Sunday, March 23, 2014

Skaterock (Bubble Bus Software, 1986, C-64)

Before the first Tony Hawk's Pro Skater arrived in 1999, skateboarding hadn't found its video game voice.

Though there were dozens of games that included skateboarding, it was usually as a cheap trendy gimmick or a half-baked vehicle that had little to nothing to do with the sport.

Only a couple of games were truly about skateboarding. Bubble Bus Software's Skate Rock is one of them.

Now the first thing you're thinking is Oh shit, a Skaterock game? Like...with Christ on Parade and Condemned Attitude? Blazing wheels and barking trucks and shit?

It's not skaterock like that. It's skaterock in the sense that it's skateboarding that has the devil-may-care rock and roll attitude of Fred Smith, who is pictured on the original package.

It's the type of skateboarding where you do an acid drop off the side of an unfinished bridge and then do the "king tut" when you land it.
King Tut
It's about building a slalom course in the middle of the main street of your town during rush hour, and hauling ass down it while a remote control airplane threatens to knock you to the ground.

It's about being ugly and not giving a fuck.

Or to quote a review in Zzap64 magazine in 1987:
"It has to be said that the single most striking feature is its ugliness. It looks awful."
Another reviewer in the same magazine said it looked like it was "built with Duplo blocks."

It is hell on the eyes.

As a young skateboarder who also loved video games, I had this game when it was still new. Or, to put it more accurately, I had a pirated version of this game that my brother downloaded off a local BBS.

Because it was pirated, the already horrible graphics had a nightmarish, headache-inducing flicker any time the screen scrolled.

You know what? I still played the shit out of it.

I loved the plonky drumbeat music, I loved the useless hippie jump trick that is required AT NO POINT in the game, and I loved the animated drunk guy.

He is beyond question the drunkest guy in any video game.


This game gets really really hard, and I played it all the way to the end. The tenth level must have taken a hundred attempts, complete with eye-crossing flicker that gave me a headache that would have made a migraine question its masculinity.

I pushed through the pain until I finally crossed the finish line with a second to spare, and became an official Slime Rat Skater.

Though this game could also be called "Paperboy on a Skateboard," that could set unrealistic expectations of cartoony fun and pithy TMS 5220 dialogue. I always tended to think of it as Up N' Down on a skateboard...

I blame all the flags.

It's a game that reminds us that skating doesn't have to concentrate only on tricks. It can be about going as fast as you possibly can even though you will literally die if you touch a traffic cone.

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