Session has been in early access on Steam since late 2019, but it made the jump to Xbox One this week with a time-limited demo. As someone who flailed around on a skateboard a bit as a youth, I’ve always had a soft spot for skateboarding games. I immediately fell in love with Session, so much so that I spent most of the two hours I had with the complex simulator trying (and mostly failing) to land a single trick.
After a quick and pretty limited tutorial, Session plops you down in a city full of stairs to jump and rails to grind. With just two hours to explore, I quickly set about documenting my surroundings. It was fun, if a little lacking in tangible goals. It wasn’t until I discovered a planter grate that functioned as a small ramp that I truly understood the beauty of Session.
Skateboarding, especially in small towns without a skatepark, is mostly about trying to make the best out of your surroundings. Sessions might revolve around a kinky handrail at a nearby church, a collection of pallets on a loading dock, or even just a small hump in a neighborhood sidewalk. You make your own goals, skating what you can find until someone tells you to leave.
The makeshift ramp I discovered in Session called to me in the same way it might have in real life. And since this was a video game, kickflipping over a nearby rail actually seemed possible. Thanks to Session’s complicated mechanics, however, it wouldn’t be as easy as pressing a few buttons. A simple ollie requires holding down on the right stick and flicking up on the left. Pressing left on the left stick kicks your skater’s forward foot outward, spinning the board for a kickflip much like it would in real life. By assigning each foot to a stick, Session makes the act of virtual skating more visceral and involved, if a little challenging to get a handle on at first.
My first try, attempted immediately after I spotted the ramp, wasn’t pretty.
The tree was a common problem early on…
…but I eventually learned to avoid it so I could eat shit in more spectacular ways.
Sometimes, just getting to the ramp proved difficult.
My attempts slowly started to look more promising. I was at least getting some semblance of air.
This one was a bummer. I made the jump, hit the kickflip, landed, and promptly forgot about the other rail.
Dozens of bails later, it finally happened. I’m a skateboarding god.
Session is still pretty rough around the edges. The menus are unwieldy and confusing. I had to restart my game once after my character wouldn’t even stand on his skateboard anymore. But underneath the surface of what is obviously still a work in progress, there’s a core of creativity and excitement. After squeezing this much fun out of Session’s two-hour trial, I can’t wait to get my hands on the full game and master the skateboarding techniques that so frequently eluded me as a teenager.