Skating With Demons: Helskate's Marriage of Genres Hits Bumps on the Ramp
Indie developer Phantom Coast has dropped into the gaming arena with an ambitious blend in 'Helskate,' attempting to marry the flow of skateboarding with the strategic combat of a roguelike. The Steam Next Fest demo threw seasoned players and eager newcomers onto its dual-themed half-pipe, with reactions flipping into a mixed bag. The nostalgia of 'Tony Hawk's Pro Skater' (THPS) felt within arm's reach, yet with a new demonic twist, the execution hasn't quite hit the sweet spot, leaving room to grind out refinements.
The demo had us gripping our nostalgia with a familiar kick-flip but faced us unexpectedly with a hellish brawl. The mechanics of THPS remain largely intact, but added to the combo is the swordplay against fiendish adversaries. Imagine nailing an elaborate string of tricks only to have a monster clip your wings mid-flight. The interruption to the rhythm of skating was jarring, punctuated by the fact that key visual cues were either too subtle or altogether missing. The addition of sound design could have given us the heads-up needed to mix combat and skating more seamlessly.
Phantom Coast's recipe is not without promise; the idea of a skating roguelike stirred intrigue for many. Amidst the ollies and grinds, the demo introduced players to a plethora of abilities and upgrades that spiced up the gameplay. These ranged from missile barrages linked to tricks to passives that boost your offense after certain grinds. However, the integration of these elements often felt like alternating between two different games instead of a cohesive experience. The central issue was the interruption of flow, crucial to skating titles but antithetical to the cautious advance typical of roguelikes.
The demo's tumultuous ride does tease at what could be a smooth, adrenalizing experience where sharpening your reflexes pays off in both combat and score. Reconciliation between the thrills of nail-biting encounters and the zen of half-pipe heroics is the developmental tightrope 'Helskate' must walk. A potential pivot could include a scoring system that values daring and aggressive play, rewarding players for high-octane risk-taking that melds the two genres more naturally.
'Helskate' sketched out an audacious design, intersecting two beloved gaming territories where neither took the definitive lead. With continued tweaks and true to the early access ethos, Phantom Coast can refine and perhaps perfect their hybrid experiment. The demo's missteps don't spell doom but rather highlight the gaps between concept and execution. As the game progresses towards its early access release, it's easy to root for 'Helskate' to find the harmony within its chaos and in turn, deliver a next-level gaming experience worthy of its inspirations.