California skater Nyjah Huston now has his own skateboarding game. For a mobile game, it’s pretty fun, but I wish it were as entertaining as watching him skate.
I grew up playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and it gave me an appreciation of skateboarding. I was never coordinated enough to skate for real, so I did the next best thing: watch skate videos. My friends and I would gather on the couch to watch skateboard company Flip’s “Sorry” video, gawping at the tricks and groaning at the bails. After getting back into skate videos as an adult, I discovered Nyjah Huston.
Huston’s skating is creative and fearless. He does shit on a board I can barely believe. Nike SB, which sponsors him and even released some really slick-looking shoes named after him, produced the following mindblowing 11 minute video. At one point Huston grabs the back of a dirtbike to ollie out of a pool in the casual way you or I might tie our shoes.
I’ve always wanted Huston to have a skateboarding game, and now he does. It’s called Nyjah Huston: #Skatelife, and it’s a mobile game, which made me a little skeptical. How could you possibly match the energy of Huston’s skating on your phone? It’s better than I thought it would be, though. In the game, a facsimile of Huston skates his way through an enclosed beach side track full of rails, ramps and the occasional obstacle. By tapping you can ollie onto rails, and you swipe to perform tricks. You can also swipe to do tricks in the air. You do all these things to score points and earn trading cards to upgrade your tricks.
The game takes advantage of your phone in fun ways. In order to manual, you have to tilt your phone to remain balanced, which is still a bit tricky when you’re resting your phone on a flat surface. It’s also responsive enough that you can chain tricks with abandon. Giving that you’re not directing Huston’s movement, I was afraid the game would feel too static, but there’s enough freedom to turn a rail into a mess of backslides and 50-50s until you finally pull a kickflip off it in the end.
Still, the game feels a bit generic. Despite having his name in the game and playing as him, Huston feels incidental. Loading screens reference pizza, shooting videos and competitions in a corny way. I’m sure skateboarders still like pizza—who doesn’t like pizza—but there’s just no personality here. For a sport that’s all about bravado and attitude, the trappings of the game made me roll my eyes a little bit. Every time you get good air off a ramp, there’s a little canned guitar chord sound effect that made me feel like I was in Hot Topic.
I’ll probably play #Skatelife for a little while longer, because it’s as good a way as any to pass the time. But if I have ten minutes to kill, I’d still rather watch Huston actually skate.