Every week that I run this column, I flip through a few resources to see what’s dropped recently on iOS devices and parse through what’s worth playing and what’s not. Mostly, there are a lot of duds, and I end up spending a lot of time talking about games available on Apple Arcade through necessity.
But this past week, I discovered a title that completely took me by surprise — especially as I’ve been weening off of playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 on PS4. Pocket Skate is a charming skateboarding game made by Australian indie developer Peter Leary that dropped a few weeks ago for iPad and iPhone, and it completely missed my radar. It’s a very chill game in which you flick, swipe, and tap your screen to pull off tricks, and coast around in small, colorful maps in one-minute skate sessions — or longer, if you’d like to Free Skate. It’s the perfect pick-up-and-play title when you’ve got a moment to kill, and oddly, it reminds me a lot of playing with old-school Tech Decks.
Pocket Skate is a super simple game to pick up and play, but a tough one to master with intent. The idea of Pocket Skate is to rack up a high score during short, one-minute skate sessions — though the option to free skate is available. The higher the score, the more experience you gain. The more experience, the bigger the bank of points you can spend on unlockables, like other skate tricks and characters. Each session also has challenges to hit, lending it a task list similar to that of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series.
During these one-minute skate sessions, you kick off your board by tapping the right side of your device’s screen while controlling movement with the left. To manual, you hold the right side of the screen and swipe up or down. To ollie, flick the right side up, and you could potentially land into a grind by resting your finger. To grab, hold in any direction while you’re in the air, and to flip, you flick in any direction in the air. It’s a very simplified version of the double/triple-tapping and multi-directional button mapping we all know from the Tony Hawk games.
But for me, Pocket Skate is reminiscent of fiddling around with a Tech Deck — or, for those out of the loop and simply too young to know (oof…), the finger skateboard fad of the early aughts. Pocket Skate has a bouncy, slightly low-gravity feel to it, and it’s very generous when you’re assembling a line of tricks — I don’t think I’ve ever fallen off my board while chaining a huge combo, and the only bails I’ve made were from running into a wall. Because of this, you can kinda just flick your right wrist in every which way and land tricks on a whim, racking up your score in the process. The maddening amount of flicking, holding, and tapping I do in a single game reminds me of those times I’ve annoyed my middle school teachers with the slapping of a tiny wooden fingerboard in class, and the sound effects are just as satisfying.
Perhaps the strongest part of Pocket Skate is its art direction. It’s a super colorful game, with bobblehead-like characters that are tall and lanky. Your skater has the build of Coraline’s parents, with blacked-out eyes, long, thin limbs, and a huge dome piece.
You can customize those characters (and trick sets) through the main menu, and change the colors of whoever you choose to play as. The unlockable characters are cool, too, though each just serves as an avatar and lacks personality. Still, I love seeing how these little characters swerve through each map.
Speaking of maps, the game starts with just one, the skatepark, though you eventually unlock two others through targeting those objective lists: the park and the beach. They each have their own cute little quirks, and gliding around in each feels so bright and happy, especially as the camera follows you around these small play areas.
The only thing I wish this game had was a killer soundtrack. Although it lets you use your device’s playback feature to tune into your own music, you can’t link it to a streaming service like Spotify and play background music — though, to be fair, I’ve just been having Spotify play in the background anyway.
Pocketable skate fun
I’ve really been enjoying Pocket Skate, especially in one-minute intervals. It feels like a quick exercise in flicking a Tech Deck with a tinge of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, which, to me, is a super warm and nostalgic feeling.
I’m excited to see what the game’s next update will look like and what kind of additional maps and characters Peter Leary will cook up. (The addition of controller support would be nice!) Until then, Pocket Skate is just fun enough to capture my attention for a few minutes a day. It's a welcome addition to the family of the best iPhone games, where more skateboarding games are much needed.
Pocket Skate is an arcade-style iOS game in which you skate your way to the highest score.
Download from: App Store (opens in new tab)
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Kevin Cortez is a culture and product journalist with over nine years of experience. He was most recently the style editor for a leading product-recommendation site and previously covered the music and podcasting industries at Mass Appeal and The A.V. Club. He has also written for Leafly, Input, Vulture and Genius.
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