Session: Skate Sim review: Boneless and raw

While Session: Skate Sim is ambitious in its attempt to provide a more realistic skateboarding experience, the game as a whole often ends up feeling overly complicated and under-baked.


As someone who grew up playing skateboarding games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Skate, and who always wanted to be a skateboarder but was never anywhere close to being coordinated or talented enough, I desperately wanted to like Session: Skate Sim. I really did, especially after seeing real-life skateboarders perform some of the tricks featured in the game at a recent Session: Skate Sim event.

At its core, there’s no doubt the game does its best to deliver an authentic skateboarding experience complete with needing to practice tricks over and over again, and all of the falls and flops that come as part of the learning process. Unfortunately, the game’s assortment of issues, general unfinished feel, and excessively steep learning curve made it almost impossible for me to enjoy, or recommend.

Soulslike Skater

Promo image for Session: Skate Sim showing a character grinding down a concrete stair railing.
© Crea-ture Studios

I realize the Dark Souls comparison has been done to death in reference to game difficulty. I’m also not the first reviewer to describe Session: Skate Sim as the “Dark Souls” of skateboarding games. But despite all that, the fact remains that the Soulslike comparison is an accurate one. Session: Skate Sim is designed to be difficult on purpose, focusing more on the complexities and intricacies of various skateboarding tricks as opposed to pursuing the more “arcade-y” feel of games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.

I don’t mind being challenged in games and found the prospect of a harder skateboarding game like Session: Skate Sim appealing, at first. Unfortunately, the game struggles to balance its high level of challenge by offering little in the way of compelling rewards or incentives. As a result, the game ends up feeling unfair and almost comically punishing at times for no discernible reason.

Promo shot for Session: Skate Sim showing a close-up of a character grinding along a concrete park bench.
© Crea-ture Studios

Right off the bat, the controls are confusing. Steering left and right is done using the controller’s triggers, while the thumbsticks are used to crouch down and jump up. Furthermore, when you perform a trick and you reverse the orientation of your board, the controls flip with it.

As cool of a concept as this is, it can be hard to keep track of when performing quick back-to-back tricks for example. Fortunately, you can adjust the orientation flipping, along with a surprising array of gameplay aspects tied to the skateboarding experience as well. That said, the game’s core controls can’t be remapped in any meaningful way, which can prove troublesome especially in regards to accessibility. Speaking of which, there aren’t all that many accessibility options on offer either.

In having a harder time with the game than I previously anticipated, I spent a considerable amount of time digging through the game’s settings to try and tweak and tune it to make it as approachable as possible with the intent of working my way upwards in difficulty from there.

Promo image for Session: Skate Sim showing a character doing a trick down a brick set of stairs.
© Crea-ture Studios

Even when set on the easiest difficulty, with the most forgiving settings toggled on, Session: Skate Sim continued to feel like a punishing experience. It doesn’t help that the game does a poor job at conveying key information as well, such as how best to perform various tricks tied to in-game objectives. In the tutorial for example, the game asks you to perform different tricks as a way to “teach” these tricks to you. While I was able to eventually figure most of these tricks out through patience and what felt like hours of practice and repetition, there were some that I struggled with no matter what I did, at times for no clear cut reason.

I’d follow the combination of controller inputs exactly as they were shown on the screen, and seemingly perform the trick, but the game would continue to refuse to let me pass on to the next section, with prompts insisting that I wasn’t doing the trick correctly while providing zero further elaboration on what exactly I was doing wrong. Was it a timing thing? Was I getting the input order wrong somehow? Was there more to the trick that I was forgetting? I had no idea.

Even opening up the list of tricks and inputs needed to execute them in the game’s menu and then performing them as outlined, I still had moments where the game insisted I was doing things incorrectly. You can toggle the game to display the names of the tricks you’re performing from the menu as well, which can be helpful. By turning this feature on I was able to see that I wasn’t losing my mind and was in fact performing the correct trick, however, I continued to hit snags where I seemingly did something the wrong way and had to repeat the trick over and over, trying to execute it in slightly different ways each time, until the game was finally satisfied and would let me progress.

