Here's my first day impressions of the new Tony Hawk game for the Nintendo DS. First, it's loads of fun. With that out of the way, let's talk about why.
I've been playing Tony Hawk since my old roommate at BU had a PlayStation and I would play Tony Hawk Pro Skater at night. At 6am, I'd still be up playing and then he would stumble out of his room, heading off to work at Starbucks, grumbling at me. He had borrowed Tony Hawk from someone and we had a rivalry going over who was getting the highest point tricks. Then, I got my own PS and Tony Hawk 2, and went through most of that. I downloaded Tony Hawk 3 for my PC, and rented Tony Hawk Underground 2 and played it on Milisa's PS2. By THUG, I was losing interest in the games. There was too much extra crap being thrown in, and it was starting to feel a little stale to me.
Enter THAS. American Sk8land isn't a direct parallel version to the console American Wasteland. Same basic concept with building a skatepark and your character advancing through the skater ranks, but with some twists thrown in. For starters, what has turned out to be a major bonus for the game, is the style. Instead of going for as realistic as possible for presentation, Vicarious Visions took a left turn and went with the cell-shaded cartoon effect. It works amazingly well. This gives the series a visual slap in the face that it needed. (IGN's screenshots
) Ultra realistic graphics are nifty and all, but the cartoon style of this version of the game really sets it apart and it stands out. Obviously done because of hardware limits, they definitely turned a limitation into an asset.
The controls in the game are good. It's taking me some time to break my THPS2 habits of pressing the L and R triggers to spin faster, since these do other things; the R shoulder button does spine transfer in particular. The touch screen is used nicely with the ability to map certain special moves to buttons that appear on the touch screen, though button combination special moves are still in there.
Speaking of the touch screen, it's used as the now clichéd overview map, but as with many games, the fact there's a persistant, full screen map available helps the game immensely. I'm all for realism in games, but not when they take away from the reason I play games ... to have fun. Spending 20 minutes skating around an area trying to find something isn't fun, and the map really helps in maintaining a sense of location in the levels.
Other uses of the touch screen are nice, such as the drawing program for custom boards and graffiti. I've already played around with it, and it's pretty spiffy. Not as much control as Photoshop, obviously, but enough drawing features to make it interesting. There's also use of the microphone to record custom bail sounds, but I haven't played around with those yet.
The music definitely raises the bar for DS games. They use actual licensed music, complete with lyrics. Hopefully EA will take the challenge and include an actual soundtrack in their next Need for Speed game. It has some good songs on it such as by the Dead Kennedys, Green Day, and Black Flag. It's nice to see a company actually treating the DS like a contemporary handheld system and not like a GameBoy Advance with two screens. Not that a lot of games are doing that, but it's still nice seeing games pushing the limits of what previous games developers were attempting.
As far as the actual game and differences from previous versions, the freak out is pretty interesing to recovering some points when messing up tricks. The game includes two seperat single player modes: story and classic. Story is ... a story, whereas classic follows the goal objectives of the previous games. In the story mode, you are working towards rebuilding a skate park with Tony Hawk and Mindy.
The last thing I want to talk about before going back to playing is the WiFi features. This is what really interested me in the game. You can play against a fellow skater in two player on-line games. But that's only where the WiFi features start. You can also upload and download graffiti and board images, download new goals to accomplish, and upload your stats. You can also join a sk8 crew through the website. I'm still undecided if I want to join a crew, or start my own.
Well, that'll be it for my first day review. I'm gonna go play some more now, 'cause this game is a lot of fun, not only as far as DS games go, but also in terms of the entire Tony Hawk series.