A skating roguelike called Helskate that recreates the iconic Tony Hawk’s control scheme sounds like a fever dream, but after playing its early build, I’m here to tell you that it exists and it’s glorious. Led by lead game designer Steve ‘Swink’ Swink, who previously worked on Tony Hawk’s Underground, Helskate is a familiar yet unique game that will draw in fans of both series.
Recreating Tony Hawk's Mechanics
Before you ask, yes, Helskate is more than just a skating game. It’s an exploration of hell, where you’re battling Demons and competing against other skaters. But the uncanny recreation of Tony Hawk’s skating mechanics is what got me excited, and I think fans of the series will feel the same way.
“We looked at Tony Hawk’s and said, ‘What if we took the stat points and applied them in an RPG way?’” Swink tells us. “We knew we wanted to have some kind of leveling or skill tree, and we saw that as the perfect opportunity.” This is where Helskate’s roguelike structure starts to come into play. In addition to the exploration, you’re also trying to improve your health, attacking powers, and skating skills.
Experience in the Early Build
The early build of Helskate I played only has a small amount of levels, but I was able to get a good feel for how the game’s skating mechanics translate from the Tony Hawk’s series. The animations are almost exact, and performing tricks and manuals feel just as they do in the games from Neversoft. Landing a big combo boosts your attack, giving you access to better weapons, stat boosts, and power-ups.
I played a few hours of Helskate, and I don’t feel like I got very far. This is a roguelike, after all, and I died a lot. But the mimicry of Tony Hawk’s skating was so good that I didn’t mind starting over. (I also died a lot in Tony Hawk’s, so maybe I’m just cursed.) This uncanny recreation of mechanics is what drew me to Helskate, and I’m sure fans of the series will feel the same.
The Unique Elements of Helskate
The thing that makes Helskate stand out is the roguelike structure and the fact that you’re skating around hell while battling demons. The skating has to be perfect, but the RPG elements can afford to be a little different.
Ranged attacks in Helskate are much more useful than melee ones, and I found myself using them more and more as I played. This is in part because melee attacks are clunky – you have to get up close to enemies and face the camera toward them – but firing a gun or tossing a grenade is smooth. It feels good to fire off a shot and blow enemies up, which gives you a sense of power that you don’t get from melee attacks.
There are some other roguelike elements that need a bit of work. The camera angles can get a bit wonky, especially when you’re close to walls. And turning around feels a bit slow at times, though this could change as the game gets further along in development. It’s still a work in progress, after all.
All in all, Helskate looks like it could be something special. The game is set to release in early access on PC next year, so we’ll have a lot more time to get to know it. For now, though, I’ll keep replaying the early build and praying to the Tony Hawk’s gods that I can land my first 900.
Make sure to check out more of the best multiplayer games if you’re looking for a good time with friends.