There's been a surge of popularity when it comes to "runner" games over the last few years — games where you do little more than move right (or occasionally, left) while dodging everything that comes at you in an attempt to improve your high scores. While "endless" runners seem to be the most popular variant, Skater Cat falls outside that specific category as it's more of a level-based affair, similar to last year's rather good Bike Rider DX.
As the game's name might have already given away, you are a cat, and you are riding a skateboard. In each of the 30 levels your objective is simply to get to the end as fast as possible, with faster times awarding more points which in turn award you with medals, a maximum of three per level.
Most levels are pretty straightforward — avoid spikes, bottomless pits and what appear to be spiked dog balls, while hitting boosters, other cats, and treats. When you run into another cat they will start following your skateboard, which allows you to go faster — however, you'll have to bribe them with treats in order to help you, so be sure to have some ready. The supply will constantly be draining because of this, so you'll have to keep picking up more, or the cats will start leaving one by one, thus slowing you down again. Running into spikes will instantly make you lose one of the cats, so you'll have to avoid doing that as well.
While the general gameplay elements all work and play fine, Skater Cat has one big flaw that severely hinders enjoyment — you can't see very far in front of or below your character, which means you've only really got three options: take it very slowly, memorize the level layout, or just go very fast and pray you happen to dodge everything. This isn't a big deal in the first handful of stages, but as more and more pits and spikes start popping up you'll find yourself running into them purely because you couldn't react in time.
The touch screen offers a mini-map, which might seem like a good way to counter the above issues, but unfortunately it's very minimal, only displaying the general level layout and cat locations, thus only really making it good for avoiding pits. On top of that, unless you're moving at a snail's pace the game moves too fast to reliably check the touch screen and look back up without missing anything.
As you play more and more, meanwhile, you'll unlock some customization options for your character in the form of hats and the ability to play as your Mii instead of a cat — a fairly uncommon feature in games that we did not expect to see here. However, that's all there is to get; there are no bonus stages, alternate modes or anything else, which is a shame.
Unfortunately, despite its relatively short length, the experience gets stale rather quickly. Although there are three "worlds", there's little variation in how they look and play, and the same repetitive music will be playing all the way from 1-1 to 3-10. Along the way you'll run into some cool new features, such as gravity switches that let you skateboard on the ceiling, but they vanish just as suddenly as they appear, not allowing you any time to really get acquainted with them. The difficulty doesn't scale all that much either, and by the end you'll likely be getting three medals on each level on your first try, even accounting for the disappointing visibility of upcoming dangers.
Skater Cat's concept of speeding up by grabbing cats which you reward with treats is quite a nice idea, but unfortunately the overall package is fairly dull. If some more time was given to diversifying the game's levels and the camera was zoomed out a little further, this could've been an enjoyable little title, but as it stands it's an hour-long slog — roughly — through 30 practically identical levels; they ramp up in difficulty too slowly to offer any real challenge. This is a missed opportunity, overall.