Not to pop my own shove it but I’m good at Tony Hawk games. I’ve been good at them since the beginning and consider myself a fairly high-level player, something both the Xbox and PlayStation leader boards proved on the HD version. I’ve just grown up with the series and adapted with it, each iteration throwing new gameplay challenges at me to master. We had the manuals, the reverts, flatland tricks, getting off the board and even the slow-mo analog flickery of project 8. Each new challenge brought a new sense of achievement and a new sense of smuggery that came with it. Then I went back and decided to do a retrospective on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. I feel like I’ve had to start all over again from scratch.
First things first, the game no longer looks pretty, obviously, PS1 games seldom do. Early 3d games do not age well. Switching my TV into 4:3 mode certainly helped proceedings. I was no longer offended by what I saw. The game is playable albeit with wobbly, pixelated graphics and plenty of pop up. I’m fine with it, after all, I am a connoisseur of all things retro. The biggest issue I have with older games is reading the pixelated text. Damn you HD you’ve spoiled me.
Anyway, I could talk all day about graphics, old games and how I actually bought an HD TV because I couldn’t read the text at all on the original Xbox 360 Dead Rising, but I’ll save all this for another day as I’m sure you all don’t want to read it.
Let’s talk about gameplay and more specifically how far the mighty (me) have fallen. The trouble is I’m so used to stringing together huge combos using a combination of normal tricks, reverts, manuals, flatlands and getting off the board that the game seemed fairly difficult to start with. Getting huge combos felt much harder and took much more skill. Not that I’m complaining, it just took a while to get used to it, especially when I couldn’t launch up one side of a half pipe, trick, revert and then launch up the other side whilst maintaining a combo. That simple movement is one of my favorite activities in Tony Hawk games and it wasn’t possible in the PS1 Era. Starting a manual after landing from a half-pipe starts a completely new combo.
I’m not going to lie to you dear reader, on the first two levels I kinda sucked. I felt like all the magic had slipped from my fingers and lay in a puddle on the floor, forming a face and laughing at me. It wasn’t long until I started to get the hang of things though. I soon began to forget the recent past and focus on the older past, which was my present. Like some kind of long-haired skateboarding time-traveler, only in this instance, my future knowledge was a hindrance instead of a help. We can’t all be blessed with the sports almanac.
Without a revert, the key to high scores is finding that perfect line. Busting a flick or a grab into a manual and then a grind, always looking for the next object to trick from or to. Once this clicked, I started to get through the score goals with relative ease. The doubts I found harboring away in my brain were replaced with a sense of self-satisfaction and joy. I’m aware I’m coming across as big headed but I have played every single version of the real Tony Hawk games, even the terrible number 5, and I’ve played them to death. I’ve earned my skill and the right to boast. Also, I say real because I’m not including the stupid ride along on a fake plastic skateboard in your own living room ones. If you want to play those you may as well just ride a real skateboard. There’s about as much risk for injury on the real or fake boards. I should know, I’ve tried the real thing and that is something I’m bad at, being able to do an Ollie is something I still yearn for daily.
Other than high scores, the rest of the challenges are usual things you’d expect from the Birdman. There are hidden tapes, collecting letters to spell the word skate and specific level based challenges such as finding certain collectibles, performing tricks in certain places and collecting cash. The cash doted around the levels is used to upgrade your chosen skaters attributes such as speed and airtime. It wasn’t long before my skater, Rodney Mullen, was handling like a skate God. Which he is.
The challenges do become a fair amount harder by later levels, however. I never found myself getting angry, mainly due to the amazing soundtrack. The music in Tony Hawk games is always brilliant. Number 2 has one of the greatest with such tracks as “Guerrilla Radio” by Rage Against the Machine, “You” by Bad Religion (a song I got to see them play live last year evoking all sorts of emotions) and “Blood Brothers” by Papa Roach. I love all the songs on this game, possibly due to nostalgia but they are a great fit and make the levels a joy to play.
Speaking of levels, there are some great ones on offer. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 gave us School 2, New York and Marseille. A good bunch. School 2 has to be my personal favorite though. I’ll always remember the struggle for me to get the hidden VHS tape from this level back in the day. I didn’t struggle with it now because I have it so memorized in my brain. But in the days before internet guides, it was a challenge.
I really enjoyed playing through the challenges again on all the levels. Even though many of the secrets were still stored away in my brain, I didn’t feel like it was a chore to replay them. It was a joy and any that I had forgotten felt all the sweeter for having completed. The rewards for which are videos from the chosen skater as well as plenty of other unlockables to be, well, unlocked.
I didn’t try out the multiplayer this time around as I was playing on my own. However, I know for a fact I would have still enjoyed it. Horse is a game mode that’ll never get boring.
On a side note, there’s also a demo for Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX on the disc. So for the sake of a full nostalgia overdose, I had a go at that as well. I never actually owned that game and the only experience I have is from this demo, which I still played a fair amount. I’ll keep it brief but it plays like what it is. A Tony Hawk game on a bike. Graphically it looks slightly better than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 but it plays similarly with flips, spins, and grinds. After playing the demo, quite a bit, I’m tempted to buy the full game and do a retrospective on that next. We’ll see.
Back to the real focus of this article though. I thoroughly enjoyed my time replaying Pro Skater 2. I didn’t quit until every last challenge was complete and I did feel a real sense of achievement from it. I’m going to continue playing and finish the career with some of the other skaters, I’m not done with it just yet. I’d still happily play through all the mainline games right up to Project 8 again (I’d play the others but that was my main run with the series) and I’m sure I’d enjoy every second. I think it’s about time we got another proper console entry in the series and not just mobile versions or releases that are rushed out with no love or feeling just to keep hold of the franchise. I’m looking at you Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. Even though I can barely bring myself to do so. Either give me something new or remaster 1 through 4.
What do you think about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2? Let us know in the comments below!