Skitchin’ – IN YOUR FACE

An illegal pastime turned video game; that was the story of Skitchin’. Released in 1994, the game was simple in concept and a bit familiar. The goal was to get to the finish line in first place while traversing a scrolling two lane road against opponents – which you could attack with weapons. Sounds a bit like Road Rash, right? Well, instead of a motorcycle, this game took place on a pair of rollerblades. And that wasn’t the only difference between the two games.

I don’t know if I have ever been in a more perfect target demographic when a game was released than in 1994 when Skitchin’ dropped. It was in your face, crude and at times immature – perfect for my 14-year-old brain.

Right from the start, the game was all-in with being madcap, energetic and extreme. A generic, heavy handed thrash metal soundtrack set the stage. Screaming voiceovers, spray paint menu titles, and a spray can for the cursor followed. This was digital adrenaline. At times it bordered on asinine, like the ricochet bullet sound effects when entering a player’s name.

Wait, I almost forgot the worst best part – the song titles. Much to the delighted of my juvenile mind, the track listings under the Tunage menu included gems like Bellybutton Lint, Smells Like Tuna, Spicy Placenta, and Eat My Junk. Subtle.  

More Than a Raucous Novelty

Although a game like this could have only come out in the early 1990s, it was more than just a novelty – it featured a solid concept and decent gameplay. There were different cities players had to progress through to win the game. EA Sport let their Canadian show through with the inclusion of hometown Vancouver being the first city players visited.

Before a race began, the player’s home screen featured a silhouette of skater, showing the condition of their equipment like elbow pads, wrist guards, knee pads, skates and wheels. Green was good, yellow was worn and red meant they needed to be replaced.

In the shop it was not only possible to replace these items, but also upgrade them for better performance. Of course, keeping with the seedy theme, items were purchased out of the back of a shady van.  

Original Game Play Concept

As mentioned, there were elements to this game that reminded me of Road Rash, such as having weapons that a player could steal from opponents, pick up off the ground and of course attack other players with. Weapons included a taser, bat, chain and crowbar to name a few.

But unlike road rash, the goal of the game was not to simply skate as fast as possible. Rollerblades can only go so fast when powered by human legs. To gain speed, players would try to hitch a ride on passing cars and by grabbing the rear bumper and be towed along like an organic trailer. This is how the games name came to be; skating + hitching = skitchin’. The instruction manual even stated as much to make sure the point was crystal clear. Although somehow, Bitchin’ was included.

To hitch onto a vehicle, players would hold out their arm to grab the corner of car. Precise positioning and timing were needed as to not get run over while trying to catch a ride. As well, for even more added speed, it was possible to slingshot off cars. This boost could be used to grab a car further up the road or to fly off one of the massive ramps that appeared from time to time.

When hitting these ramps, aerial tricks could be performed in which three judges would suddenly appear in at the bottom of the screen and give the player a score out of ten. The higher the total score, the more bonus cash was earned at the end of the race. I mostly just wiped out when trying to perform a jump.

It Even Had Cars

But let’s end this reminiscing look at Skitchin’ with what knows best – cars.  The vehicles a player could skitch off where plenty, and fairly accurate recreations of real-world vehicles for a 16-bit system.

There were larger vans and SUVs like the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, and Dodge Ram Van. Classic cars were included such as the Plymouth Barracuda, Chevrolet Nova and Dodge Dart. And of course, the ‘80s were well represented with the third generation Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Tempo, Oldmsobile Delta 88 and Chevrolet Impala Wagon.  Most peculiar though was the inclusion of what looked like an early 1970s Honda hatchback.

But the cars weren’t the stars of the game, and neither was the skating really. This game was a deluge of early ‘90s counterculture for teenage consumption. Any boy did I consume.  

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