Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure
I’ve often dreamt about what a good children’s game might be like, the moment that I stop dreaming and start playing it is now. Activision has broken the shackles that the likes of Tom & Jerry and Stuart Little have befuddled on the avoid-at-all costs children’s gaming genre. Instead of further persecuting the little ones and offering entertainment that’s painful for parents to stomach, the company has gone the extra mile and has created something that is both enjoyable for adults and children alike.
Disney and Activision have teamed up to place characters from The Lion King, Toy Story and Tarzan into the skate shoes of Tony Hawk. The gameplay is largely the same to the four titles in the THPS series and will be immediately familiar to anyone who has come in contact with one of its four entries. It employs the free-roaming goal-oriented style of gameplay that was found in THPS4 as opposed to the timed-runs of the other THPS games. In fact most of the time the game feels like a palette-swap version of THPS4, but as fans of that game can attest, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The core game has you completing tasks so that you can unlock more levels. In order to do so you’ll have to approach characters around the landscape and talk to them. After talking to them they’ll give you a goal that’s highly reminiscent of a THPS game. They range from simple tasks such as collecting S-K-A-T-E to having to herd a wilder beast into some grass so that it can feast. We were able to complete the majority of the tasks without a sweat but a few of them really gave us a run for our money. We’re all THPS vets, we’d hate to imagine the frustration that a young child might have with some of the harder tasks. Some of the goals can and will become monotonous after awhile as they are just simply variants of each other, but the varied landscapes more than make up for this deficiency.
Of course you won’t find yourself skating in a college, zoo or a carnival. Instead, each of the riders can shred up environments that are very faithful to their movies. For instance if you choose Simba you’ll start off in Pride Rock and make your way around some very African-like plains. Buzz Lightyear starts out in Andy’s room and tricks off of jump ropes, toy chests, car tracks and so forth. There are 10 levels in all, three for each of the movies and the one level for your create-a-skater. If you create your own skater you’ll start off in Olliewood and perform goals for humans as opposed to hyenas and toy soldiers. A nice touch is that your create-a-skater has access to any of the levels that you’ve unlocked during the course of gameplay. All you’ll have to do is skate through Olliewood and find the proper portal for the level that you want to play.
And with such great level design, we’re sure that you’ll be more than willing to play. All of the levels are both faithful to the designs of the movies and the layout style of the THPS games. We commend the designers for their creativity as they use natural landscape to make ramps, rails and even half-pipes. What’s great is that none of the obstacles stick out and seem out of place. The majority of the objects feel like they could naturally be in place in these environments. For instance, in Andy’s room you’ll find a natural gap that’s formed by fallen blocks and dominoes. Nothing seems forced and out of place in the environments. To make things even better each of the levels has the potential to expand upon the completion of specific goals. Early on in Andy’s room you’ll be able to unlock a half-pipe in a toy chest by unlocking the shackles and freeing the toy soldiers that are trapped within. The timing on some of the moves are a little off from the THPS series and will take a little getting used to. As a strange oddity it turns out that most grabs can be performed in a shorter time span than the majority of flips. In most instances I found myself eating the pavement when trying to do flips between short gaps. Instead I would have to perform grabs. This is a result of the added frames. Each character doesn’t perform a kickflip per se, but rather a variant of the move that’s more true to their character. For instance Simba performs a pounce flip, a move where he flips the board and then pounces on it so that it’s right-side-up. Well Activision needed to add plenty more frames to this in order to get it right, making it unusable for bridging some gaps. Also the Boneless and the No Comply have been removed entirely while the revert, manuals and spine transfer still remain.
DESA isn’t without its problems as well. Most of the levels feel eerily empty and will take lots and lots of searching in order to find out where the next objective is. Some of the textures used for the levels are a little weak as well, making the next section feel like the last. At times it’s very difficult to tell which surfaces are ramps and which are solid walls. Most of the time I’d run headfirst into a tree stump thinking that it was the back part of a makeshift half pipe.
On the visual front the game looks pretty good although some of the textures could really use some work. Most of the characters are bright, vibrant and look very similar to their movie counterparts. The animation is very fluid and is definitely better than most of the other companies’ top-tier skating titles. Each of the levels is pretty good except there seems to be a distinct difference in the quality between the Toy Story and Tarzan levels. As a nice touch the game can be ran in 16:9 in addition to the standard 4:3 mode. I didn’t see too much of a difference in the widescreen mode but it’s a pretty nice addition for all you technophiles out there.
If you’ve heard Tony Hawk then you’ve heard DESA. With the exception of the character voices it seems that Activision lifted all of the soundtracks from the THPS series. All of the sounds, from the rail grinds to the spinning of the wheels sounds nearly identical to the effects that appeared in THPS4. Again, not necessarily a bad thing but nothing really too special either. A facet of the game that I found to be very odd was the soundtrack. For a game oriented at kids some of the selections are very good. I wholeheartedly expected to come in here and skate to the tunes of Hakuna Matata and You Got a Friend in Me. Instead I was treated to some pretty nice tunes like Reel Big Fish’s “Sell Out” and Allister’s “Somewhere On Fullerton.” Sure the soundtrack isn’t exactly the best to skate to but there are some pretty decent ones sprinkled about, all of which are safe for the kiddie’s ears as well.
Call it Tony Hawk-lite, call it what you will. I call it fun. So the theme is a bit childish, who cares? All you Tony Hawk vets out there are always moaning about how you wish there was more variety in the gameplay and more to do. Well now you have it. Who cares if you have to play as a giant warthog in order to get your kicks, it’s still one and the same.
Is it Tony Hawk with Disney characters? Yes. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not the slightest. Disneyâ€™s Extreme Skate Adventure is, by far, the best childrenâ€™s game that weâ€™ve ever played. Itâ€™s the perfect game to satisfy all of the kids, and perhaps most importantly, the kid is us all.
Rating: 8.1 Good
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile