Stick Skater has been grinding its way to the top of the iTunes App charts. Surely, there must be a reason for it. Let's see if there is!
Stick Skater is a barebones skating game. Its stick man skater grinds on rails and hops over obstacles like lights, sand, staircases and trash cans. In its basic control set-up there are two control options: "Basic Tricks Mode" and "Advanced Tricks Mode". Basic Tricks Mode has two buttons: "Push" to move forward and "Trick" to jump and do tricks. In the advanced mode, "Trick" is switched out with a virtual joystick "Swipe". The core game mechanic is timing and reacting to obstacles.
But does a stripped down stick figure man skating game provide a satisfying game experience?
Two Buttons, Two Choices: I tested out both controls as both are optional. And while I hated the advanced controls, I loved the basic ones. For someone who isn't so interested in completing a wide variety of skating tricks, I was perfectly happy to just be able to jump over stuff in a cool way. Stick Skater offers both experiences (casual and core), which I think is a huge plus for the game. What works so well about the basic two button mode is that it actually makes Stick Skater play like a rhythm game with the level being the sheet music.
Doesn't Look Pretty, Doesn't Matter: There are many pretty looking games on the iPhone and iPod touch and Stick Skater is not one of them. It's not so much the graphics (I like the stick guy!), but often things like the colour choices. Other times, it was hard to discern what each obstacle was (is that a light?), but as a testament of the game's fun factor, none of this matters. The stages, while not eye candy, are crafted in such an engaging way that I quickly tossed aside any petty grievances about the way it looks and focus on how it plays.
No Need For Speed: For a pick up and play title, Stick Skater offers surprisingly deep gameplay. As the levels progressed and got harder and harder, I never felt as thought I was given a challenge I wasn't ready for (once again showing how well the game is designed). But what I really enjoyed was how later levels were sometimes about going slower and timing jumps. It's always nice when a game surprises you and continues to reveal itself - nicer when it does that on 20-odd levels in.
Stick Skater is almost everything you want from an iPhone game. It's fun, it's hard and it's flexible. I whizzed through the basic level in a relatively short period of time, but the game felt like a very substantial experience for an iPhone skater. There were moments of frustration, but they were never overly frustrating in some sort of masochistic way. Rather, when I couldn't land a jump, I felt myself smiling - charmed, even - and then getting up and trying again.
Stick Skater was developed by Traction Games and released on the iTunes App Store on April 15. Retails for $1.19. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed "beginner" and "love pack".