It’s clear from the off that Skatelander wants to be the next Crossy Road and why shouldn’t it? Crossy Road managed to sell bucket loads on mobile after just a few months of development work.
So when the menu screen shows the all-too familiar icons that allow you to grab coins, play a fruit machine for a bonus and get a new random character, I’m not overly surprised. Skatelander uses the graphics style, pixelated characters and bright coloured backgrounds, but swaps out the busy roads for object-strewn lanes that disappear off into the sea on either side.
It’s pretty clear what the goal is just from a quick glance at the screenshots; you need to skate around objects and not fall into the sea. While Crossy Road was a one-button affair, Skatelander needs 2 digits, one on each side of the screen, to maneuver left and right through the isometric scenery. A jump button will occassionally appear on the left which can be pressed for a well timed stunt, earning you money in the process.
Money can also be picked up from the road, left in random places, and sometimes you’ll fall foul to your own greed by trying to make an impossible pass through several barriers to grab the wad of cash. It’s not really required, though, as you’ll get just as much money at the end of each run if you can stomach sitting through adverts for more games on the App Store.
What does money give you? Prizes. Or, more precisely, access to new characters for your
skateboard. Each $100 will allow you to gain entry to a random selection machine that chooses a new character, with 60 to choose from overall, ranging from cats and bunnies to devils and even a pile of poop. They each have their own sound effects and animation but seem to play the same.
So does Skatelander manage to produce enough magic to compete with Crossy Road in the gameplay stakes? Well, the isometric view doesn’t really do it any favours. The two finger approach, moving left and right between objects, works but it’s often difficult to judge the gap, so it can be quite frustrating at times. Despite this, the game works because you can die at any time, though when the road narrows and ensures that there are too many objects for you to reach the next bit of asphalt it can seem as if it’s a bit too unfair at times.
With a bit of balancing, Skatelanders could be well on its way to becoming the next hit, but for now it’s still worth playing.