Yanya Caballista: City Skater
As dawn approaches San Francisco, the city awakens from its slumber and begins its morning routine. The fog slowly creeps out of the streets and into the bay, revealing countless one-way streets and sprawling neighborhoods. A street-sweeper is churning down an avenue, a bell clangs as a cable car lurches forward, and the smell of baking sourdough bread wafts through the breeze. A lone car travels cross the Golden Gate Bridge, the first of hundreds of thousands of daily commuters. The fishermen have already started to unload the day’s catches and the subway is rumbling to life underneath the streets. It looks like it’s going to be just another average day in the city…
…That is, until the aliens start invading!
Apparently, a bunch of interstellar blobs have decided to choose San Francisco as their primary target. You’d think they’d go after some place more important, like Washington D.C. or New York, but apparently these villains like chilling out on the West Side. Luckily for us, these little buggers aren’t out to completely wipe out mankind. They just happen to be really, really annoying. They’re just floating around in random places, staring wide-eyed at humans, and offering a few high-pitched squeals. Despite their best efforts and weapons, the military can’t seem to get rid of them. But after extensive research, the alien’s sole weakness has been uncovered. The only way to send them packing doesn’t involve firearms, explosives, or cliched sci-fi plot twists; the key to victory lies with skateboarding!
Yeah, you read that right. Humanity’s salvation revolves entirely around skateboarding. We are so screwed.
In a final stand against the pesky invaders, the military has drafted you as a Caballista, one of the city’s elite skateboarders. Your mission is simple: use your mad boarding skills to impress the aliens and restore peace to the city. Though these freaks are nigh invincible, they are easily entertained. If you come upon one of the creatures, you’ll have to skate up to it, get inside its field of vision (conveniently indicated by the flashy circles of light surrounding it), and perform a few skating tricks. Some of these beings will only be wowed by certain moves, such as grabs, spins, and flips. The aliens are strategically placed throughout the levels, forcing you grind along railways, leap over huge gaps, and make the best use of your made skating skills. Should you get rid of all the aliens before the time expires, you’ll be granted access to additional areas of a level and eventually take on some troublesome bosses. Rinse and repeat a few times, and you’ll have rid San Francisco of the alien scourge.
The whole defeat-aliens-with-tricks concept was already a departure from the likes of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and other skateboarding games, but Yanya Caballista: City Skater takes the initiative to become even crazier. Not satisfied with the control schemes of current skating sims, the designers of this game opted for something far more bizarre: the Fingerboard. Instead of using the buttons on the PS2 controller, this miniature skateboard can be fastened to the analog sticks. Once you’ve turned the controller on its side and have the little attachment pointed at the TV, you’ll be able to control the on-screen skater with realistic movements. In order to go forward or back, you’ll have to slide the Fingerboard accordingly. Should you want to do a jump, spin, flip, or grab, you’ll have to apply pressure to one of the appropriate analog sticks. Though this sounds pretty cool in writing, actually using the Fingerboard is a pain in the ass. It’ll frequently become detached from the analog sticks, forcing you to frantically pause the game and carefully reattach it. If you’re not careful, you’ll accidentally un-pause the game and find yourself too busy fixing the Fingerboard to notice the remaining time limit dwindling down to zero.
The new ideas didn’t end with the controls, either. Yanya Caballista depicts San Francisco as a gigantic cel-shaded cartoon. You’ll get to skate through part of the downtown Financial District, wander through the docks around a wannabe Pier 39, and explore a few other places that will stand out to tourists. The buildings, cars, and all the other features of these levels are presented with bright and cheery colors, a far cry from the bleak and gritty atmosphere of the real city. Where are all the crazy drivers? What happened to al the hobos that beg for spare change near the subway entrances? And where’s a cable car when you need it? At least the game comes with a wide variety of unlockable Caballista, allowing you to kick alien ass with a generic anime dude with spiky yellow hair, a funky Chinese girl, a fat blue guy, a psychotic granny, and a femme fatale clad in pantyhose. Needless to say, this isn’t your typical Tony Hawk game.
In retrospect, Yanya Caballista could have been great. It’s one of the few titles that doesn’t feel like a recycled skateboarding game. Its simplistic gameplay and utter lack of complicated mechanics make it far easier to pick up, but the shallow gameplay will be a turnoff to skateboarding game enthusiasts. Though its story is quite possibly the most ridiculous piece nonsense ever conceived, the wide variety of overly styled characters adds plenty of personality and zest. As a native of San Francisco, I can’t say that I like the cartoon rendition of my city. However, any redeeming qualities that this game has are automatically wiped out by the horrendous control scheme. Yanya Caballista may have an incredible amount of creativity and originality, but this is far too much of a good thing.
Five out of ten