Version Reviewed: 1.0.15
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S
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Skateboarding games -- and along with them any game where the player exerts some kind of control over a steadily advancing object in an attempt to dodge incoming obstacles -- are a well charted corner of the iOS gaming map. However, every now and then an app comes along that takes gameplay that has otherwise been written off as rote or cliché and through the clever use of some additional gaming mechanics and thoughtful design manages to make them seem fresh and fun again. Penny Time has done exactly that. It may be a game published by a skateboard manufacturer as sort of advergame, but as an ad or a game this little app outshines many others found in the App Store right now.
The premise here is simple, execute simple swiping gestures to navigate over, through, or under obstacles while skateboarding. Swipe up to ollie, swipe down to duck and slide, and swipe forward to hop up and let the board roll under an obstacle. At this point Penny Time probably sounds like more than a handful of other games. The truly entertaining part of this game is how the player is scored as they complete (or are unable to complete) each level. Each level has three areas, and each area has three distinct sections with slightly different gameplay.
In an area's first section, the player avoids obstacles while trying to time jumps, slides, and hops perfectly and points are tallied according to their accuracy. In the second section, the player is moving a bit faster and has to avoid more obstacles while going faster. This time, though, the player is building a multiplier as well as points with every successful dodge. The score from that section is then multiplied by the multiplier achieved, and in the third section the player can choose to add that total to their score or keep the multiplier longer to add to it in later areas for larger scores. This risk/reward proposition brings a new angle to the game and makes it so much more than just jumping over cans and ducking under tree branches.
To the engaging gameplay is added the beautiful, origami-like visuals. The spot on level designs and clever "frozen" environments make this game a sheer joy to play. Every level is like watching a tiny little storybook scroll by. Penny Time does what few games can and lets the player truly enjoy every aspect without getting bogged down in technical restrictions or poor design. This app (or at least its free Lite version) is a must.