A simple stunt-performing, snowboarding title, British developer Miniclip’s iStunt 2 is comparable to older apps like Crazy Snowboard, only 2D and absurdly more extreme. Using tilting as the core control mechanism, the $0.99 game takes some time to get used to, but it actually handles very well. Surprisingly fun, my only real complaint is about level design; occasionally, the terrain changes so drastically and suddenly, that you end up failing before you can effectively react.
Players take on the role of an unnamed snowboarder who evidently has some sort of death wish. The idea is to make it through a level, while racking up as many points as possible, by performing tricks off the myriad of extreme inclines and steep drop offs. Of course, just this wouldn’t be enough. No, not for iStunt. Throughout the course, players will have to not only perform stunts, but avoid obstacles and overcome drastic level changes.
At its most basic, players automatically move downhill. They eventually hit a ramp of some sort and have to land on another hill. While in the air, the orientation of the avatar is controlled via tilting. When doing tricks like nose grabs and indy grabs, the player taps icons on either side of the iPhone. The bigger the trick, the more points are earned, so long as the player reorients themselves to land safely.
That is challenge number one. Players can also slide their finger up or down to jump or crouch respectively. This becomes prevalent as the slalom isn’t exactly safe. It’s filled with low overhangs, beds of spikes, and the occasional floating buzz saw. Yes, giant, timber-cutting buzz saws. Hitting any of these, or not properly landing a jump, will result in failure, putting the player back at the most recent flag checkpoint.
It’s a good thing there are a lot of checkpoints too, as the challenge only gets bigger and stranger. Scattered about the track, there are speed boosts that will send the user in a specific direction significantly faster, often leading them into dramatic upside down loops, or sometimes back in the direction from where they came. To make things even more outlandish, there are icons that, once hit, will completely flip all the gravity in the world, forcing the player to snowboard upside down atop giant floating mountains.
All of this combined creates an absurdly fast-paced and twitchy game experience that is actually quite fun. Moreover, unlike other mobile games that extend their longevity by making users play the same thing over and over to beat a high score, there is actually a sense of progression as players try just to get past the next course.
Now, that isn’t to say high scores aren’t prevalent in iStunt 2. On the contrary, users are actually tied into Game Center and compete via its leaderboards in both the basic high score sort of mode and a time trial mode. As an added bonus, players gain another bit of longevity with the objective of trying to collect a series of stars that are scattered about each level.
As fun as the game can be, it’s not for everyone. Many casual gamers may find themselves frustrated by some of the level design. It doesn’t happen too often, but even with the warnings (signs that appear in the course), a level will frequently change dramatically; faster than many will be able to react. For example, the player might be heading down one hill at top speed. Then they’ll hit a boost that sends them backwards to another hill in an opposite direction. They’ll have to ramp off the current hill and try to land on the side of an upside down mountain, all while avoiding spikes and saws. (Yes, it barely makes sense to me.)
It might sound like a lot, but this entire sequence can happen in a matter of seconds, which forces the player to redo the sequence a fair number of times. As noted before, there are many checkpoints, so we rarely needed to redo a significant portion of the course. More casual gamers might not be so patient with this.
iStunt 2 is a pretty fun game for iPhone and an excellent time killer if the user is out and about. Its fast-paced play and absurd disregard for realism is what makes it so. That’s certainly one of the reasons why it was recently, and still is at #18, part of Apple’s top paid apps list for iPhone (the game is also promoting a 66% off sale though too).