What if Tony Hawk's Pro Skater had combat? Helskate is a surreal hack-and-slash skateboarding game

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater fans should definitely give this a look. That said, you might want to wait until it’s had a few updates. Helskate is a hack-and-slash roguelike that also happens to be a skateboarding game, and it just hit early access. It’s a ton of fun to shift between monster slaying and skateboarding tricks, but I ran into several issues during my playtime. If you pick it up now, you’ll probably have a good time, but I suspect it’ll be much better once it’s had more time in the oven.
I spent around six hours playing Helskate, giving me ample time to learn new skateboarding tricks, fight all kinds of awesome-looking monsters, win a few skateboarding competitions, upgrade my deck, and try my hand at some intense boss fights. The early access build of Helskate only includes one of three planned worlds, so it feels a little light on content, but there’s still a ton to do.
It actually plays like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Helskate was developed by former Tony Hawk devs, and it shows. It might have monsters and swords, but it still comes closer to the classic skateboarding series than any game that doesn’t have Tony Hawk’s name in the title. The controls are practically identical, and once I started grinding rails and rolling down half-pipes, my old memories came rushing back. Combat might shake things up a bit, but it feels like the original Tony Hawk games, and pulling off big combos is just as satisfying as it used to be.
Incredible monster design. Helskate blends its skateboarding aesthetic with a heavy dose of surrealism, and the results are spectacular. The stylish, saturated visuals are awesome all around, but it’s the monsters that really caught my attention. I fought my way through long-tongued goblins, giant snakes, and even battled a giant mound of flesh I could wallride. Helskate is a pretty fast-paced game, but there were times when I wanted to slow down and just admire the monsters for a while.
Upgrades are really fun. Helskate has all kinds of power-ups and upgrades, and unlocking them is a blast. Finding gear gave me a new look, along with some awesome new abilities. A hoodie gave me lightning attacks, and a stylin’ long-sleeve t-shirt let me leave trails of poison along my screen. Unlocking new skateboarding tricks didn’t just help me rack up combo points; they also gave me access to combat abilities, including enhanced attacks and healing skills. Helskate is a roguelike, so these upgrades didn’t carry over between runs, but they were still a ton of fun to play around with.
Winning skateboarding competitions allowed me to upgrade my stats, which definitely came in handy. In between runs, I could get tattoos that gave me permanent stat upgrades, upgrade my skateboard, or even unlock brand-new boards. Even when my runs ended in failure, I was always making progress, and that motivated me to keep on playing.
It can be difficult to find enemies. Most of Helskate’s levels required me to defeat a certain number of enemies before I could progress to the next stage. Hacking through monsters is fun, so this shouldn’t have been a problem, but there were times when I struggled to find any creatures to fight. The enemies don’t make much noise, and there aren’t many visual signals that make them easier to spot. Having to skate around and search for monsters slowed down my progress and interrupted the flow of the game.
Controlling the camera is harder than it should be. Every time I tried to change the direction of Helskate’s camera, it also changed the direction my character was skating in. This could be pretty frustrating, especially when I was trying to search for hidden objects or get a better view before I took a jump. Obviously, it’s not easy to get the camera right in skating games, but Helskate’s camera controls could definitely use some polishing.
It constantly crashes on Steam Deck. I’d love to play Helskate on a handheld device, but it’s basically unplayable on Deck, even on the lowest settings. At first it seemed like it would run fine, but once I got into the swing of things, the game constantly crashed and froze up. When I was sent the game for review, I was told that the Steam Deck build isn’t stable, so this wasn’t a huge surprise, but I saw a message on the official Twitter saying it would run on Deck, so I figured it was worth a try. None of these problems were present when I played on my gaming PC, but if you’re looking for a Deck game, avoid this one for now.
PC via Steam.
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