Of course barreling down a hill at lightning speeds on a rollerblades is perfectly safe. Why do you ask?
FreeSkate Xtreme is the latest in the 3D endless runner genre– or at least it would be if you were running. Instead, you and your bad-boy (or girl) virtual self are skating and grinding your way down a long stretch of road which is filled with numerous blockades, shipping crates, traffic cones, and more, yet on which pedestrians drive their cars anyway.
Like typical examples of the genre, you race along the same general stretch of land over and over and over again, the only real changes being the arrangement of the obstacles. There’s a lack of variety here, but this is offset somewhat by the rather pleasant visuals which seem quite reminiscent of SEGA’s Jet Set Radio, but without that funky futuristic flair that could only come from Japan.
The characters seem pleasant enough overall, with choices between a male named Ethan, a female named Alice, and another male named “Sauvage,” who appears to enjoy shopping at Target. Actually, “choice” might be a bit of a strong word, as you have the eventual option of purchasing the ability to play as the two latter characters named. As to whether or not they bring anything special to the table besides their wardrobe (or lack thereof, in the female’s case) and overall appearance, we have no idea.
This is because, as with many games of this type, your goal is not only to avoid obstacles and get as far as you can, but also to grab as many coins and diamonds as you can all along the way. As many as you seem to get, even with such power-ups as magnets, high-jumping boots, and more found in the in-game shop, they don’t seem to add up to much. After several rounds of playing and getting progressively further each time, we’ve yet to break $1,000, much less approach the $20,000 and $30,000 needed to unlock Alice and Sauvage, respectively.
When we first heard about the game, we were told that it would be controlled by use of the iPhone/iPod’s front-facing camera, if it had one. Thankfully, that’s not entirely true.
For the most part, you control your Xtreme FreeSkater by tilting the phone left or right, and you can perform moves by shaking the phone. There’s also an option to switch jumping to a tap of the touchscreen, but we found the shake method preferable. Overall, they work quite well as iOS games go; they may not be perfect for the finely-tuned movements needed to collect the zig-zags of coins you come across, but they get the job done and are generally not at fault for when you do eventually crash and burn.
The camera controls, on the other hand, don’t work so hot. Fortunately, this is relegated only to certain portions you can avoid if you’re careful; you’ll jump up onto a high grind rail and – in theory – tilt your head left and right to collect coins and avoid missiles. This takes place in bullet-time, perhaps due to the flakiness of the camera controls, and overall just feels dragged out and doesn’t add anything to the experience. Even with a visual of your head and a red box on-screen, it just doesn’t work very well. It’s a gimmick, plain and simple, and not a very good one. The game’s normal controls seem like they’d work well during this portion, and it might even be more fun if it moved at regular speed (and aren’t we over The Matrix already?)
Simply put: The game didn’t really need this, and would be better off without it. Given that it seems to be cordoned off to its own little segments, we can only speculate that the camera trick was mandated by some higher-ups while the developers were wise enough to realize that it could wreck the experience. But that’s only speculation.
That aside, FreeSkate Xtreme is a fun ride, at least for a little while. As with most endless runners, it all comes down to how you feel about single-stage repetition and beating high scores, though we will say that we did enjoy this one more than some others we’ve played.