720º is a unique
and wonderful arcade game
. The player is a kid on a skateboard
, earning points for doing tricks
, trying to get tickets into skate parks to show off his skills
. The controller is a joystick
that is set off at an angle and can be turned in a circle
. (So basically, it's a dial
like the controller on Tempest
) There are also jump
To start, the player is placed in a large square area containing many ramps, jumps, and obstacles, which can be divided into four sections. On each side of the square, there is an entrance to a skate park. Each section of of the area has different kinds of thing to do tricks on. For example, the northeast quarter has four very large ramps, while the southwest quarter has many gentle slopes, and water hazards.
The object is to run around the area doing tricks and scoring points. Tricks are basically jumps and slides. The more times you spin around in the air, the more points you get for a jump. However, if the joystick is moving when you try to land, you will eat pavement and earn no points.
At certain point intervals, you earn a ticket which can get you into any skate park. These tickets are vital, as there is a timer going whenever you are out in the main area. When the time runs out, a booming voice says "Skate or Die!", and you must hurry to a park. A swarm of killer bees has been released, and is hunting you. If the bees get you, your game is over. The bees start out moving slow-ish, but if you dawdle, they take the shape of some object, like a hypodermic, or scissors, and move faster and come at you more directly. Do not taunt the bees.
The four skate parks are half-pipe, ramp, jump, and slalom. In the park, you go through a course and try to earn a medal. When the course is over, you are put back outside the park, and the timer is reset. You must then try to earn some more points, and then get to a different park. After all four parks have been completed, you start in the center and all the parks are open again. The medals you earn in the parks are shown in a display screen after you do each park. There are four slots for each park, so once you go through this process four times, your game is over. Don't worry, it takes a lot of practice before you will be able to score enough points to get enough tickets to do this. Once you get to this point, however, earning the tickets seems pretty easy. Barring any unfortunate bee incidents, it takes twenty-something minutes to play through the game.
The parks are somewhat different at different levels, to make it interesting to do them each four times. What level the park is depends on a couple of factors. At the beginning of the game, you are given the option of playing at beginner or expert level. On expert level, the parks start at level four, instead of level one. After you go through all the parks at, say, level four, and you are back in the middle, the park you go to first determines what level all the parks will be for that round. If you go to the ramp park, they will all be level five. Jump park makes them level six, slalom park level seven, and half-pipe level eight. This increment applies for all levels, except for the fact that there are only ten levels. So for example, if you always go to the half-pipe park first, you will do levels 4,8,9, and *. (Star is level 10)
The level of the park is important because it is multiplied by the score of the medal you got to determine your medal score. A beautiful gold medal is three points, so-so silver is two, and shameful bronze garners you one point. The high score table lists both point-scores and medal scores.
In each corner of the main area, there is a skate shop. Each shop sells a different item. You buy these items with money that you win in the parks. You can upgrade an item up to three times. The items are:
Shoes: improves your jumping ability.
Helmet: improves your angular velocity.
Board: improves your speed.
Pads: makes you recover quicker from a spill.
A lot of the strategy of the game is picking a good route. You must go to an area of the map you are comfortable with and can score high on, while also picking up vital equipment and then ending up at a park you want once the timer is up. As far as the equipment is concerned, shoes are a necessity, pads are good, the board isn't so hot, and opinion is divided on the helmet.
There is still more to say about this game, but for now I think it suffices to mention that it is one of the all-time arcade greats. It takes many enjoyable games to reach a the point where you can finish the game by earning sixteen tickets, and even then, the freestyle nature of the game keeps it fun, and invites you to keep practicing to try to reach that next high score. It's sad that today's arcade environment can't support this kind of creative game, but perhaps there are designers out there willing to pick up the slack in the PC and console markets.