Who would have thought that when you weren’t looking, your garden gnomes were thrill seeking up in the heavens… the swines!
It’s an odd premise really. The last creature you’d expect to be racing would be a gnome. You wouldn’t see Lewis Hamilton wearing a pointy hat, wellington boots and overalls – well not in public anyway. But here they are, launching themselves off clouds and hurtling towards earth all in the name of fun.
Playing a bit like a tunnel runner game – but without visible tunnel walls – you are tasked with manoeuvring the little gnome in his snow engine, up, down, left and right, avoiding incoming blocks of ice, collecting coins and passing through the checkpoints, before landing with a bang on the ‘finish’ platform. As you plummet, snowflakes rush past you. Collecting these will give you added speed, while combos will give you short afterburner boosts.
The races consist of various cups; Mountain cup, Forest Cup, City cup and Night cup. Races are asynchronous affairs, meaning that, online or off, you can race against real players recorded runs. Each cup has a time limit too (generally a day), and once over you will be rated with everyone else. Succeed to be placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and you’ll earn a trophy and other goodies, such as coins and trinkets.
Each course also has a set of objectives to complete. These include: hitting a set combo of snowflakes; collect a number of coins; pass through a checkpoint with a powerup; finish the race in under 1:15, etc, etc. Complete these objectives and you can earn stars in which to unlock other cups.
Early course are pretty easy, but later the game throws in a few things to make it more challenging. One of these is weather effects. Clouds will slow you down for example, and black clouds contain lightning bolts which will slow you even more. The other is a basic crafting system, with which you can upgrade your snow machine. Basics include speed and acceleration, while trinkets bring more specific upgrades, such as snow holders, magnets (for collecting coins easier), nets, new engines, and wind fins. These all help you in some way, but can also hinder you in others, such as reduced speed.
The graphics in Sky Gnomes are not exactly going to push you iOS device. But, there’s a good sense of speed as you plummet towards earth, and the gnomes themselves are charming and fun. The game’s interface elements in particular look great, rendered in realtime 3D with nice little graphic touches, such as the text floating away like snowflakes.
The controls in Sky Gnomes are pretty easy to grasp. A yoke like stick acts as your interface for controlling your gnome, which basically acts like a track pad, dictating where your gnome will move on a 2D plane. However, I’m a little surprised there isn’t a tilt option available. I think it would work better – on iPhone at least.
Overall, Sky Gnomes is a fun little racing title with an original concept at it’s heart. But, I can’t see people sinking a lot of time and effort into it, other than a quick diversion. Perhaps that is the point though, and at the budget price of $0.99 it might be worth a punt, particularly if a) you like racing, and b) you have a penchant for gnomes.