film & game reviews, the retro way.
PS, Dreamcast, GBC, GBA, Windows, Mac, N64
PRO SKATER 2
Whether you're playing it on the Dreamcast, the PS1 or a piece of wood, one thing is clear:
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is a great game.
The best thing about this game is you don't even need to like skateboarding, understand the concept of a "Kickflip" or know who the heck Tony Hawk is to enjoy it! In fact, I personally know exactly three things about Mr Tony Hawk: he's a skateboarder, he was a stunt double in one of the Police Academy movies and kickass games are named after him. I also do not care much for real life skateboarding as it detracts from one of my favourite pastimes, playing extensive amounts of skateboarding video games. This particular masterpiece was developed by Neversoft, published by Activision and originally released for the Playstation before being ported to other consoles.
What else is so great about Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2?
Well, for one thing, the controls are delightful. Although you're just pressing or holding down combinations of buttons, it feels like you're really performing all these intricate and extremely dangerous moves. In a third-person view, you throw around your skater (Hawk himself or others you can unlock later) up and over every which way like some kind of masochistic, very hip contortionist and you gain money based on how fancy your moves are and whether your landed on your face or not. There are hidden pickups throughout the levels/locations, secret areas to discover, increasingly insane goals to reach in order to unlock more challenges.
Without realising, you're constantly improving the more you play the game, mastering skills and discovering areas you never thought you could ever reach. New locations feel alien and new goals seem impossible at first but, after some practice, you'll find that you're not quite as bad as you thought you were.
This thirst for skateboarding "badassery" means that the game is instantly addictive and never NOT fun to play. Even when you're doing the same thing over and over, failing constantly, witnessing your beloved Tony Hawk come crashing down like a pile of bricks, it somehow all feels worth it. The upbeat early-2000's rock soundtrack soon becomes a part of you, like an extra toe, and you get into an unstoppable rhythm as your fingers gradually turn the controllers into wet Play-Doh.
Gathering hard-to-grasp floating letters becomes an obsession, jumping over homeless guys (an actual goal in this game) takes precedent over any urgent bodily function and it doesn't take long before you are reduced to a happily red-eyed and frustrated monk preaching the gospel of pixelated skateboarding through your quiet dedication.
After several hours of gameplay, your soul will be in the hands of Papa Roach and Bad Religion and you won't even care.
Graphics-wise, the game still looks great to this day. It's realistic enough that everything makes sense but cartoonish enough that it also doesn't make sense but not in a bad way, to put it in a deliberately convoluted way. You really feel the speed when you're rolling down a slide at a 90 degree angle as you take a leap of faith and contort around your board as many times as possible before gravity inevitably kicks in.
When you do perform a new trick successfully, it's a big achievement and that feeling never stops as the required moves get tougher and more technical. The game lets you purchase all kinds of tricks as well as skaters and boards but it's completing every goal in every unlocked location that provides the ultimate rush. Seeing a hundred dollar bill stuck between two rooftops and not knowing how to reach it will drive you insane until you figure out how to grab it.
You can pretty much do whatever you want once you select a course to skate in but there are competition levels where you are tasked with getting a ridiculous score in a short amount of time before you can unlock the next area. Those parts are hard but exciting as they put your newly acquired skills to the test, adding another layer of challenge to the game.
Other highlights include skating over a helicopter to bring it to life and chasing a bull around an arena as you collect its poo. Ironically, the least interesting thing about the game are the short clips of actual skateboarding.
I could go on and on about how enjoyable Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is to play but, chances are, you know that already. Since its initial release for the Playstation in 2000, it's become something of a classic and rightly so.