Set in the city of Sandifornia, Skater Nation sees you assume the role of one of eight skaters, each with their own abilities and unique appearance. It's heavily influenced by the genre's leading franchises, like Skate and the later Tony Hawk's. And, like those games, you're free to skate around the entire city with no loading. If you get sick of skating around you have the option to fast travel between nine hot spots. Sandifornia features a variety of locations, including a skate park, beach, skate plaza, and indoor levels like the factory. You can skate to any of these locations as soon as you start the game, but in order to pull off the most extreme tricks you'll need to work through the career mode.
Throughout the city you'll come across 12 fellow skaters, each of whom will set you three challenges ranging from completing trick lists, finding collectables, hitting checkpoints, making transfers and reaching high scores. Each challenge takes five to ten minutes, giving you what Gameloft claims will be three to four hours gameplay with one character. Completing these challenges earns your skater new decks, tucks and wheels, and with ten variations of each you can tailor your skateboard to your own style. While the game features six characters, with two more unlockable skaters, their appearance and stats are fixed so all the customisable attributes are in the boards themselves.
Skater Nation's UI features a directional pad in the bottom left of the display and two large buttons (A and B) on the bottom right. To save valuable screen real estate, these are multifunctional buttons. While on the ground A is used to ollie and B plus a direction allows you to manual. Just like in Tony Hawk, this can be used to link tricks together and achieve large combos. In the air, A serves as the familiar flip button and B the grab button - these combined with a press on the direction pad allow for plenty of different tricks. B also grinds when near a rail. The context sensitive button pressing is great in theory, but at times during my hands on my skater didn't do what I wanted him to.
Although the controls can be a little temperamental, Skater Nation looks set to offer some great features, including a replay editor that allows you to create films out of your last few minutes of gameplay. Simply drag sliders across a timeline to make your film and once you're done you can upload it directly to YouTube. Gameloft has added in 20 tracks of original in-house skater anthems for your listening pleasure, realistic skating sounds and original skateboarding footage. Skater Nation doesn't have multiplayer, but Gameloft LIVE support will see you competing with the rest of the world for leaderboard superiority and achievements.
Skater Nation will be dropping into the App Store this December.