Skater Nation Hands-On Preview and Video

Hot on the heels of its announcement, Skater Nation has been approved and is now available in the App Store.

The producers of Skater Nation, an upcoming extreme skateboarding game from Gameloft, told us that Apple and skateboarding share a common spirit: They both are hip, independent, and appeal to youth. With the lack of a proper skating game on the system, now is a good time to come out with Skater Nation, long before Activision can release a real Tony Hawk game.

We found ourselves quite happy with the knockoff appeal of Skater Nation. The controls are very much like Tony Hawk, but distilled down to just two onscreen buttons, a virtual joystick, and the tilt controls. Balancing during grinds, manuals, and lip tricks using the tilt controls makes perfect sense to us.

Jumping with the same button to perform flip tricks, though, might take a little getting used to. Also, switching your stance from regular to goofy foot uses the same button as grinding and grab tricks, taking a few painful-looking bails to master.

In career mode, you’ll have eight skaters to choose from, two of which must be unlocked. As you roll around a giant town between 10 different environments (some of the more interesting ones include a water treatment plant, beach, and steep, winding street), you’ll take mini-missions to unlock new decks, trucks, and wheels. Some of these items have cool designs, like wheels with little black skulls, but they’ll also improve your speed, jumps, and other attributes.

The missions come in three types: easy, medium, and hard, represented by traffic colors and presented by hipsters who hang around each environment. They’ll ask you to beat a high score in a set amount of time, collect a certain amount of scattered skate decks, or perform tricks from a list. In total, there are 36 missions, but we were able to complete several in just a few short minutes. Hidden areas and more challenging goals may help improve the life of this game, as will a laid-back free ride mode.

One new feature we really liked, which will probably make free ride mode even more enjoyable, is the ability to save three or four minutes of footage and upload it automatically to Youtube. This will let you share your combos online from within the game. Gameloft also suggested they’ll feature the top ten trick combos on a dedicated website.

While we thought the controls and environments were pretty much spot-on, there are a few areas of improvement we can see for Skater Nation. There’s no character customization, for example, so if you don’t like the look of your skaters, you can’t invent your own. Plus, while the game does sport achievements through Gameloft Live, there are no online high scores.

Even with these complaints, we really enjoyed what we played of Skater Nation. It looks excellent, and it will satisfy the deep need to link together major combos, grind halfpipes, and ollie over a police car. Skater Nation will be out by the end of December.