Commodore User1st December 1987
Published in Commodore User #52
I always go into summing-up-the-year mode when I review games for the January issue which is quite convenient when it comes to reviewing this one - because '87 was the year the skateboard made the games biz flip.
I think it's great and I hope it really catches on. After all, who isn't sick to the back teeth of Ninja this and Ninja that? The trouble is you know what's going to happen, don't you? The software houses are going to put two and two together and launch something like Ninja Skateboarders of Death - so Codemasters Mastertronic and co just remember that I thought of it first and, if you do, I want a cut.
US Gold went for skateboards in a big way with two excellent licences from the arcades in the shapes of Metrocross and, best of all, 720 Degrees.
720 Degrees stopped you in your tracks when it first appeared in the arcades. It looks like a giant ghetto blaster with two loudspeakers pumping out a loud 'n fast punk soundtrack. Its screen is massive (something of an Atari coin-op trademark, this) which enables you to enjoy the smooth scrolling and superb graphics.
The only drawback with this coin-op was the messy play control. They tried to be too clever - to simulate the feel of a real skateboard. This resulted in many gamers being turned off what was a perfectly good coin-op.
Thankfully USG have dispensed with this folly in the conversion and replaced it with fairly straightforward joystick-directional control over the skateboarder.
This improves the game no end - without losing too much of the challenge contained within the original design.
The action takes place in Skate City - a street complex in the shape of a large diamond with four special parks in which you complete to earn cash and bonus points.
You need cash to enter each of the parks and you will also need money to buy various items to improve your performance - things like pads, helmets, shoes and boards.
The Downhill is one of the toughest parks. Some very tight cornering is needed and precise jumps too at ridiculously fast speeds if you are to complete the course. As in the other three parks, your performance is rated in either a bronze, silver or gold medal - each one having a graded cash value.
The 'Ramp' event looks familiar - you've seen it in California Games, you've seen it in Skate Or Die and now here for your enjoyment here it is again in 720 Degrees. To be honest, there is not a great deal of enjoyment in it. I can't help thinking it was a mistake to try and convert this event - it just doesn't work. I didn't think much of it in CG or SoD - but it's even worse in 720 Degrees. The aim this time is to jump and twirl as high as possible by waggling the joystick like crazy when you jump. Points are awarded for the height and smoothness of your landing. It's just too hit or miss - you don't have enough control over what you are doing and end up waggling like a headcase.
The 'Slalom' event is a lot simpler and much more fun. Again, the skateboarder has to negotiate tight bends and turns but with the added difficulty that he must skate in between a series of white flags. As he skates through the flags, they change colour. Only when the flags are all coloured will you be awarded any points - providing you have completed the course in the time limit.
Definitely the best of the hour parks is the 'Jumps'. It takes the same manoeuvring challenge of the Downhill but adds a series of jumps that you have to make to earn those precious bonus points! Arrows on the slopes enable you to line up your skateboarder so that you jump from the right place - and don't land in the water. The clock is ticking away - so the challenge is not simply to get to the end of the course but also to do it in the best possible time.
Compared to 720 Degrees to Electronic Arts' Skate Or Die the USG game comes out on top - the whole thing hangs together much more effectively, rather than appearing as a series of unconnected challenges. There is a neat strategy aspect to 720 Degrees in that you have to compete in all four parks in order to get on to the next level. To do this, you need park ticket, and to get these you need to visit Skate City and earn points. (How? That's for you to find out but I will give you one tip - try jumping over water.) There is also a map to help you locate the parks and shops.
Skate City itself has many hazards for your trucker to deal with. There are cars cruising up and down the roads, guys slugging it out in the street, and a particularly nasty breed of killer bees who home in on you if you don't enter a park quickly enough.
Chris Butler coded 720 Degrees for USG 'on loan' from Elite and has produced a very competent conversion. My only real gripe is with the graphics. Somehow they fail to emulate the street tough, punky feel of the original. Instead, it looks just a little bit cute. However, any complaints about the graphics are more than out-weighed by the excellent of the playability. For my money this is not just as playable as the coin-op it is in fact much more playable. USG have always been quick off the mark to sign up the home rights to hot new coin-op games - 720 Degrees proves that they can successfully convert them as well.
Add to this a second cassette with the original music from the coin-op and you have what is one of USG's best conversions to date.