The first Tony Hawk game captured a mood. It was as much about music as it was about skating, a brilliant party game with an addictive single player mode that cleverly laced its skate parks and playgrounds with challenges and secrets. The series might have fallen into disrepair in recent times, but those first two games were shining examples of how to do extreme sports right.
And so, almost inevitably, there comes the HD remake. It’s not a direct port, rather a mash up of content from Pro Skater 1 and its sequel, with some new skaters thrown in to the mix too. An exercise in nostalgic good will, complete with points which capture the thrill and excitement of rolling around on a little plank. Tellingly though, it can’t sustain its rose-tinted entertainment for all that long.
If you’ve never played a Tony Hawk game before, the aim is simple: score as many points as you can, and complete the challenges the game sets you to move on. Levels are small and enclosed, but tightly designed, with transitions and rails thrown in to let you continue giant trick combos for longer than is, strictly speaking, humanly possible. The face buttons control your flips, grabs and grinds, and combinations of direction presses and buttons pull off the different moves.
It’s a system that feels a little old fashioned when compared to the stick flicking majesty of Skate, a series which all but ended the dominance of the Tony Hawk games. But, if you’ve ever played any of the levels included, the moves and manipulations required to succeed come back pretty quickly.
The problem is that the physics at the core of the game don’t feel as fair as they did the first time round. Sometimes you’ll fall over for no apparent reason, other times the game will send you crashing to the ground when you should have rolled smoothly down a ramp or other obstacle. In a game that should be about experimentation and expression, that’s just not good enough.
Then there are the omissions. There’s no split screen multiplayer, which is an almost unforgivable crime. The trick challenges and Donkey-style competitive modes of the original provided hours of entertainment before, and the fact they’re missing here acts as proof that the real spirit of those PlayStation originals has been lost. There’s no way to skip songs or create playlists either which is a crying shame.
Don’t get me wrong, there are moments that will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear, while spinning over the rotors of a helicopter for example, or grinding over set of rails in an American high school all the time pulling off manuals to keep your chain going. It’s at such times that the game feels just right, but such times just don’t seem as common as they used to.
Ultimately the package fails to capture the atmosphere of cool that surrounded the games it’s based on, and for all of its extra polygons, new tracks, and up to date roster of skating talent, it feels like the beating heart of the experience is missing. This isn’t the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that you grew up with, but it occasionally does an OK job of imitating it.