It’s easy to understand why skateboarding games have appeal. You get all the exhilaration of pulling off a cool trick, without the danger of breaking your entire body in the process. However, the process of learning said tricks on a console with a controller can become tedious and frustrating. That fact makes the iPhone, with its multi-touch controls, a perfect candidate for an intuitive skateboarding sim.
In rolls True Skate, a skateboarding game for iDevices that tries to take advantage of the iPhone’s controls to direct your board. It’s not a new idea (TouchGrind has attempted this as well), but a better, behind-the-board camera position and thus, more easily viewable surroundings give this game a leg up on the competition already.
Before I start examining the gameplay, let’s look at the main attraction: the controls. The touch-based-scheme makes a decent attempt to be as player-friendly as possible, even requiring only one finger to control the board. However, what it achieves in player-friendliness, it fails in-depth. The way the controls work do lend themselves to mainly flips and simple hops, which can lower the trick variety a bit. Also, the requirements for pulling certain tricks are pretty strict, so not flicking at the exact position on the board will normally result in a sloppy mess instead of the complicated trick you wanted. Also, I did encounter moments where the board wouldn’t react correctly to my flicks, but this could just be caused by the aforementioned resolute requirements for finger placement and flicking.
The gameplay is a staple of the genre: do tricks to score points. I suppose the game shouldn’t have to be deeper than that, and I have to admit, grinding on the plethora of rails and hopping over gaps is extremely fun. However, the lack of much variety (there’s only one skatepark.) can make the game prematurely boring. Thus, a series of mission systems are given to the player.
The mission system is basically a series of tasks to complete throughout the skate park, which are unlocked with the points you earn from doing tricks and trick combos. Missions mainly consist of mimicking the actions of a computer controlled board, or getting a set amount of points within a time limit. The missions become more irritating than fun, though, since the requirements to achieve a 100% rating require brutal perfection. In the “follow the computer” mode, if you don’t follow the exact path and perform the exact tricks the computer does, then your best achievement will be a silver medal. The controls have their own frustrating moments too, specifically, when you can’t figure out exactly how the board needs to be flicked to pull off a required trick. And there’s no in-depth tutorial to help here when you just can’t figure out the finger positioning for a flick or hop. Oh, and the points I mentioned earlier? The only thing you can buy with them (other than more missions) is “slo-mo” refills. Those moments of slow-motion during jumps are expensive (as far as in-game currency goes), and frankly, not worth playing through the missions over.
Overall, what looked like a wickedly fun skateboarding game is revealed to be a game littered with bland design choices (that singular skate park can become awfully familiar after a while), inconsistent controls, and a flailing mission system. The moments of freeplay with no objective are good, and the joy of stringing together tricks with reckless abandon is not easily lost. Unfortunately, though, this game is a case of the flaws overwhelming the fun.
Don’t get me wrong, True Skate has its moments of gleeful tricking, but the dodgy controls and lack of depth stop the game from being anything other than a skateboarding time-waster.