Halfpipe Hero Review

A 720° into your retro-loving heart

Halfpipe Hero
Bit Free Games

For every game that gets your attention on the App Store, there are 10,000 games that don't. Halfpipe Hero is one of those 10,000. And that's a shame, because if you're a fan of classic skateboarding video games, you'll find that Halfpipe Hero does a fantastic job of recreating that late 80's vibe.

If you grew up on a steady diet of California Games and Skate or Die like any good pre-teen in the NES era, you should have fond memories of trying (and failing) to pull off sick tricks in a virtual halfpipe. Halfpipe Hero takes those memories and updates them for the modern world of touchscreen taps and swipes, creating an offering that's simultaneously easier to play (seriously, go back and try to enjoy those "classics" today) and brutally demanding for those chasing the high score dragon.

Tapping Tricktionary

Like a lot of quick-play mobile games, Halfpipe Hero is built around a one-touch philosophy. Whether you're trying to pull of a frontside invert or a quickflip 360, it's all completed with a single tap. What sets the tricks apart -- and determines your success or failure -- are location and timing. If you want to grind, for example, you'll need to tap the screen the very moment before you land after catching some air. If you want to perform a 180 slide, you'll need to tap when crossing through the bottom of the halfpipe.

The real challenge, though, lies in catching some air and completing flips. The higher your skater goes, the more times they'll spin around. Your task is to tap at just the right moment so that they straighten their board out to land their trick. When spinning quickly, this can be a challenge in and of itself -- but the real risk-vs-reward moment comes from your eagerness to get just one more spin out of them to boost your score even higher. If you're anything like me, this is where you'll fail -- and fail hard.

Skate the World

Like a lot of free-to-play mobile games, there's an added hook in Halfpipe Hero to keep you working towards a goal. In the case of Halfpipe Hero, that goal is unlocking new venues to skate in and heroes to skate with. As you skate, you'll earn cash, and once you reach certain wealth milestones new places and faces will be unlocked.

But while it's cool to skate in front of the Golden Gate Bridge or the pyramids, these changes are purely cosmetic. And for once, the gameplay is so good in a game of this sort that the extra hook doesn't really feel all that necessary. As a game monetized entirely through video ads, I can understand the developers reasons for wanting to build in as many hooks as they can -- but honestly, with the amount of fun you'll get out of this, you'll probably want to pony up the single $2.99 in-app purchase to get rid of the ads as a way of saying "thank you."

In an era when most skateboarding games are opting for complicated realism, Halfpipe Hero is a breath of fresh air for those who enjoy accessibility over memorizing button combos. If you have fond memories of playing the skateboarding video games of yore, give Halfpipe Hero your full attention. It's gnarly.