Skate It Micro-Review: Skate...Or Die?!

Sometimes video games make the leap from consoles to the iPhone/iPod Touch brilliantly. Sometimes the landing isn't as smooth, but still satisfying. And sometimes the end result is simply horrible.

EA brings its Wii and DS title Skate It to the iPhone/iPod touch. Featuring robust customization and a bevy of levels, the game has players travel to locales that include Paris, Rio and Shanghai. Like in the home console versions, it's possible to customize your avatar's appearance with unlockable brand name t-shirts and sneakers. The available tricks are vast and many, executed by drawing various types of lines in the middle of the device's screen. When the player begins to draw a line, a translucent skateboard appears on the screen. There is a "sneaker button" that, when pushed, causes the avatar to gain speed, and tilting the iPhone/iPod Touch causes the avatar to more right or left.

Sound good?

Hated
There Are Too Many Tricks: As previously mentioned, Skate It is a very robust game. This is not necessarily a good thing. There are three basic categories "flip", "grind" and "grab". Those categories then have three sub categories: "beginner", "intermediate" and "advanced". Meaning? There are something like 80 (or more) tricks. Eighty tricks that are executed by drawing lines on an iPhone/iPod Touch's screen, which pretty much turns the game's entire control scheme into an overworked mess. And the lines that must be drawn to perform the tricks are not intuitive at all. For an iPhone/iPod Touch game, I would have prefer a solid stock of handful of easy to remember cool tricks with distinctive controls, instead of a mass of tricks. All of the squiggles start to blend together.

Tilting Is Hard: So not only does the player need to draw tricks with their finger in the middle of the screen, but also tilt the device to move right and left. It is possible to tweak the tilt controls in the options menu, but I'd finding myself tweaking them for a certain kind of trick and then having to recalibrate them for, let's say, a race. I shouldn't have to be fretting over things like this. That's the developer's job. I should be playing the game. That's mine. And often, when I would draw a line on the screen to do a trick, I'd find myself tilting the screen accidentally. The tilt and draw mechanic often felt like patting my belly and rubbing my head at the same time. Also, for many of the races, the tilt control just does not cut it — I kept wiping out in one tunnel race.

Jack of All Trades, Master of: None, sadly. There is a lot in this game. Many courses, lots of tricks, lots of customization. But, unfortunately, the game simply does not seem focused. It's trying to do too much. I would have gladly taken better (and stripped down) controls over all those tricks and in-game challenges.

What really chapped me about Skate It is that it never seemed to take the player into account. Will I enjoy playing through the same challenge for 30 minutes because of broken controls? I don't need all these bells and whistles! I just need a core game mechanic. The basic idea of drawing lines in the middle of the screen is a good one, I think. But it needs to be simple and intuitive, which it isn't. The lines I need to draw feel abstract. It actually began to stress me out! I kept wondering if the developer wanted me to have a good time or was simply throwing something at me to master. It felt like homework.

There were things I somewhat enjoyed — such as the non-career mode "freeskate" stuff. You know, just noodling about, and not worrying and stressing about having to complete a challenge with hampered controls. I think the developer can do better. No, I know it can — and that's what I hope to see on their next Skate It-type iPhone/iPod Touch game. That is, if there is another one.

Skate It was published by EA for the iPhone/iPod Touch on May 10. Retails for $6.99. Review code provided by publisher. Played the career mode for approximately ten hours of mainly the career mode.

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