Mike V: Do or Die Skateboarding makes us wonder if the iPhone’s game makers are just a little too ambitious. Many of the best games in the App Store are simple, but so many studios seem to be trying to make the next Civilization, Halo, or in this case, Tony Hawk, on Apple’s limited device. Mike V: Do or Die Skateboarding is a game that has all the flash to satisfy its skating demographic, but it lacks a good skating experience at its core.
First, we should say that this is a skating game where you almost never fall off your board. That might sound like a good thing, but it produces some really awkward skating moments, like going off the side of a vert ramp, horizontal with the ground and somehow landing on your board, or running into a rail at full speed and just stopping. It makes the skating feel imprecise, like you’re floating, or the skateboarding equivalent of bumper bowling: not many ways to fail, but not very satisfying when you succeed either.
If you’ve ever played a Tony Hawk game, you know that depending on how you execute a trick you either fall on your face or perform the most mind-numbingly awesome feat ever. It’s big success or it’s big failure, but the feedback is always clear and gratifying. Mike V: Do or Die often lands you somewhere in the middle between failure and success. Most of your time is spent in an awkward limbo, bouncing around some of the smaller stages backwards or trying to get to the top of a mountain of a vert ramp to try to make something, anything, happen.
All the tricks are handled by moving your finger along a skateboard icon on the right side of the screen. The motion seems to corrospond with the way you would shift your weight on a board to do a trick in real life. It’s a great concept, but poorly executed. The touch screen is often unresponsive, causing you to miss tricks and not fall, but instead bounce around some more.
Mike V’s presence in the game is pretty overdone. Right after he announces “I’m Mike V and this is my game” at the title screen, we began to feel like we were taking a guided tour of the many shades of Mike V’s ego. There’s not really a character selection screen, it’s more of a Mike V selection screen, where you choose between one of his many incarnations, including “Innovator,” “Legend” and, complete with Messianic hair and beard, “Rockstar.” What, no Mike V, “Protector of Small Children?” If that’s not enough, the in-game music is sung by Mike V himself, with lyrics like: “You got to be a superman, flying high above the land.” If we’re going to play out a power fantasy, we’d like it to be our own.
Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a skateboarding game?
On the upside, once you finally do get a hang of it, watching that Level Up bar fill is a joy and a testament to how some RPG style progression can save a struggling game. Unlocking items is what keeps the game going, because you can earn some fantastic-looking new boards, wheels, and skate parks.
The skate parks are epic, and you’ll be jumping ramps from the roofs of buildings and grinding rails past green screens in movie studios. The locations with wide open areas are our favorites, since they offer the most space to gain momentum and overcome the game’s wonky controls.
We should mention that you have a car that you drive around a city in one mode, that, of course, feels very out of place. Strangely, there is no gas pedal. This means that essentially, your job is to slow Mike V’s car down, like some sort of driving instructor. Guess what the least fun part of driving games is? Braking! And for some reason, the way Mike V asks, “Show me what’s under the hood” sounds way too much like an advance.
Mike V: Do or Die Skateboarding may tide your voracious skating appetite if you love the sport, but skateboarding is a phenomenon of big risks, big rewards, and big falls. The core of this game simply doesn’t capture that.