The opening drum beat of Millencolin’s No Cigar blares into life as the familiar sound of wheels on tarmac fills the speakers and I can do little to stave off the grin spreading across my face.
As many as 20 years have passed since I first felt the disc for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 click into my PlayStation and while I am a bit older, when I heard that the game was being remastered along side Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, I was instantly transported to the floor of my childhood home.
Putting nostalgia aside, this is a rather great game and if the only taste of the Birdman you ever got was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, then we urge you to give the franchise another try.
Arcade vibes, man
For anybody looking to relive their Skate days this is not the game for you. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 (simply, THPS1+2 from here on out) is an arcade game.
You will take up the mantle of one of 21 professional skaters who range from new guns to the old cohort back from the original THPS games.
Alternatively, you can create your own skateboarder though, the customisation options are rather threadbare. There is no weight or height slider and the hairstyles are rather limited.
You are able to change clothing, boards, decks, trucks, wheels and change the colour of most of the above but appearance really isn’t all that important in THPS1+2, rather, the tricks and combos are.
Tricks and combos have been plucked from both original Tony Hawk games so there is a lot to chose from.
In the game there are five trick types:
- Lip Tricks
- Flip tricks
- Grab tricks
As with the original games you start by performing an Ollie and then a combination of a direction and a trick button to execute a trick. It’s mindless, but that’s half of the fun and also how you “git gud”. As you perform tricks the point value of those tricks goes down, meaning you’ll want to vary your tricks often and add spins to increase the score.
For the most part THPS1+2 takes the form of two minute runs. For the “career” (now simply called Skate Tours) portion of the game you’ll be trying to hit certain goals over a multitude of these two minute runs, fail a task and start over. There’s a certain roguelike quality to this and seeing that you’re 50 points off of a 250 000 point goal is enough to make your blood boil.
Throughout the Skate Tours you will earn cash which you can use to purchase new boards, clothing and tattoos. The trick here is that in order to unlock some of those item you have to play the game and hit certain goals.
At the same time there is always this casual air to your time in THPS1+2 and even after a particularly fervent run, you walk away feeling satisfied even if you just spent the last hour bailing.
There are very few instances where the use of “iconic” is deserved and one of those cases is the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack.
A Tribe Called Quest, Powerman 5000, Papa Roach and Rage Against the Machine are all present, as are a few newcomers including Machine Gun Kelly who has taken it upon himself to revive early 2000’s pop punk.
But THPS1+2 is so much more than just the music.
Take the School for example.
Upon descending the staircase and entering the largest quad ever your music will take up a strange echoey quality, almost as if the music is being played in the environment. It’s not, but it is a damn clever trick that you will notice in a few other levels.
Bailing also results in a bit of a record scratch and all sound apart from your breaking bones disappears.
In levels with vehicles the drivers will yell at you or honk as you cross their path. Those levels are among the most frustrating in the game but also the most fun thanks to the little quips from the NPCs.
Activision and Vicarious Vision have done a stellar job with the sound in this game as well as the graphics.
Yes, we know Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had an HD makeover a few years ago but this is something special.
A stand out moment for me was entering the Mall level and seeing how it had been, abandoned. The Hangar from THPS2 has been given a new lick of paint as have a few other levels we don’t want to spoil.
We played THPS1+2 on PC and the port is great. We never suffered any crashes although once or twice the UI did freeze up on us after 30 minutes or so of inactivity in the menus.
Okay so there have to be some bad things, right?
For all my fawning, is THPS1+2 a perfect game? No, not by a long shot.
Make no mistake, it is good but there are a few problems that we must point out.
As mentioned, skater customisation could do with a bit of love. I’m a husky fella and my lithe skater – while very cool looking I’m sure you’ll agree – isn’t really me and I want it to be me.
The bigger issue we have with the game is the length.
We’re four hours into the game on what we’d call a casual pace and we’ve almost completed all of the levels save for the final two in the THPS1 skate tour.
Now, ardent fans will tell us we’re not done until we’ve completed every tour on every character and unlocked everything for each character and, sure one can make that argument.
Taking that approach, there is a lot of game here.
This is because THPS1+2 keeps a running scorecard for every skater. A laundry list of items including; perform that skater’s signature Special move a certain number of times, string together combos with X tricks and other “tasks” are set out before you. Completing items on this list unlocks new boards, clothing and more.
To this we say “meh”. It’s there if you want it but the boards don’t add anything special to your character and aside from two secret skaters, there isn’t all that much value to replaying everything multiple times.
As of time of writing there are no real-money microtransactions in THPS1+2 and should they be added at a later stage our review will be amended to reflect this.
Should you buy THPS1+2?
Had you posed this question to me two months ago I would’ve said something about hardcore fans only, but the times have changed as Bob Dylan would quip.
The success of Among Us and Fall Guys has shown me that folks just want to have fun in games sometimes and aren’t too fussed with chasing endless goals.
THPS1+2 then, fits an interesting hole as it caters to folks who just want to skate through New York as well as those who want 100 percent completion of everything in the game.
Whether you want to show-off your combo chaining skills or create a park full of pools for your friends to skate, THPS1+2 offers up a lot to sink your teeth into.
Add to that the mystery of finding secrets scattered throughout the game and you have a game that you might not play everyday, but one that will bring you back smiling every time.
So to answer the question about buying THPS1+2, what better place than here, what better time than now?