SkateBIRD Xbox review: A feathery skateboarding game held back by flawed movement

SkateBIRD is like taking an old school Tony Hawk game and gluing on a liberal helping of feathers and beaks.

SkateBIRD Screenshot Image
(Image: © Glass Bottom Games)

SkateBIRD is all about Birb, a player-customized winged animal with a singular (and unusual) passion: skateboarding. SkateBIRD asks the question "What if Tony the Hawk instead?" and scratches an itch for skateboarding game fans that have been missing a new game recently. The finished product is an accessible entry that combines goofy skateboarding and an unimportant plot with old-school collectibles and a killer soundtrack, and SkateBIRD does a lot of this pretty well.

In SkateBIRD, players take control of the aforementioned Birb, who can appear as any number of avian species, complete with an adorable collection of hats, glasses, accessories, and more. Birb is surrounded by many birdbrained friends, and their Big Friend (read: human) lets Birb pursue their dream by transforming Big Friend's one-bedroom apartment into a haven for skateboarding. Big Friend has been acting strange recently, though, and Birb wants to help.

Birb and their friends need to help Big Friend both at home and at their work, resulting in a short but quirky adventure across a variety of levels. If you're looking for a new casual skateboarding game, then read on. SkateBIRD mostly succeeds, despite how difficult the simple act of moving can be.

SkateBIRD: What you'll like

SkateBIRD Screenshot

Source: Windows Central | Glass Bottom Games (Image credit: Source: Windows Central | Glass Bottom Games)

SkateBIRD opens up by letting you design your very own Birb, with a diverse range of birds to choose from, as well as various accessories with which to customize your feathery skateboarder. I was surprised by the options provided here, and enjoyed creating my very own Birb with which to embark on skateboarding escapades. Immediately, you're let loose in Big Friend's apartment, which has been not-so-subtly taken over by handcrafted skateboarding half pipes, ramps, rails, and more.

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DeveloperGlass Bottom Games
PublisherGlass Bottom Games
Game size3.3GB
Play time5-10 hours
Xbox Game PassYes (Xbox & PC)
Launch dateSept. 16, 2021
Launch price$20
Reviewed onXbox Series X & PC

The beginning of the game does a fair job walking you through the controls and how to play, and the controls are simple and intuitive. It's easy to get the hang of pulling off tricks and completing the first basic objectives SkateBIRD gives you, with generous wiggle room for making mistakes. Then you're shot right back to the old school Tony Hawk Underground games, where you're left to skateboard around a semi-open-world skate park filled with various NPCs to engage with, each with their own personalities and missions.

SkateBIRD absolutely fully embraces the second half of its name.

SkateBIRD is at its best when you're enjoying it casually, with a simple and shallow story that still delivers with cheesy jokes, goofy plotlines, and an absurd cast of characters that only make sense as birds. This is highlighted by several unique "abilities" that players have, like "Screm" (when Birb squawks), "Monch" (when Birb pretends to eat something on the ground), "Air Ollie" (a double jump accompanied by frantic flaps), and lots of cute animations for turning your skateboard, pulling off tricks, and more. SkateBIRD absolutely fully embraces the second half of its name, letting you dive beak-first into a myriad of bird shenanigans.

SkateBIRD Screenshot Image

Source: Glass Bottom Games (Image credit: Source: Glass Bottom Games)

SkateBIRD Screenshot Image (Image credit: Glass Bottom Games)

SkateBIRD Screenshot Image (Image credit: Glass Bottom Games)

Source: Glass Bottom Games

The old-school vibe (aside from the bird theme) continues with a plethora of collectibles and secrets to find hidden throughout SkateBIRD's various levels, which reward you with new cosmetic items like clothing, skateboards, and wheels. The best collectibles, however, are the mixtapes, which unlock hidden tracks in SkateBIRD's soundtrack. While SkateBIRD's OST is good, and is right in line with other indie games, these mixtapes unlock a variety of punk and ska rock tracks that were surprisingly great.

SkateBIRD includes options for players that embrace accessibility.

Not everyone will love this hidden soundtrack as much as I did, probably (you should, though), but SkateBIRD lets you customize your soundtrack on a per-track level whenever you want. This was one of my favorite parts of SkateBIRD, which is unfortunate for Amazon Luna players. Those who elect to stream SkateBIRD through Amazon's service will have to give up the hidden soundtrack, as these mixtapes are relegated to "empty collectible" territory at Amazon's behest. For everyone else, though, I strongly suggest keeping an eye out for these oft-secret mixtapes.

