Skateboarding games, like other sports titles, come in one of two flavors: insane, arcade-style like the Tony Hawk franchise, and simulations which replicate more of the actual skating experience like EA’s Skate. Frosch Media’s Skater takes the latter approach, giving you mock-ups of 5 real-life skate parks to virtually shred by recording short runs of your own, then upload them to the server and try to copy other player’s runs. It’s not easy, but like real skateboarding, Skater takes determination to master and feels good once you learn the ropes.
Skater’s two-handed controls grasp the feel of skateboarding. The left thumb represents the left foot, and the right thumb represents the right foot. You’ll kick, push, flip, and grind by tapping and swiping various sections of the board. You can learn most of the basics in the tutorial, but unfortunately there’s no way to access the tutorial more than once. This means that a lot of the important information about how Skater functions is inaccessible after the first few minutes of gameplay. If you’re the type of person who would rather learn the hard way this may not be an issue, but it’s very easy to miss basic info (like double tapping the screen to reset your position) without this ability.
Skater’s central mechanic, matching other players’ runs, is fun when the controls don’t get in the way. A single deviancy from the original run, even an accidental ollie or manual nowhere near the site where you’re executing the trick, automatically makes you fail the run. Every time you fail a run, it takes you back to the menu and forces you to choose the run again. Many runs take at least a couple tries to match, so be nice to see a “replay” button added in a future update.
Successfully matching a run increases your overall player score, while failing decreases it, meaning that a chain of quick failures plummets you into the negatives quickly and holds you back on the leaderboards. Luckily though, there are many player-submitted runs to choose from, ranging from simple kickflips to complex combos of flips and grinds. The game demands precision, and if you can get the inputs down pat, it feels great when you finally execute a complicated run.
Like most other skateboarding games, Skater offers unlockable content. Instead of going with a freemium model, however, you purchase the game outright and then unlock content by uploading your own runs and copying others. This might feel uncomfortable for some gamers who are used to paying $.99 to unlock specific content, but is appreciated compared to the typical nickel-and-dime model seen all too frequently in mobile gaming today. There are five different skate parks, three from California and two from Philadelphia. You can also unlock new shoes and boards by completing challenges and mastering tricks. Already, Philadelphia’s Love Park is coming soon, and there’ll be more decks and shoes coming in the future as well.
Skater isn’t trying to compete with the giant, over-the-top skateboarding games of yore, but instead offers a bite-sized thrash for skaters on-the-go. With occasionally frustrating controls, sometimes the $4.99 it asks for feels like a lot, but with great graphics, an approachable trick system, and plenty of user-generated content to tackle, fans of the genre will easily find this one of the better options on iOS. With some refined controls and additional unlockable content, Skater could be well on the way to even more success.