Touchgrind is one of the few video games available on the market, on mobile devices or otherwise, that effectively captures the visceral feeling of skateboarding. As someone who has been skateboarding for roughly 15 years, the desire to be able to sit down, relax, and play a game that simulates the experience has been something I have been craving for, for a very long time. Granted, the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series of video games sustained me to a good degree in my younger years; but there is no way anyone could write that off as a skateboarding “sim” game. Rather, it is an arcade style video game; and thoroughly enjoyable, especially in the early installments. After a decade in the spotlight, Electronic Arts released Skate (and multiple sequels) to critical success. With the unique “flick-it” controls, Skate became the next “go-to” series for skateboarding and extreme sports enthusiasts.

Still, as enjoyable as Skate can be on consoles, it cannot compare with the sensation of actually manipulating the skateboard on a touch screen. On the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch you can experience the sensation of really skateboarding; just with your fingers. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call TouchGrind a “finger skateboard” simulator, but the reality is that finger skateboards themselves just replicate the art of the real thing.

What does TouchGrind bring to the gaming table that no other skateboarding games do? The relatively real life physics and the visceral sensation of manipulating the skateboard you see on screen with your fingers in a very realistic way. If you want to perform a kickflip, you need to place your fingers in the starting areas that you would go to if you were riding a real life skateboard. You are also required to flick the board in the same respects. Ironically, shortly after placing this game in the hands of some of my skater friends; it became apparent that skateboarders themselves would pick up this game quicker than people who do not skateboard. This is highly attributable to the fact that the physics and the board response to your movements are accurate to real life. Other non-skateboarders I have shared this game with have struggled, and continue to struggle, even with figuring out the basics like pop-shuvits, kickflips, and heelflips.

TouchGrind is a great example of what mobile games should be. Simple to pick up and comprehend, but filled to the brim with opportunities for mastery that will allow you to show off your skills to your friends.

While TouchGrind is primarily a “free skate” sort of game (in that you can just ride around and enjoy learning new tricks), there are arcade features that allow you to rack up points, unlock new skateboards, and challenge your skills. Like most skateboarding games, these features are fun in the beginning; but grow rather dull over time. Fortunately, these arcade modes are optional; and do not last particularly long either. The new boards you can unlock primarily serve aesthetic purposes, but towards the latter end some of the boards (such as the “Black Devil”) provide you advanced “anti-gravity” skateboarding opportunities, which help you rack up more points and perform a variety of tricks in an anti-gravity environment.

The one major gripe I have against this game is pretty simple: the space provided to skate around in is very small, and just when I get a nice line going (and am landing multiple tricks in a row, all while going straight); I end up running into the fence. This is in part an issue with the angle you view the game from (right above the board). Having a wider screen, such as on the Apple iPad, fixes this problem to a certain degree; but it still exists when your fingers are hanging over the screen. Additionally, many of the ramps in the game are mediocre to skateboard on. This is because actually finding these ramps and aligning yourself up with them is very difficult. While there is a built in “map” feature, this is kind of pointless as the space is so small in game. Even the icons indicating that a ramp or rail is coming up soon do not pop up on time, and do not indicate what direction the ramp is facing.

With these flaws aside, TouchGrind is a pretty great game to play on mobile devices. If you are a fan of extreme sports and skateboarding, or just fun games in general; you will probably want to pick this one up.