There are certain games that can transport you to another point in time. For us, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is one of them. Within a few minutes of starting the game and watching the awesome opening video we were back on the original PlayStation, passing around the controllers with our friends, exulting in a magical run or cursing as a massive trick multiplayer went up in flames due to a bad landing (or laughing maniacally if it happened to our friends).
We’ve said before that nostalgia can be a double-edged sword. Here, thankfully, developer Vicarious Visions has deftly threaded the needle by overhauling Neversoft’s original vision graphically while still retaining the most important elements.
One of the things that stuck with us over the years was how intuitively things handled in the early Tony Hawk titles, and we were pleased to find that not much has changed. Everything you need to string together massive trick combinations is at your fingertips from the moment you boot up the game. Of course, it still takes practice to nail the big-point tricks, and once again the game walks the tightrope between being challenging yet still fair.
Balance is the most important aspect of the Tony Hawk games, requiring you to adjust the analog stick to keep from bailing and watching that combo you’ve been building disappear. The longer you rail slide or manual, the tougher it is to maintain. If you find it too frustrating, you can always turn off that element and nail combos without the threat of tipping over – in a nice touch, scores that are achieved with that “cheat” activated are kept separate from organic scores.
With almost 20 levels to recreate across the two games, Vicarious Visions has done yeoman’s work in nailing the original’s flow and design excellence while still shining them with modern visuals. It’s not easy to update a classic to a point where you can’t really imagine going back and playing the previous version, but here all the levels feel right with dramatically better graphics so it’d be hard to boot up the PS1 and fire up the classics.
Ask any longtime Tony Hawk player to explain what they like about the game and it’s unlikely to take long before they talk about the music. Being on that soundtrack became a huge deal and introduced us to different artists and styles back in the day. It’s still great. The music playing as you skate through the parks trying to pile up the points is a tremendous boost of nostalgia, even when there are newer songs accompanying you.
There’s no story or campaign shoehorned into Tony Hawk, which is fine because it’s not needed. Instead, you simply choose whether or not to go through the optional tutorial and then dive right in. Because you’ll choose between versions at the title screen (though there are some persistent progression elements), the two games are not fully integrated.
Each game contains nine levels, both with their own set of goals relating to score, collection or performing level-specific tricks. Complete enough of those goals and you’ll unlock another level to finish another checklist and so on.
As you familiarize yourself with the levels and how to effectively string tricks together, you shouldn’t have much trouble polishing off those lists. While there isn’t a lot of structured content beyond that, the appeal of Tony Hawk was always loading up your favourite levels and chasing the high score, and that pursuit is every bit as addicting as ever.
Few feelings in gaming can rival the euphoria of putting together a great run or, conversely, the anguish of seeing a massive trick multiplier evaporate by losing your balance or missing a landing. Runs are never too long, though, and you’re free to restart at any time so even failures rarely feel like you’ve wasted your time.
Adding to the game’s longevity is a sizable roster of real skaters, including contemporary ones that have been added to the original roster. Each one feels unique with their special tricks and a number of varied attributes relating to items like balance, speed, air and hang time.
If you’d rather create your own skater, there’s a large creation suite for that as well. Money earned from your runs can be spent at the shop to get you cosmetic items like clothing and new decks. Online multiplayer is also available if, like us, your friends no longer all live in the same area and want to get together for a trash-talking night of virtual skateboarding.
As a remake, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 checks all of the boxes. It retains the original’s excellent gameplay mechanics and soundtrack while upgrading aged elements like graphics and user interface. Anyone that enjoyed Neversoft’s efforts should pick this up.