Skating games have graced many a video games system through the years, but it wasn’t until the 3D might of the Playstation and a little game call Tony Hawks Pro Skater that the genre really took off. Before that, well… it all seemed a little flat! THPS was a perfect mix of realistic graphics, physics and controls that made it work so well, and has made the skate games one of the most popular sports genres on all current gen systems.
So, it was only a matter of time before a skating game should come to iPhone. Except it wasn’t in the form of THPS, but a new comer called Vans SK8: Pool Service. So, how does it stack up?
The game really looks the part, and is on par with the look and feel of the THPS games on PS1 and even on PS2! The environments are well rendered with good texture work and more importantly good-looking rider models and animation. Real video clips make an appearance in the opening titles as well as unlockable videos should you complete the game.
As with THPS, SK8 features real life riders, which gives the game more gravitas. You have two riders to choose from Bucky Lasek and Omar Hassan. Both have their own styles as well as a unique special move, which you can pull off to unlock achievements.
Speaking of achievements, the entire game is based around them. To begin with you can only skate in the pool in either freeride, where you can practice your moves for as long as you like, or Time trial, where you must pull off as many tricks as you can in the allotted time. Other game types are available to be unlocked, and you must complete certain achievements to unlock them.
There is a list of achievements available from the main menu so you can see which ones need completing in order to unlock the levels. It’s a good way of adding replay-ability by driving yourself to do better, and will require plenty of practice first in the free-ride mode. These other levels to unlock give you new challenges such as Spin to win, requiring you to get the required points from spinning in the air to win, S.K.A.T.E which gives you a letter from that word for every correct trick completed within the time limit, plus seven others.
As well as the levels there are unlockables fro your equipment too, with a range of customized decks and wheels to collect.
All these tricks and achievements would be pretty worthless if you couldn’t pull them off with some degree of skill…. luckily SK8 features an intuitive gesture based control scheme for doing tricks, coupled with motion controls for turning. There is a list of tricks accessible from the pause menu that outlines what multi-touch gestures are required to pull off certain tricks. For example, to perform an Airwalk you must gesture left with your finger across the screen whilst catching air. To perform a grind you must touch the screen with two fingers as you hit the rim of the pool, and hold it while tilting the device for balance.
The music and sound in the game is also good, featuring a mix of rock and hip hop which fits well with the game, and can be customised to your liking. As well as voice over’s from the two riders themselves that again adds to the overall skate experience.
While the touch controls work well, less can be said about the motion controls. They work ok, but basic a basic calibration and sensitivity options would go a long way to improving the experience. The turning can feel a bit slow and unresponsive at times, and playing the game horizontal can cause a bit of a crick in the neck.
Another gripe is that the game only features one pool and environment. It would be nice to feature a variety, if only to add a change of scenery and something to play for, maybe in the form of further unlockables.
The bottom line
Vans SK8 is a great entry into the skate genre for the iPhone. While the game doesn’t offer as much varied gameplay as the likes of THPS, it does offer enough skating action to warrant the $4.99 price of admission. For skating fans it’s un-missable.
Presentation and Graphics
It looks great, the models and animation look great and it runs silky smooth. More varied environments to ride in would be nice though.
Cool pumping tunes to ride too and real rider voice over’s combining well with the graphics to give an authentic skate experience.
Great touch controls make pulling off tricks fun, though it is slightly let down by un-customisable tilt controls. Hopefully this can be remedied in an update.
There are plenty of tricks to learn, you can play all day in the pool with no time limit. The added achievements increase the replayabilty, as well as a host of unlockables to aim for.