Didn’t get enough skating during the Olympics? It’s all good because a new bite-sized Steam game has all the skating you need — with none of the pressure to nail complicated combos.
The Ramp is a new game developed and self-published by Hyperparadise, real name Paul Schnepf. It went on sale this week on Steam for the low sum of $5.99. The premise of the game is simple: you drop into the ramp or pool and land tricks, much like other skating games. Except, you won’t see a score box or a combo multiplier anywhere on the screen. The game doesn’t even have levels or objectives that tell you how to spend your time. With such trimmed-down features, it feels unlike any skating game that came before — it’s the anti-skating game, scaling back the outlandish tropes of the genre to get back to basics.
Do an Airwalk! — Just because the game is pared down, it doesn’t mean it’s any less fun to play. The mechanics don’t ask much of the player, but it did take me a few tries to get in sync with the particular rhythm of the game. I played using an Xbox One controller — you really need a controller to play this game — so I’ll refer to those controls. To get some air, you need to hold the “A” button to gather up speed and then release it when you’re approaching a ramp. On the way down, hold the “A” button again, release it on flat ground, press it when you’re approaching the ramp, and then release. After a while, you stop thinking about when to hold or release, and it starts to feel natural.
When you’re up there dangling in the air, it’s time to do some moves that would make Tony Hawk blush. Don’t worry, you don’t need to remember a string of button presses; all you need to do is hold the right joystick in one direction when you’re in the air. Each of the eight directions on the joystick triggers a different trick; holding-back for example triggers a tailgrab. After getting comfortable with that, you can use the left joystick to add some rotations to your trick. When landing, the game briefly flashes the name of the trick and the degrees of rotation in a stylized text box. That’s all there is to it.
It’s easy to get into but hard to master, and an optional hardcore mode is less forgiving. The game doesn’t have flip tricks or grinds, except for a boardslide, focusing solely on grabs and vert tricks.
It also doesn’t require you to complete any challenges to unlock the four maps, so you can access them from the get-go after completing the short tutorial. The map selection is somewhat limited, but there is some variety there with a half-pipe, two pools, and a mega ramp for big air. That last one commands slightly more precision when timing jumps, but the challenge is well worth it, with the chance to pull off huge tricks with rotations that read like modern TV resolutions.
Landing the aesthetic — I’m a firm believer that gameplay comes first, which The Ramps pulls off effortlessly, but I have to point out how pretty this game is, too. The isometric camera and miniature sets give the game a distinct look that feels playful and toy-like in the best way. The sets stand in sharp contrast to the single-color backgrounds, which make them pop off the screen. The character design is reminiscent of PlayStation 2-era polygon graphics and lack any facial features, but they are slickly animated, with fluid body movements for each distinct trick. And when you don’t land a trick, the game has some hilarious ragdoll physics that makes it just as fun when things go wrong. Sometimes you have to eat shit, but at least it looks cool here.
With such a laid-back playstyle, I’d normally say this makes for the perfect podcast game. You know, the type of game where you can dial down the brain to a low setting and enjoy some podcast banter or a bit of murder recounting — we don’t judge. But the music is too damn good to ignore, and I stopped pretending I’d listen to a podcast after a few minutes. The music, which is composed by the developer, is pure lo-fi chill hop, going in the direct opposite direction of the in-your-face soundtrack of the Tony Hawk games. I normally don’t gush about a game’s music or think about buying an OST, but I would if it was available. (You can listen to a sampling of the music in the video above.)
Skate and chill — The Ramp never points out if I’m good or bad by locking maps or other features that require completing increasingly hard challenges. It’s the kind of game you can play for a few minutes or a few hours, and while it’s reminiscent of games like Skate City and the Olli Olli series, which also have basic but sticky mechanics, this game expects nothing from me. It only wants me to have fun. Of course, this game would be ten times better if I could have it on the Switch or even on Apple Arcade. When I asked Schnepf, he kept his response vague but said, “I’ll see what I can do.” Fingers crossed.
The Ramp is available on Steam for download, with a current sale knocking the price down to $4.79. He’s also one-third of Grizzly Games, which developed the cute city sim Islanders that is also on Steam.
I purchased The Ramp, though a code was provided to me after the fact.