.

Skate Story
Skate Story (Sam Eng)

The Underworld is so much larger than the slice I explored in Skate Story’s Summer Game Fest demo. The full game has more than 70 tricks to learn, fresh gear to acquire and a leveling system to unlock. Skate Story feels like a game that will easily swallow hours upon hours of my time. As easily as eating the moon, at least.

Skate Story is due out this year (not 2023, as suggested by the top trailer) on Steam, developed by Sam Eng and published by Devolver Digital.

Catch up on all of the news from Summer Game Fest 2024 right here!