Mobile games are designed to be simple, limited by storage, processor speeds and web accessibility. In their very nature, they are created with mobility in mind. They are to be used on that stuffy tube journey home, while you’re stuck in that long Tescos queue or sat helplessly at Starbucks waiting for that perpetually late friend to turn up – come on we all have one, if you don’t then it’s you!

Hence mobile gaming apps need to be very basic in design and functionality – perhaps this explains the market saturation with platformers. Innately platformers are a suitable genre for mobile gaming. They function perfectly with a limited control system and scrolling screens allow for large levels with small storage and loading times.

"He was a Skater Boy, she said see you later boy..." Fuck off Avril.

Yet, the cornucopia of such titles means that it can be difficult to create an app that significantly stands out. What’s needed is innovation and originality…

… Drop in Skater Boy for Android.

Upon hearing the title of this game unfortunate memories of a faux-alternative ”rock chick” come to mind… and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth (AND EARS), especially for those that actually skateboard and hate the fact that Avril ‘where are you now?’ Lavigne has become a superficial teeny bopper figurehead for the extreme sport.

Not that I have anything against her or anything….

In fairness, the name actually functions well as a title and as low level marketing. After all, you immediately have some grasp as to the concept and genre of the game simply from reading what it’s called.

The name also lends itself well to the artistic style of the Android app. ‘Skater Boy‘ doesn’t imply a gritty, urban skating game, one full of bloody injuries, excessive use of expletives and violent police chases. Instead it suggests the opposite: brightly-coloured visuals, gloriously dopey animation and child-friendly collectables in the form of stars and trophies. Forgive me if that sounds slightly critical, it was intended entirely as a compliment! Skater Boy is delightfully cheesy and makes no apologies for it!

Time to ollie over a tree and collect a trophy... as you do.

Where Skater Boy really stands out as a mobile app is the gameplay. Essentially it’s a simple, 2D side-scrolling platformer. Success is determined by completing levels within the limited amount of lives/bails (5), with additional bonus score at the end of each for retaining these lives and collecting trophies and stars along the way. Dotted throughout the levels are checkpoints providing the player with a saved state until their lives are fully extinguished.

The control system, as necessary, is brilliantly simple. As with many touch screen gaming apps, there are two on screen buttons, in this case one for pushing off (accelerating) and another for jumping. That’s it, it’s all you need to master in order to play this title.

Disappointingly for a game devoted to skateboarding, there is very little scope for creative skating. By this I mean, that you are unable to perform different moves with any real autonomy – when executing an ollie the game will often replace it with a kickflip, a tre flip or a 360 ollie, although this is entirely automatic. There is some agency to be found in the execution of grinds however (pressing jump mid air before you hit a grind will change the grind type), though again which moves are animated on screen in entirely forced. This linearity of moves list is somewhat distressing for a genre so saturated with alternating moves and techniques, but how this would be remedied in an app so simple is a different matter. In fact, Skater Boy manages to transcend this issue. At it’s heart, it’s an arcade game, able to appeal to a mass audience. Of course it doesn’t have the scope of more established skateboarding games like the Tony Hawks franchise, or the updated realism of EA’s widely-acclaimed Skate series. But it doesn’t try to, and in doing so can be enjoyed by absolutely anyone… that has the patience, that is.

Skater Boy menu screen - areas unlock as you collect stars.

It’s frustratingly addictive, ensnaring the player with its combination of speed, suspense and surprise. As the screen scrolls to the right, oncoming obstacles are suddenly revealed, including birds, witches on broom sticks, boars and water traps. There is no map so everything is completely unexpected as you attempt to predict what is coming up and how much speed will be required to clear it. It’s this element of staggered learning that so strongly draws the player in. As you progress through each level of Skater Boy, successfully avoiding obstacles and reaching checkpoints, you become determined to reach the end goal… and then, sudden defeat. You can’t help but get back on the horse, well the board, and try again, armed with updated knowledge of that level design and what you must do to avoid coming a cropper at the same place once again.

Skater Boy is refreshingly original, and beautifully simple. The graphics are cutesy and inoffensive, the controls smooth and intuitive, and the level design interesting and varied.

You might want to turn the audio off though; the soft rock guitar track is suitably alternative, but the constant yelps from your character as he bails soon become grating in their frequency… and they will be frequent.


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