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Developer: Foursaken Media
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Sky Gnomes is a game about a world where gnomes have taken to the sky. For entertainment? They race each other by free-falling from the sky. The player controls a gnome of their own, with the goal being to get the end of the level as quickly as possible. Players pick up speed by flying through snowflakes, collect coins for upgrades, powerups to help get a leg up on opponents, and try to avoid storm clouds and lightning. These gnomes are falling from the sky, after all.

The name of the game is asynchronous multiplayer competition, in particular against random online opponents. Players will have two ghost gnomes to race against, based off of the performance of actual opponents. Five different cups are available, each taking place in a different environment.

Having actual opponents to race against, even if they’re just ghosts, adds a compelling aspect to the game. The drive to succeed is just that much greater when there’s an actual name to chase on the leaderboard, rather than some random opponent. Sky Gnomes is both universal, and supports cloud saving. It doesn’t appear to use iCloud, instead using Game Center authentication to pull data from the servers between platforms. Good enough!

Sky Gnomes just winds up feeling kinda samey – falling through the sky, avoiding clouds, trying to hit snowflakes; no matter the level, there just doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of variety. Better integration with friends that play the game would be great, especially since there’s already the ability to race ghost opponents. A battle mode is coming in a future update.

As well, the game winds up feeling like it’s pushing in-app purchases. Yes, this is the world we live in, but stat upgrades require a lot of grinding, and those rarer parts might be given out at the end of the game, or perhaps not. So that $0.99 parts pack sits there, tempting the player. After all, maybe some increased speed and acceleration would help get things going along. It’s a potentially slippery slope, of course. While the highest pack only costs $14.99, and certainly seems like it has more items than a person could reasonably use, the whole thing still just feels like it’s necessary. At a certain point if I want to do something more than just grind and actually compete, I feel like I’ll need to spend money.

Sky Gnomes is an interesting short-term play experience, but those that try it out should be warned: the temptation to spend money on IAP will hit. Progress just feels too slow otherwise.

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