Transworld Endless Skater [Free] is a game that should be really great. It's essentially the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, but repurposed as a lane-based endless runner. Sure, that's what Tony Hawk's Shred Session sounds like, but that's more of a simplified experience. And after playing Transworld Endless Skater, I can see why. To try and transplant that formula as closely as possible to a mobile-friendly format is a Herculean challenge, and one that this game mostly fails at.
It becomes apparent with the controls: there are three main actions, grabs, flips, and grinds, with ollies of course. Each of these commands is set to a section of the screen, where it's possible to swipe in one of eight directions to pull off different tricks. One of the quadrants is set to move in between lanes.
The swipes for each trick becomes a challenge because tapping and holding on the flip or grab sections is the way to crouch for an ollie, and then it becomes about swiping for the trick, and often holding to keep it going. There's also the ability to tilt the device sideways to spin in the air. It winds up all being overly complicated in use, and difficult to use properly, the gaming equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your stomach.
But oh does the game change when an MFi gamepad is used. The controls now copy Tony Hawk's Pro Skater almost identically, except with the triggers used to switch lanes. Use A to ollie, Y to grind, B and X to do grabs and flips, modified with the joystick to do different ones. It feels natural, and it makes sense, and my scores are at least two-to-three times better with a gamepad than they are with the virtual controls. It's night and day: with the touchscreen, an extremely frustrating game. With a gamepad, an intuitive experience that feels like the perfect mobile skateboarding game. There's just got to be some way to make the virtual controls feel better than they do now.
There are two levels in the game: campus and rooftops, each of which has a fixed course to run through that loops around. See, the goal is to score enough points to extend the timer, which then sets a higher points threshold to extend it again. So the game becomes about starting to chain together better tricks, whether they be in combos or incorporating longer spins in the air, which are worth massive points. It winds up being a great formula, one that rewards players for getting better, while keeping session lengths short. And that feeling of pulling off an amazing trick, or stringing together a series of flips and grinds for a massive amount of points? It feels so good.
The game is free-to-play, with the ability to buy upgrades for the default skater, literally named Eddie Genericson, with 5 pro skaters also available who feature higher stat potentials. Additional tricks can be bought, and a second level, Rooftops can be purchased. Yes, only having two levels makes Transworld Endless Skater feel a bit limited. Cred and bucks are the soft and hard currency – there's a cred tripler IAP which I highly recommend. The $4.99 IAP to remove ads and triple cred, along with the $6.99 one which unlocks Rooftops immediately, are well worth considering. Video ads play after each level without the ad removal. They don't remove the incentivized video ads, which give 1 buck for each ad watched. Bucks can be earned occasionally in-game too. The bucks aren't really necessary as pretty much everything can be bought with cred as well. Amusingly, there's multiple video ads services in play here, trying to get every cent possible from the video ads.
Mercifully, there's no energy system, which would feel like a poor fit as it does in many games of this kind, but I give SuperVillain Studios credit for not putting one in. In another potentially-odd monetization decision, boosts must be unlocked before being used, and then cost money for each use. Why? Good question!
Really, the game is just full of oddities about it. Some of the video ads display in a tiny window on the iPad. There's no total score display during a game, just how close to the next target. The checkpointing in levels is odd at times, with some very long stretches between checkpoints if crashing. The interface is confusing at times, with things like the "Next" button after a game just being retry – and the game making it a bit hard to upgrade the skater after each round, which seems like a poor decision as far as monetization and user experience goes.
Really, Transworld Endless Skater exists at two wildly-differing extremes. In one case, with a gamepad, what we've got is a mobile-friendly adaptation of the classic Tony Hawk's Pro Skater gameplay. There's a reason why Neversoft was memorialized in flames, and why Robomodo, who worked on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD speak of the game in reverent tones. It just takes a gamepad to unlock. Without one, this is a game that just does not work the way it should.
Seriously, this is an MFi gamepad killer app, but without one? Skip this, wait for the global Tony Hawk's Shred Session and when you see something that feels simplified for mobile, realize it was for a good reason.
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