"The Birdman Rises"
Tony Hawk's nickname is the Birdman, which is tragically appropriate when you consider the Icarus-like trajectory of his video game franchise. Like the son of the inventor Daedelus, but with a skateboard instead of a pair of improbable wax wings, Tony Hawk Pro Skater soared high upon its debut, achieving massive critical acclaim for its fluid gameplay and creative skate park design.
However, Activision's skating series also became the victim of its own hubris, releasing too many sequels too frequently, and relying on gimmicks like the Ride Controller that sent sales plummeting to Earth. Fortunately, the series has been granted a second chance with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, and this downloadable return to the basic formula should help the Birdman soar once again.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is a reimagining of the original game, using all-new graphical and gameplay engines. However, although the technology is far and away superior to the PS1 game, the levels and challenges remain the same. Once again, the goal is to shred around a skate park within a two-minute time frame while pulling off as many tricks as possible. Challenges range from finding particular tokens within the massive levels, to grinding across elaborate structures, to simply getting as many points as possible by pulling off elaborate tricks. The more goals you achieve, the more skate parks are unlocked, as well as other skaters, boards, and special tricks.
The HD Tony Hawk isn't much more complex than its predecessor from the last millennium. The upgrades from later sequels, such as elaborate analog stick moves and open-world exploration, don't show up in this version. Fortunately, they don't need to. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is an excellent reminder of why the series was once an industry giant, and a great jumping-on point for gamers who want to be a professional skateboarder without risking traumatic spinal injuries. The reduced scope of the gameplay allows for a stronger focus on what the series is all about — treating anything and everything as a medium upon which to skate.
The appeal behind the old Tony Hawk titles was due to the fact that, like many great games, they were simple to learn but not easy to master. Simply skating around a park was easy, but you could spend hours on end trying to perfect that one trick without wiping out. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD may not be the most ambitious game, given its anachronistic gameplay and relatively simple graphics, but it captures that essence and rewards all skill levels. This is proof that the Birdman deserves a second chance at a second digital life; here's hoping Activision won't screw it up again.
GameDynamo's Score for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD (PS3)
Neil Kapit is a freelance writer, cartoonist, and "La Li Lu Le Lo" agent based in Los Angeles. His work can be seen on www.therubynation.com.
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