One thing I did greatly appreciate when playing SkateBIRD was the comprehensive options provided to me. Besides being able to customize my soundtrack as I unlocked new tracks, SkateBIRD includes a bevy of options for players that embrace accessibility, including an FOV (field-of-view) slider on Xbox Series X|S, the ability to slow down game time, disable the balancing mechanic for grinding and manuals, reducing the risk of bailing, and more. These kinds of options are often an afterthought for games, but might be crucial for some players to enjoy the casual skateboarding experience that SkateBIRD seeks to offer.

SkateBIRD: What you won't like

SkateBIRD Screenshot

Source: Windows Central | Glass Bottom Games (Image credit: Source: Windows Central | Glass Bottom Games)

If you think I had a lot of good to say about SkateBIRD, then you're right! SkateBIRD knows exactly what kind of experience it wants players to have, and it does a pretty good job of making it happen. SkateBIRD isn't perfect, however, and was downright frustrating at times due to a few issues that all pile onto one mechanic: movement.

While SkateBIRD's controls are relatively intuitive and easy to grasp, the act of moving around the map often ends in frustration and a need to start over once again. Above all else, SkateBIRD feels inconsistent in its movements, so you can never be certain exactly where Birb is going to end up once you run up a half pipe or jump for a rail to grind on. When some missions later on require traversing across vertical maps using a variety of jumps and grinds, this inconsistency often leads to flat-out failure.

Speed in SkateBIRD is a problem as well, and relies on the "FANCY" bar. You can fill the FANCY bar by completing tricks and skillfully maneuvering across the maps, and your maximum speed increases as the FANCY bar fills. This lets you pull off greater combos faster, and access different areas of the map with greater jumps and longer continuous grinds. Filling the FANCY bar, however, is also incredibly inconsistent.

Every time I felt frustrated with SkateBIRD, it was always related to movement.

I ran into a persistent issue where the FANCY bar would freeze halfway through the "A" for long periods of time, wasting valuable seconds when attempting to finish missions. Even when this issue wasn't happening, filling the FANCY bar at all was always a question of "What's going to work this time?" since the rate at which the FANCY bar filled appeared to be completely arbitrary at points.

SkateBIRD Screenshot

Source: Windows Central | Glass Bottom Games (Image credit: Source: Windows Central | Glass Bottom Games)

It was easy to completely lose all your progress with the FANCY bar as well, simply by falling off your board. While this makes sense on the surface, this was another part of SkateBIRD that was frankly inconsistent. There were times where I was practically horizontal to the ground and still managed to stay on my board without any issues, while I would graze a gentle incline on a ramp and subsequently fall to the ground and lose my combo or FANCY progress. Lowering the difficulty for bailing helped a little, but the issues remained.

Annoyances with movement in SkateBIRD were absolutely the highlight of my issues with the game. Smaller grievances include slightly boring and unpolished level design at points, especially with anything that curved (an understandable difficulty for game development, but still critical for skateboarding). The mini-map to find missions was also hidden in the pause menu and was difficult to read, while objectives during missions were often hard to track or find. All of these are minor problems, however, as every time I felt frustrated with SkateBIRD, it was always related to movement.

SkateBIRD: Should you play it?

SkateBIRD Screenshot

Source: Windows Central | Glass Bottom Games (Image credit: Source: Windows Central | Glass Bottom Games)

If you're looking for a new skateboarding game that's a little closer to the Skate series or Tony Hawk's Underground games than Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, SkateBIRD is cute, funny, and is filled with old-school vibes (with modern accessibility amenities). A consistent bird theme and a killer punk and ska rock secret soundtrack don't bring SkateBIRD all the way to greatness, however.

Movement on all fronts in SkateBIRD is frustrating, belying the intuitive controls that form its base. Everything, including knowing what's going to happen when you do something, building up speed, and staying on your board, feels inconsistent in SkateBIRD and comprises the vast majority of SkateBIRD's problems.

At the end of the day, SkateBIRD is still a solid but flawed skateboarding game that offers up to 10 hours of content for those looking to 100% the game, and potentially more for players who desire a way to skateboard (as a bird) in their free time without any commitments. Whether or not it'll be considered one of the best Xbox games depends entirely on how much you fall in love with skateboarding birds.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.