Appletell review – Touchgrind for iPhone

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TouchgrindGenre: Simulation
Developer: Illusion Labs
File Size: 5.0MB
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Requirements: iPhone 2.1 software
Compatibility: iPhone and iPod touch
Age Rating: 4+
Price: $4.99

Touchgrind for iPhone

Touchgrind is a very different sort of game from what is common on the App Store. It’s part game and part simulation. The idea is simple; place two fingers on a virtual skateboard deck and perform tricks as if playing with a tech deck style miniature skateboard. What’s great about this game is that it’s simple enough to immediately be fun, but complicated enough to require practice. Thankfully, that practice is fun, and possibly even rewarding.

When launched for the first time, Touchgrind displays a few quick tutorials that help to get a feel of how to control the game. Place one finger on one end of the board and another in the middle. A nice touch is that either side can be chosen and it determines the direction of motion. This, of course, places a limit on tricks; nollies simply aren’t possible…yet. More on that later.

Touchgrind how to ollie

To ollie, lift the frontmost finger off of the board (screen) followed closely by the finger on the back of the board. Better timing is rewarded with higher ollies, which in turn will result in higher scores.

Touchgrind standard view

All tricks are executed with directional flicks added to the standard ollie. This is the truly amazing part of this game/simulation, because it works extremely well. To kickflip, pull the front finger downward instead of just off of the screen. Add a nicely timed downward swipe of the back finger and there’s a 360 flip. Basically, tricks are physics based, so there isn’t a set trick list. There also is no obvious trick recognition system, meaning currently the game won’t display “Kickflip” after one is landed.

Touchgrind flip trick

When skating around, there are little icons that point in the direction of obstacles like rails, boxes and kickers to be tricked off of. These icons will blink, if appropriate, when the time is right to start a trick. So, when skating towards a rail, the rail icon will blink when it’s time to ollie onto the rail. These icons are necessary since the viewpoint is quite limiting, but it’s a fair trade for such awesome controls.

The game has three modes: Warm Up, Jam Session, and Competition. Warm Up and Jam Session are pretty similar. They are both for practicing tricks, though scores are only recorded in Jam Session. Competition is a timed and scored event. Higher scores unlock different board designs; not a huge incentive, but it’s something. Scoring is mostly timing based, but more points are given for trick variety and difficulty. Land several tricks in a row and a multiplier will take effect, which increases with the number of tricks landed.

Touchgrind Skateboard Wheel menu system

An added bonus to selecting modes is the menu interface, which deserves it’s own mention. The menu is wheel based, a skateboard wheel in fact. The wheel can be rotated to select different options or spun with momentum for fun. It’s by far my favorite menu interface on any game on the iPhone.

While boards can be unlocked with high scores in Competition mode, the real payoff in this game is the ability to perform tricks at least semi consistently. It’s surprisingly fun to pull off tricks in this game, so much so that I’ve finally retired solitaire from its position as my go to game when boredom sets in.

There is still room for improvement, but since Touchgrind is already an amazing game so, growing room isn’t anything to be disappointed about. Features can, and likely will, be added to this game in the not too distant future, so it’s something to look forward to. Some features I’m hoping to see in said updates are trick recognition, support for flat ground tricks (like rails and caspers), support for late flips, camera options, more parks (a park editor), board customization and run recording/exporting to video. Illusion Labs, makers of Touchgrind, iare very receptive to feature suggestions through e-mail, which can be found on their site. There’s already a list of requested features which cover most of my wants.

Pictures are great, but video is so much better for getting a feel for just how polished this game is. Here’s a demo video form Illusion Labs.

So while playing with a real tech deck might be out of the question, simulated miniature skateboarding on the iPhone is quite a technical achievement, and it’s handling of physics alone can be used as an excuse to “fingerflip” off productivity and “grind” away some time.

Currently, Touchgrind can be had for $5 on the App Store, but don’t expect that price to last; it’s a launch special. My advice, grab it while it’s cheap.

Appletell Rating:
5 out of 5 Appletells

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