Helskate

released on Feb 15, 2024

Helskate is a skateboarding action roguelite. Grind, perform tricks, and chain combos to power up your attacks to slay the monsters of Vertheim. Combine unique weapons and gear to suit your playstyle as you fight, die, and upgrade your abilities to come back to this labyrinth over and over again!


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I clocked more than 5000 hours in the old THPS games so this was calling me, however the roguelite combat mixed with Tony Hawk skateboarding doesn’t really jell with each other here. Also, holy HELL this is VERY early access, with quite misleading game trailers showcasing a more complete-looking game. It left me pissed when I bought it and saw what we actually got:

The game requires you to heavily focus on dodging enemies (with some smaller enemies who don't give much indication that they're attacking) while still maintaining a clean combo and nailing some tricks for attack boosts, but you end up rubbing up against them/taking damage as you can’t really stop moving in a certain direction quickly besides dashing, which is on a cooldown. The grinding snake enemy specifically is a pain here, you can't even jump on the thing to grind it without injuring yourself 90% of the time due to the hitbox for it's spikes on the sides. The first boss is almost unbeatable due to randomly hopping off the back of the enemy while grinding and taking damage from the goo beneath it, it’s a mess.

And even with combat being so punishing, there are BARELY any health pickups, with a max health stat boost you can pick at the end of levels that doesn't even heal you one bit.

The skateboarding though? It's almost peak, it feels almost identical to THPS and if you've played those games, you're right at home, but the problem I find is I find myself skating around and busting out fat combos more than I am actually playing the game as intended, which I think is a problem. Also, some places that should be grindable just aren’t, and keeping your combo when coming down a half-pipe is super difficult. AFAIK there’s a revert in the game, but it’s hard to pull off easily.

The gameplay feels very split. On the one hand you're battling enemies, but then you spend long stretches skating around the map to collect all the letters, hit all the camera crows, get high scores and do side-challenges that it ends up feeling so disconnected. After spending less than maybe 1 minute on actually engaging in combat and rogue-lite goodies, you're just playing a tony hawk game, wandering around an empty map for secrets.

I understand it's in early access, but this feels VERY early access. We have full cutscenes replaced with text boxes for the devs as placeholders, random dialogue boxes appearing on screen for no reason, full maps missing textures and assets, clipping out of bounds constantly, and some of the side minigames not even working when initiating them, effectively soft locking my run.

I'm still giving this a thumbs up because the devs have something here, and I think with time they'll iron things out and this could turn into something awesome. I won't be refunding it, my moneys in and I'm invested in this, but I’m still pissed about the rather misleading gameplay trailers that we got before release. It doesn’t even compare to the mess we bought with our wallets.

At the time of writing Helskate has been released in Early access for about a week and to be honest...it is rough. Placeholder text, missing assets and a fair amount of glitches. Yeah problems are expected in Early Access, but for a $25 USD asking price that is kind of a lot for a game in this current state.

Aside from that while the core experience is fun it is deeply flawed as there is a struggle to meld the Tony Hawk gameplay/controls with the Rogue like combat design. I've enjoyed what I played but the idea of this one feels compromised. Rating it right now feels foolish as there is no telling where this will end up. Studio Phantom Coast has a long way to go before this even remotely reaches its potential.

I'll check in as updates roll out as I'm hoping they can land this one. But I won't be surprised if I come back saying this was a wipeout.