Promo image for Session: Skate Sim showing a character skateboarding amid a New York City background.
© Crea-ture Studios

The tone of the game is also a bit odd, with emphasis on an accurate skateboarding experience while also having your character ragdoll fall to the ground whenever you mess up in ways that I found extremely funny. Even the smallest of falls can result in your character flopping around dramatically as if all the bones have been magically removed from their body. For some, this will likely get old fast, but for me I always found the crashes to be worthwhile sources of entertainment, especially in a game that often feels lifeless and empty.

Anyone Home?

Promo image for Session: Skate Sim showing one of the game's maps.
© Crea-ture Studios

The world of Session: Skate Sim is large, with plenty of places to skate around and explore. However, as you’re doing this you won’t see much in the way of NPCs or traffic. You can toggle NPC traffic manually through the game’s “Experimental” settings, which are ones that the game emphasizes are still being worked on. Even so, the NPCs not being on by default, and not having any other real signs of life, movement, and personality in a map the size of the one found in Session: Skate Sim at launch is a tad disappointing.

Other areas of Session: Skate Sim feel emptier than they should such as the character creator having fewer options than you’d expect, especially when compared to the game’s plethora of skateboard customizations, and character models themselves feel a little wonky when they’re running around holding the skateboard as opposed to skating. For example, you can’t jump or climb things when you’re off your board, which can result in you taking one path towards an objective, getting stuck, and needing to double back and try a different route.

Promo image for Session: Skate Sim showing a wide shot of a skateboarder amid a tree-filled park setting in New York.
© Crea-ture Studios

The background music you hear while skating around is pleasant, but doesn’t always fit the game’s pacing. Other skateboarding games over the years have pursued an edgier punk/rock/metal/alternative sort of vibe when shaping their soundtracks. Session: Skate Sim does the opposite and features a number of mellow chillhop beats that feel more suited to cozy coffee shops than a skateboarding game.

While I enjoyed the music on its own, when paired with Session: Skate Sim’s already empty-feeling world, it results in a game lacking in the sort of excitement, energy, and spice you’d expect from a skateboarding sim. Which is a shame, as it’s clear the developers poured a lot into making the skateboarding elements feel more accurate and elaborate. And they definitely do, with plenty of customization and adjustments for those elements that skateboarders will recognize and appreciate.


Promo image for Session: Skate Sim showing a character doing a kickflip.
© Crea-ture Studios

Again, I really wish I’d enjoyed my time with Session: Skate Sim more than I did. That said, I feel like the game has a strong foundation from which the developers can build on, adjust, tweak, and improve in order to appeal to a wider audience. In the future, I imagine the game will be in a much better place than it is at launch.

In particular, it’d be nice if the game did more in the way of teaching you the ropes, offered different control schemes, and provided a wider array of accessibility options. In general as well, it’d be nice if the game offered more in the way of incentives, excitement, and action to keep you coming back for more, regardless of its punishing difficulty.

This review is based on a PS5 digital copy supplied by the publisher. Session: Skate Sim released on September 22, 2022 and is available on platforms including PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC. 

Senior Editor

Morgan is a writer from the frozen wastelands of Maine who enjoys metal music, kpop, horror, and indie games. They're also a Tetris fanatic who's fiercely competitive in games like Tetris 99... and all games in general. But mostly Tetris. You can follow Morgan on Twitter @Author_MShaver.

Review for
Session: Skate Sim
  • Ragdoll character physics are entertaining
  • Provides a more challenging skateboarding experience
  • Solid skateboarding physics and stacked assortment of tricks
  • Large, explorable world
  • Fun, if you're able to get the hang of it
  • Feels unfinished
  • Steep learning curve
  • Empty, lifeless world
  • Lacking in instructions, explanations, and tips
  • Wonky controls that can't be remapped
  • Sub par accessibility options
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