The iPhone and iPod touch have quickly become home to a wide array of portable games. Every genre ranging from shooter to puzzle is represented by Apple’s mobile device, but a skateboarding game? Illusion Labs’ Touchgrind adds a unique twist to the video game genre mostly known by names like Tony Hawk and more recently Skate. The game may be unique, but is it compelling enough to convince gamers that it’s worth playing?
Once you boot up Touchgrind the first thing you’ll notice is the amount of polish that the developer has put into the portable skater. Everything from the menu, which displays a rotatable skateboard wheel for selecting options, to the artwork on the boards is aesthetically pleasing. Obviously, with all of this effort, Illusion Labs wasn’t looking to just throw a game onto the App Store to make a quick buck.
In a nutshell Tg is a virtual finger boarder – if you’re not familiar with the miniature replica skateboards on the market, one trip down the toy aisle at Walmart will get you caught up. While finger boarding isn’t exactly mainstream it’s an interesting concept. Let me add that I myself have never messed with finger boarding (really… I promise). What exactly is finger boarding? Well, take a scaled down skateboard were you use your fingers to replicate a real life skater all the while trying to pull of skateboarding maneuvers. Obviously with Tg you’re not able to reenact all of the same tricks that you can with a full size board (including my specialty – the knee and elbow scrape), but that doesn’t take away from the fun that this title presents.
Different modes add to the variety of Tg, but in essence all of them are the same just with different variants. You have a tutorial, which serves as well… a tutorial, Free mode for you to practice the tricks that you’ve learned, and Competition which puts you up against a clock for you to compete against your highest score total. All of these modes take place in a large skate park of sorts, which contains all of the obvious rails and ramps.
Probably the biggest flaw of this game is the camera. While the top down angle is perfect for viewing, the zoomed-in camera can make trying to skate through the map frustrating. While you can zoom out during play to see the entire map, you can’t skate like this. Different levels of zoom should have been included and would have presented options for all preferences, but there is only one option. The other issue that many will face while playing this game is the fact that it takes time to understand and grasp the controls. If you’re impatient you will experience moments of frustration, but putting in enough time will allow you to get the feel of the game.
In all Touchgrind is a really fascinating game, and an interesting app to show off to your non-iPhone owning friends. There may be flaws, and the game might not be for everyone, but there are far worse games and apps that you could spend $5.99 on. Hopefully Illusion Labs will address issues such as the camera, and a lack of multiple maps – but as is Tg will be worth the purchase for most iPod touch and iPhone owners (especially those who are skateboarding fans). Hopefully we’ll continue to see more innovative games like this from other developers in the future.