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Tony Hawk’s franchise has dominated the market for skateboard games for years. Someone else will occasionally offer a challenge, but usually ends up bailing.

EA’s T-rated “skate.” is the latest to pop on to the scene. It seeks to carve out a niche by offering an alternative to the button-mashing interface used in most other skating games.

In the “Flickit” system, the left stick positions the body and determines the skater’s path. The left stick guides the feet, with different flicks and wiggles translating into different tricks. Buttons are used for pushing with the feet and triggers are used for performing grabs with the hands. It’s actually much more intuitive than relying on random colored buttons to perform many of the actions.

The basic interface is easy to learn but very tricky to master because many of the stick motions are very similar. For example, pulling the stick straight down and then flicking it straight up results in an ollie. Pulling it down and then flicking it up slightly up to the right results in a kickflip. If the angle is off just slightly, the skater does a different trick. This can be a bit frustrating, especially when going head-to-head with another skater.

In career mode, you create a skater and learn tricks from a host of pros, then aim for fame by perfecting your moves and impressing the skating press. Some of the challenges can get a bit tedious – primarily because of the perfection demanded in the stick motions. The game counts on you picking this up very quickly.

The graphics are very realistic and so are the physics. You aren’t going to zoom 20 feet into the air from a low ramp. Of course this will be considered a drawback from gamers who enjoy over-the-top tricks. Since it’s a skating game, nasty landings are a given. If you come down with a crunch, a sort of full-body X-ray lets you know what bones you broke.

In addition to the career mode, the game offers free skating and head-to-head party play, as well as online competition. Players can also post in-game “footage” of their exploits online.

Whether you like this game will depend on how you like the interface. After getting used to it, I liked the way the stick motions simulated the balance needed to perform different tricks. However, it is often easier to hit sick tricks by mashing buttons.

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

On the Web: www.ea.com/skate/

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