Initially I was looking forward to trying Skater Cat. It looked a bit daft and off the wall so I thought it may have had some potential, unfortunately I was wrong and it didn’t take me long to find that out.
Skater Cat has no story to speak of. You play as a skateboarding cat and your mission is to… well there isn’t one really, you simply have to skate across each stage and get to a finish line. It’s implied that aim of the game is to beat the stages in a quick time. There is a timer in the corner of the screen, you get time penalties when you bump into hazards, there are power ups which increase your speed, and your best times are saved to a score board… but no matter how quick your time is it actually doesn’t really matter. There is no time limit or opponents to race. If you beat a stage you will always unlock the next one regardless of how slow you are, so if you wish to take your time tackle a level carefully there is nothing stopping you.
The stages are basic horizontal platforming affairs with hills, ramps and pitfalls in the floor. There is also a small variety of obstacles such as spikes and boulders however they don’t actually provide much of a threat other than the fact that they slow you down a bit. Skater cat has no lives or a health meter so he’s free to get knocked about by hazards to his heart’s content. The only time you actually fail during this game is if you fall into a bottomless pit which isn’t too punishing as you can retry any course you’ve unlocked an unlimited number of times.
To help you build up speed there are a number of stray cats running alongside you and if you manage to catch any they’ll stick by you effectively creating a convoy. The more cats you collect the faster you skate. The cats are not always easy to catch as they bounce around a lot and if you’re traveling at speed it’s easy to miss them. Getting hurt will cause you to lose cats and slow you back down again. In addition to cats each stage is littered with fish. I beat the game in one sitting and couldn’t work out what the point was in collecting the fish but I found myself collecting them anyway. I discovered afterwards that there is a limit to how many cats you can have in your convoy, so to keep up the number of cats you’re allowed to have you have to keep your ‘treat meter’ as high as possible. If you don’t collect the fish and your meter gets low then the cats will begin abandoning you. It’s a neat idea, but the fact that I was able to beat the game without the knowledge of what the treat meter did proves it was not very effective or vital to the game.
The game handles very well and the controls are very simple. The D-Pad is used for movement and the ‘A’ button jumps. The controls are smooth and responsive but it could be argued that the use of the D-Pad is a bit unnecessary. Usually games in this kind of ‘runner’ genre have your character running automatically with the aim being not to race to the finish but to survive as long as possible. Allowing the player to slow down, stop & turn breaks some of the free running challenge as you can approach perilous sections with caution.
That’s probably this game’s biggest problem as it suffers from something of an identity crises. It not a good platform game because the only penalty for making mistakes are time penalties. It’s not really a runner because the focus is on getting to the end of a stage instead of surviving for as long as possible. It’s not a racing game because there’s nobody to race against. The best way I can describe this game is that it’s pretty much just a time killing exercise. That may seem a bit harsh but this game really doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, as a result there’s no goal or aim to focus on.
In addition to a lack of identity this game is also extremely shallow and lacks any sort of variety. Other than a few hazards there is hardly any additional items or points of interest in the stages. After a few levels I began to notice leavers which shift the gravity allowing you to continue running through the stages upside down on the ceiling. This was fun the first couple of times but the novelty soon wore off. There were some falling platforms and boosts but that really was about it. There are 30 stages in total but hardly anything new was introduced as you played through them. My opinion of this game didn’t change at all between stage 3 and stage 30 so overall I just found myself getting very bored very quickly. Thankfully the game doesn’t last for very long and can be easily beaten in a little over an hour.
Actually that was another thing that really annoyed me. After I beat the final stage I was taken back to the level select menu (the same thing that happens after beating ever other stage). There was no end cut scene, no ‘Congratulations’, no ‘The End’, not even a page of credits, nothing what so ever. The only reason I kept on playing was because to review this game properly I felt it was important to find out how it ends, and it turns out I was just wasting my time.
In the short time it took me to finish all the levels I didn’t really notice any technical issues other than a slight problem with the camera’s vertical hold. As you travel horizontally you get to see quite a bit of what’s ahead of you giving you time to react, however if you are travelling up of down a hill you have to be very close to the top or bottom of the screen before the view follows you. This can lead to a few problems as it forces you to react quickly to what obstacles are ahead of you in these situations.
The graphics are pretty nice. The game adopts a nice 2D cartoon style with the sprites all looking nicely drawn and the backgrounds consisting of two or three individual 2D cartoon layers scrolling in a parallel fashion. Oddly enough the only parts that are 3D are the platforms themselves, however this doesn’t look out of place in relation to everything else on screen. The levels alternate in style which keeps the game looking interesting, some levels being set in a park environment, some in the town, some by the beach, some in a forest, etc.
Unfortunately where there is variety in the graphics there is zero variety in the sound. This game has one piece of music which is played throughout every level. By the time I was half way through I ended up turning the volume down. The sound effects serve their purpose but they were nothing particularly special.
Apparently there are some customizable features which can be unlocked for scoring good times and street pass bonuses, unfortunately I found the game to be so dull that I couldn’t force myself to stick with it for long enough to discover what they were.
There are far more interesting running games available on other platforms. I’d recommend some of the more popular mobile runners such as Temple Run, Subway Surf and Sonic Rush over this one.
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