Sinclair User22nd August 1987
Published in Sinclair User #68
If you like skateboarding in real life, you'll go absolutely berserk over US Gold's conversion of the Atari coin-op, 720'.
And if you think the art of standing on a piece of plastic and zooming along with your arms in the air is rather silly, you'll love it anyway, because it's such a splendid piece of games programming.
I admit I fall into the latter category, and really don't have a great deal of time for the charmers to be found in a local shopping precinct who skitter past on at an alarming rate claiming to have just 'totally penned-out by Waitrose'. But 720' is such an immensely playable game all my cynicism went to the wall within seconds of play commencing.
The gameplay incorporates four very simple controls. You can rotate left and right, kick (which speeds you up) and jump. The beauty of 720' is that you can combine these moves into wonderfully complex sequences which will be awarded with bonus points by the computer.
The screen is laid out in isometric 3D, and everything in the play area is either black or yellow. No worries here attribute-wise, although your character is a little non-descript in the facial department.
You begin the game in the centre of Skate City, an enormous tarmac plane incorporating skate-ways, ramps, jumps and pools of water. As the name suggests, you can skate anywhere in Skate City (except through pools of water). At each of the four corners of the city is a Skate Park; a sub-game where bonus points and cash prizes can be earned for performing tougher feats on the board.
There's Slalom Park where you've got to weave your way through sets of flags which descending on a pretty steep ramp. Jump Park forces you to perform spine-jarring leaps while not falling into the water. Ramp Park involves skating through a half-pipe, reaching higher and higher each time. And Downhill Park is simply a race, er, downhill.
720' is a face against time from start to finish. The aim is to perform enough tricks to win a ticket to a skate-park, before the timer runs out.
And once you're in the park, you've got a limited number of seconds to rack up as many points as possible.
In order to gee you up a little, and to prevent smart-alecs from simply performing jumps in extremely safe areas, scoring more points than they're really earning, a swarm of killer bees has been created. As soon as the ominous message 'Skate or Die' flashes on to the screen, you know you're in trouble. A couple of seconds later the ghastly swarm will appear, and proceeds to chase you around the screen until you either give it the slip or become enveloped and get stung to death.
Being a fairly Bohemian sort if place. Skate City has dollar bills lying around on the floor. You can collect the bills by skating over them. Once you've collected enough money, you could do a lot worse than glide over to one of the shops in the park and picking up an accessory.
Accessories come in the form of pads, helmets, shoes and new boards. Each will help you along the way to becoming the slickest skater in the city. Boards offer higher speeds, shoes better start-times and higher dumps, pads mean you can get up after a fall slightly more quickly and helmets will permit more dangerous aerobatics to be attempted.
As you may have already guessed, you are not altogether alone in 720'. There are all sorts of other weirdos who inhabit the city - muscle-men, idiots on unicycles and utterly deranged bikers. All of these will cause you to come off your board and graze yourself with varying degrees of seriousness. Wipe your chops too many times on the old concrete hanky and it's off to intensive care for you.
The joy of the game is in the way you can perfect your moves. You can spend ages just fiddling around, not doing anything particularly useful, just getting the feel of the board and having a great time.
Once you've got the hang of scooting around on the training level, you can try out the more advanced, and logically titled Advanced Level.
Here things get a little more sticky. Bees crop up more frequently, and there are more lunatic bike riders, body-builders and the like.
720' is the epitome of a Classic. It's got every element of a great game.
The graphics are interesting, the action is pitched at exactly the correct level and it's got playability of astonishing flexibility.
Did we flip over it? You bet!
Virtually flawless arcade game. Addictive, smooth and slick. Easily US Gold's finest hour. Don't miss this one.