It is hard to tell which series of games that I have spent most time playing. In my mind Grand Theft Auto, Civilization, The Settlers, Resident Evil, Halo, Silent Hill and Super Mario Bros generally turn up when I ponder the question. If someone would go through my life, and actually count the hours I have spent would probably find that neither of the candidates I listed would be correct. It would not surprise me if the Tony Hawk series made it to the top of my all time most played games list. The hours/days/weeks/months I spent with the Playstation One playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 I actually don’t want to know. I could have spent that time actually learning how to skateboard, and to wear my pants around my knees. To get an idea about how hooked I was on THPS2 it is worth knowing that I considered skipping a family holiday to the Canaries because I was in the process of getting the gold medal for the Bullring competition. Once I went I spent a week in the sun thinking about squares, circles and triangles.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for the iPhone is basically the exact same game as the Playstation One version. The big difference is the controls that ported from a controller to a touch screen take a beating over the head. There is an option to use classic or accelerometer controls. I have tried using both, and personally prefer the classic controls. The accelerometer gives better access to the trick buttons, and it is easier to pull off some massive air tricks. For general movement the classic controls work much better. The classic gives you a virtual control pad, and at times it doesn’t respond as direct as I want it to. Rotating when doing a trick feels somewhat slow, and for the Playstation you could use the L1 and R1 shoulder buttons to spin. For the iPhone you first choose the trick, and then rotate with the same stick. The iPhone version doesn’t feel much harder than the original though, and I manage to beat the levels with the same amount of tenacity as I did ten years ago.
The level structure is absolutely perfect for the on the go iPhone type of gaming. There are five levels, and three competition levels. All can be played in single session, and free mode once unlocked. The single session is all about beating your best score in two minutes, and the free mode is perfect for learning the levels. The meat of the game is of course the career mode. You choose one of 12 skateboarders, and the aim is to beat all eight levels. Upgrading stats, and buying new tricks let you evolve your skater of choice. The upgrade aspect really affect the gameplay in the same way as a proper RPG handles abilities. Balance, spin, speed, and air are some of the really neat ones. In the end it also depends on your style of playing whether you go for big air or grinding and manualing.
Each level has got a set number of goals ranging from finding the letters to spell SKATE to beating the high/pro/sick scores. You have two minutes, and this makes the game really intense. For the three competition levels you have three one minute runs to make a splash in the standings. Your two best runs are taken in consideration, and even for the first Marseille competition the AI skaters are quite hard. For the third competition in Mexico they are wicked.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a great game, and it was the highest rated game in the world between the year 2000 and 2010. Now it has fallen to second place in the Metacritic rundown. For the iPhone it is almost as good as it has always been. The graphics are stellar with some really nice animations, and effects. The sound is great with both realistic sound effects, and a nifty rock soundtrack. I would have liked an option to use my own music, or at least be able to change in game music track. As far as I can tell some of the original tracks are missing, and the tracks included are limited to five or six.
There is no online functionality, and that is something that has to be taken into consideration for the final rating. Having online high scores for the competitions, or even play against other players, as ghost runs would be cool. We can only hope that Activision takes the game to the next level. A really good thing is that it loads up, and gets you into the action within ten seconds on an iPhone 3GS.
The transition to iPhone has been quite good, but I wonder how to input the classic cheats. There is a grayed out cheat option in the menus, but as there are no visible buttons when pausing the game it is impossible to input the cheats.
If you loved the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 you will definitely enjoy it for the iPhone. Even if you never played a skateboarding game in your life you need to get this. The controls take some time getting used to, and some aspects could be improved such as own music support. Online functionality would be cool, but there is still weeks of gameplay without it if you want to find all the hidden tapes, and get gold on the three competitions. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is a fun and challenging game that keeps evolving as you develop your skater and skills.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 $9.99
Seller: Activision Publishing, Inc.
Official Trailer from Activision.