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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Review By: Joe Rolfe
Developer:   Neversoft
Publisher:   Activision
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Skateboarding
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   10-19-00

It’s ironic, really, how the mold of what is considered "fun" in video games has really changed over the years. During the 1980'’ the main purpose of mostly every game was to get that certain elusive "high score". From Pac-Man to Dig Dug to Joust – just about everything pertained to getting the high score at your local arcade supplier. But after the 16 and 32-Bit consoles, however, this paradigm for games seamlessly disappeared. To make hit games the title had to have seriously deep gameplay, an engrossing storyline or a killer visual and audio package if the publisher wanted it to succeed. Even though there were a few classics that still had the same old school magic (such as Nintendo’s own 1080 Snowboarding and WaveRace), the majority of released games had no vision whatsoever on a pure score basis. Yet in 1999 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released to an unsuspecting industry that shocked and amazed both the critics and public alike. Not only was it the first good skateboarding game in over a decade, but Pro Skater unsuspectingly rejuvenated the ancient pattern of plugging away for hours to rack up points upon points in an attempt go a gamer’s initials as the top spot on the ranking screen. There was no outrageously flashy presentation, and any trace of a compelling, 50-hour adventure was clearly missing. So what did Neversoft do to create such a masterpiece? Easy.

They reinvented the wheel.

THPS featured –what else? — Skating around and collecting points. Now, it wasn’t so elementary as a basic 80’s arcade title, but the game had such a balance of objectives, challenge and down right fun that the game itself had a near endless replay value. Whether it be collecting the video tapes in the fastest time or out-dueling a buddy in terms of total points, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was nothing short nostalgic gaming at it’s best. As a result of this quality, though, Neversoft’s skating title paid off in a big, big way, selling a ton of copies and earning the positive accolade of nearly every gamer and journalist. Usually only the big name titles like Mario, Zelda or Final Fantasy get such a general consensus’ of praise, but a skating game? Hell, yes. This reason alone prompted Activision to quickly start work on the sophomore effort aptly named Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. So it is now my pleasure to welcome you to the review of one of the greatest sequels ever made. Simply put, the king is back, baby.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a year and have never experienced the original THPS (shame on you!), the basis of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is centered around skating through skate parks and environments with numerous amounts of objectives accomplish. While the first Pro Skater’s main theme was collecting videotapes, number two’s base of simply finishing goals and garnering a certain amount of points is extended to a further extent. Now you are awarded with cash for every objective you complete, which in turn can be spent on new boards, stats for your respective skater and even buying new tricks. This is all done by getting a level’s high score, grinding special rails or crossing hidden "gaps". This wouldn’t be fun without good skateparks, right? Thankfully, Neversoft pulled through valiantly in the skating areas as well. Even as good as the environments were in THPS; they can’t compare to its sequel. Each area has it’s own specialized theme, some being more organized for tricks while others are destined for searching and completing objectives.

The main part of Tony Hawk, obviously, is indeed the point system. Pulling of tricks, grinding rails and finding special gaps to jump over all accumulate your final tally. Of course, you’re not going to get far with just rolling up and down a ramp, so how is the trick percentile balanced? The linkage of the tricks themselves. You need to learn what are the quickest tricks to pull off at the right moment, what grab the biggest points, and especially know your gaps. Certain areas of the game will act as multipliers for the tricks, so doing a few spins in one certain area isn’t going to grab you as many points as it might in another. Neversoft added a new twist to this part, however, known as the manual. In Laymen terms the manual is the equivalent of riding on either your front or hind wheels without rolling over. Simply being done by the quick tap of up-down, your skater can then try to balance him or herself for a while until you either crash or start a new trick, which in the results can tack on and multiply your points from the previous trick. You can do this at just about any time, although you need to time it so your skater is accelerating fast enough that they won’t stop dead in their tracks because of a lack of momentum. Gratefully, the manual never acts as though it’s a move that will give you high points no matter if you’re good at the game or not, but rather feels as a piece of strategy that doesn’t necessarily have to be used to obtain top scores.

Multiplayer in THPSII has also seen a boost. Now not only can you just compete for top scores, but also games of graffiti tag and HORSE have been added as well. Most people would not believe how many hours I stayed up during the night with just one friend competing for a better score or time than each other. Single player is might fun, but playing with a couple buddies is addictive as games come these days. How many other games have I played recently that had me staying up until 4:00 AM in the morning battling each other’s top score – on just one level? Let me think ... oh, none. The term "video game crack" has never been personified better than by Tony Hawk 2.

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