Review by zephyrmaster
"Great skateboarding game"
Disclaimer: I don't like to skateboard, in fact I'm almost afraid to use skateboards.
My brother got Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 for the Gameboy Advance on his birthday. I tried it once, not really expecting to be amazed. I had heard that the previous THPS reditions on the gameboy were lackluster and simply not fun to play. When I first started playing three letters flashed through my mind. W-O-W. Months later, and I still like playing it very frequently. This is true pick-up-and-playability at it's finest.
Gameplay: Basic THPS game play options before THPS 4 include the game modes Single Run, Free Skate, and Career mode. In Free Skate, you are allowed to skate in any level that your skater has unlocked for as long as you want. A Single Run is a 2:00 minute session where you try to rack up points to gain a high score. Career mode is a mode in which you take a skater through several levels, completing objectives to gain money. With this money you can upgrade you skater's stats, buy new tricks, or buy new skateboards. This game features skateboarders like the ubiquitous name Tony Hawk and several others like Steve Caballero and Bob Burnquist.
The basic game mechanics are easy to learn but slightly harder to master. The default commands are: B-ollie, A-grind/grab lip, L-kicks, R-air moves. The skater is controlled around the levels with the directional pad. The player doesn't have to press foward to make the skater go, but pressing back can slow or stop the skater. Performing tricks is easy, even though occasionally they can be fairly hard to land. Many fans of this genre have complained about this game's isometric perspective, but I personally didn't find that as a hinderence. Many skateboarder tricks are here, and some of the skaters have different move sets than other skaters. One interesting facet of the game are the special moves, performed by pressing a combination of buttons when your skater's ''special meter'' is full and flashing. This allows for tremendous point totals. Special moves can be purchased in Career mode, but every skater starts off with a speical grind, grab, and air move.
Career mode is the main draw for this game, and it provides a fun but occasionally frustrating experience. In career mode, you take a skater through multiple levels, gaining money until you beat the final level. Each of your skaters only start with the Hanger level, and all of the other levels have to be unlocked by a skater for that skater to be able to ride in it. A skater unlocks a level when they have gained a certain amount of money. To gain money, you have to complete goals in each level or find money in the levels. Some goals are in every level, including find S-K-A-T-E, find the secret tape, and get a high, pro, and sick score. Other goals are specific to the level, ranging from collecting spraycans, smashing barrels, ''wrangling'' a blue cow, or grinding a certain object with a certain grind. Each ''run'' through the level is only two minutes, so usually you can only complete one to a few goals in the given time. Some levels are competitions. In a competition, you do three one minute runs, aiming to achieve the highest scores possible. Winning a bronze, silver, or gold medal will give you money and unlock the next level.
Money is actually spent upgrading your skater. With money, you can increase the stats of the skater, buy new decks, or buy special moves. One qualm I have with this game is that all of the skaters can be bulked to superhuman levels and still have a substantial amount of money left over. Even though that annoys me, it probably pleases many others. All skaters have several basic stats, including: air, hangtime, ollie, rail balance, lip balance, manual balance, landing and maybe a few others. All of these can be raised through career mode. Every skater's stats can be maxed out. The decks that the skaters can buy are all specific to the skater, and each time you buy a new deck the deck's stats increase slightly. The designs on the skateboards don't really show themselves while you are skating.
One great thing about this game is the little extras included. A high score list is available for every level, and trying to smash your previous scores is fun. The cheats that are unlocked by clearing career mode by a skater are neat and fun to experiment with. They range from moon gravity (allowing for 1480's with ease) to the fugitive, where your skater is blurred and pixelated. When you do a special move in this game, the screen zooms on your skater. This feature is a little blurry, and it can be turned off. Another excellent feature is the gap checklist. Gaps are jumps, grinds, lips, and lines that can be found and done by your skater, adding a bonus to your score. Finding all of the gaps unlock even more things!
Graphics: Satisfactory. The characters are in full polygonal glory, but their features are very generic and they don't even have faces! The courses look very nice, and everything looks very clear and easy to see. There never seems to be any slowdown, and sometimes the skater can move too fast for his (or her) own good. The skaters themselves are vague, colorful, but vague. The boards are plainly designed and so are the bodies and blank heads. The menu's graphics are nice though, and the turning wheel interface is remarkably easy to navigate. The text in the game is easy to read also. This game isn't very dark, and under any good light (the sun?) you should be able to enjoy the game.
Sound/Music: Good... enough. The music isn't spectacular. There are 10 tracks, which is nice, but they are all only 2:00 minutes long (for obvious reasons) and none of them have any words or speech. The sounds while skating are good and serve their purpose well. No one would have a problem in telling that your crashed if they heard the sound.
Replay Value: Good. Clearing career mode takes a long time, especially your first time. Clearing career mode with *all* of the skaters will obviously take a very long time, and it's fun throughout the experience. High scores and the gap checklist add substantial replay value. If you hate the gameplay and find the game boring, your replay value will be obviously lower. :^)
- It's very fun to play
- Many unlockables to unlock
- 7 fun levels (6 plus one unlockable level)
- Over a dozen skaters to choose from
- The game has a gap checklist and high scores list for each level
- Battery save
- Some goals may be too difficult for younger gamers
- The skaters can become fairly generic
- The levels can get repetitive
Closing Thoughts: I realize that this game is considered ''old'' to some people. I felt justified in writing this review because some may consider buying this game used and want an accurate rundown. I would recommend that any Gameboy Advance gamer should pick up a copy of a THPS for the gameboy, number 2,3,or even the newest version number 4. The fun gameplay in THPS 2 for GBA is only improved in the later renditions.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/15/02, Updated 12/15/02
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