Developer: Naquatic LLC
Price: $2.99 Download on the App Store
Touch Ski 3D - I’ve always had a weird fascination with extreme winter sports. Granted I’m not a skier or snowboarder by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve always enjoyed watching some of the amazing feats that professional “extreme” athletes pull off at the ESPN X-Games. As a result, it’s my feeling that you have to be a little bit crazy to do those types of activities regularly. Naquatic has just rolled out their take on what it means to hit the snow slopes on your iPhone. Touch Ski 3D is their labor of love that aims to realistically replicate the feeling of skiing on snow while also unveiling a completely new control scheme for a racing game.
Touch Ski 3D isn’t your standard racing game. Instead of racing others, you race the clock. Over the course of Touch Ski 3D’s expansive 16 courses, the goal is to properly navigate through slalom flags while trying to post the best time you possibly can. If you miss flags, you suffer time penalties. Digging into the slalom system, you have to make sure that you’re to the left of the blue flags and to the right of the blue flags. The system works well, keeping you focused on the correct path to take.
On the whole, Naquatic has crafted a beautiful game. It was a good choice to go with a first person perspective for Touch Ski 3D as the courses are 3D and expansive. Though there is some noticeable aliasing that produces “jaggies” on the environments, it should be forgiven based on how large the courses are. The use of different lighting schemes does a good job of mixing up the look of the courses as well.
To elaborate on the unique control scheme referenced in my introductory paragraph, Touch Ski 3D is doing some pioneering things relative to control. Most racers use either the accelerometer or an on-screen control pad to influence steering. You will not find any of that here though.
Touch Ski 3D handles it’s mechanics by using two index fingers. Upon pressing both of your fingers onto the horizontally-oriented screen (your phone will need to be rested on a table or your lap), they will control the left and right skis. Accelerating your skier is accomplished by having both of your fingers parallel. Slowing down is done by crossing your fingers. Lastly, steering is managed by smoothly tilting your fingers left or right in sync. This scheme paired with a real physics engine makes Touch Ski 3D a pleasure to control.
As an additional freebie, you can waste time in the Ski Jump mode. In this mode, it’s all about racing down a slope before jumping off a cliff to amass big air. The farther you jump, the better, and you can upload your best stats to Touch Ski 3D’s servers for leaderboards.
Not everything in Touch Ski 3D is great though. There is one head-scratching omission that drags down the experience for me. That being you don’t have any clue about what’s a good time to have on the courses you’re skiing on during gameplay. There’s no “top time” to beat or checkpoints (with +/- time indicators) during your run that serves as a status check. The closest thing that gives you a barometer on how well you’re doing is from uploading your score to Touch Ski 3D’s servers. But I’d argue that determining progress shouldn’t be exclusively relegated to comparing myself to the top human players. Naquatic has a high scores section accessible in the main menu, but that kind of information needs to injected into the main user flow (e.g. during gameplay and upon concluding a course).
All things considered, Touch Ski 3D is a great case study for any developer looking to take the iPhone as a gaming platform seriously. Instead of making some throwaway game with some minor iPhone specific touches tacked on, Naquatic made a game that plays on the inherent strengths and features of the iPhone. For anyone on the fence, there’s a free version of Touch Ski 3D available, but this game is worth ever penny...all three hundred of them!