Away with ye, false skate prophets!
Skateboarding is cool, but undeniably hard. I only had to suffer a few dozen bruises and road rashes in my youth to realize I was never going to be good at it. Were it easier, though, there's little doubt I would have stuck with it longer. And if True Skate by True Axis had been around back then (along with an iOS device to play it), I probably would have just skipped the pain and skateboarded with my fingers instead.
True Skate distills the skateboarding experience into its purest form. There's just a board and a skatepark, both rendered in a high level of detail, and no annoying distractions like a gangly, uncoordinated body. Your first few lessons consist of the very basics, learning the touch-based controls for putting the board in motion and mastering some simple tricks.
To put it simply, your fingers become the legs, almost like a video game version of a Tech Deck fingerboard (those are still around, right?). Using one finger to swipe down on either side of the board is like kicking off to speed up, and placing a finger in the center of the board and moving it to the left or right will turn it. A quick swipe down on the back end of the board performs an ollie, which you can land properly by “leaning” forward on the front of the board – just like in real life, except you can actually do it here.
More complicated tricks can be done by swiping the board in mid-air to start it spinning and putting your fingers back on the board to stabilize it for landing. Once you've got the gist, it's fairly simple to start stringing tricks together or pulling off grinds by landing on a railing or something similar. The whole system is extremely simple to grasp and feels very natural.
The physics of the True Skate world are amazing -- for lack of a better word -- creating a sense of realism that is pretty engrossing. The downside is that you won't be able to do ridiculous things that gravity and Newton's laws say are impossible, so if you're looking for exaggerated, over the top stunts, you won't find them here.
Playing through all four of the tutorial missions will have you all the way to pulling off kick flips, but the remainder of the tricks you can do have to be discovered through trial and error. The Trick Book keeps track of everything you've pulled off thus far, and a handful of achievements document exactly what you manage to master. A series of further missions mostly ask you to follow a particular path around the skatepark to match specific tricks. Helping you do that are a few other handy icons at the top of the screen: One changes the camera angle, another resets your board right side up, and the final one rewinds time, Prince of Persia style, to give you another shot to avoid wiping out.
It's a pretty impressive package. What's missing from making it truly epic is... well, more. The skatepark is great, but it would be hard to imagine any skater wouldn't want a change of scenery every once in a while. Expression is such a big part of the culture that the game is practically screaming out for customization of your board, and some music to ride to might also be nice.
Regardless, True Axis likely has another hit on its hands. True Skate makes you feel like you can really skate, and at least for this writer, that's quite the accomplishment. I wonder if my mom ever threw out my old board...
- Well thought out controls provide feel and control to the art of touchscreen skateboarding. Eerily accurate physics create an impressive sense of realism. Nifty controls to reset or turn back time.
- Only one location to skate. Feels weird for a skateboarding game to not have customization options.