Skateboarding games have long been fountains of content, bursting at the seams with collectibles, unlockables, and easter eggs. The Ramp changes that, choosing instead to focus on the core mechanics between the board and the ramps you ride on. There is nothing to unlock, no secret ending, or deep character creator: just you, the ramp, and the slice of wood between.
In a way that’s particularly reminiscent of time spent with Tech Decks, time spent playing The Ramp is quick and fulfilling. In a world where sports titles are packed to the gills, the focused take on skateboarding is both refreshing and, at times, beautiful.
STORY – JUST ME AND MY BOARD
To claim that there’s a story to be found would be ridiculous, as the real story is the fun you had along the way. The four levels are based on a particular skateboarding obstacle that will be familiar to even the most casual fan: a half-pipe, an empty pool, a sculpted skate park bowl, and a mega ramp. That’s it; the levels are limited entirely to the ramps. There’s no background or outside area to even see, let alone explore.
This limitation is a great way to focus on the action. The exhilarating rush of landing a perfect Nosegrab or even bailing in spectacular fashion: that’s what The Ramp is all about. You can’t even customize your character; the only thing you get is one board and the freedom to drop into a session.
Skateboarding has meant a lot of things to many people, and I’m sure that the release of this game during the first Olympic Games that have included skateboarding helps provide a bit of a nostalgia boost. However, the sound of trucks hitting a ramp lip is timeless, and The Ramp proves that you don’t need much more than that.
GAMEPLAY – DROP RIGHT IN
As we’ve addressed, the scope of The Ramp is incredibly narrow. There are no unlockable skaters or customization options, no fresh decks, and only four levels to choose from. The range of tricks that you can perform is limited to a humble eight tricks, and the controls are primarily done by pressing two buttons at a time.
I don’t want to use generic terms like “tight gameplay” or “general feel,” but the smoothness of these controls is incredibly comfortable to dive into. There is a good reason why the first titles many players are calling back to are the handheld Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games.
Self-described as “no fluff”, The Ramp is less of a game and more of a toy to tinker with. There’s a ton of challenge to be found within the strict design, making it that much more satisfying when you actually land a trick properly. Each level offers different obstacles to overcome, but environmentally, not in the way you’d expect.
For example, the first level you’re shown is a simple half-pipe. Commonplace in skateboarding games and culture, but a mountain to master nonetheless. Initially, you’ll undoubtedly be launched off of the sides of the stage into the great blue nothing. But with some time and practice, you’ll be skating like Rune Glifberg.
True to its name, The Ramp doesn’t offer any street obstacles, but we are allowed one simple grind. As the game doesn’t have combos or points, players can challenge themselves by achieving as long of a grind as possible. Sure, it’s not practical on half of the levels, but even a little variety can go a long way.
The physics of the board feels wonderful. Building speed and executing a sick rotation is one thing, but managing to hit the angle just right and landing successfully gives a strong sense of pride. Alternatively, the punishment for bailing is merely to drop in again, so there isn’t really any risk to be found.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO – PLEASANT POLYGONS
For what’s little more than an interactive fingerboard, The Ramp is stunning to look at. Graphics are sharp and stylish, even though there’s not much detail to be found. It’s almost like looking at a lost Game Boy Advance title, but on the big screen.
The isometric camera angle was a great choice, as it gives just enough of a viewpoint to be able to grind out the controls until you feel comfortable. A top-down view wouldn’t work, because you wouldn’t accurately get a feel of the height you’re reaching. A side-view, even with 2.5D graphics, would take away from the depth of field and neutralize the effect of the ramp.
As you’d expect, the minimalist approach to the rest of the game also impacts the sound design and music. It’s almost entirely quiet; a simple lo-fi track plays in the background if you want. Most of what you hear is just the sweet sounds of wheels along the curve of a bowl, interspersed with trucks and wheels hitting the lip of the ramp. The developer even calls out the simplicity of the sound in the specs, stating that you might as well just hum your favorite tunes.
The Ramp was reviewed on PC. A key was provided by Future Friends Games.