Of course, it wouldn’t really be a skateboard game without a proper skate shop. In the skate shop, you can customize your character, buy board art, clothes, cheats, and watch replays or view the scoreboards.
The purchasable cheats can be fun for the free skate mode, which keeps track of your most recent combo score as you take a run through any course you’ve completed to that point. If you want to race, but not work towards any specific goals, there’s also the free race and training modes, which are great for learning how to put together combos or work on getting the best balance on a grind.
The cell-shaded graphics are again similar in style to THAS, but are better than the previous games, and the backgrounds and courses, though somewhat littered with in game advertising for Tony Hawk sponsors among others, are crisp with sharp, identifiable images even for items in the distance. While not expecting top of the line graphics in the DS version of this game, I came away impressed, especially for graphics drawn at the speed the races moved at.
One area where things weren’t quite as quick was in WiFi play. First off, THDJ doesn’t support single cartridge multiplayer gaming, which so many of the releases for this platform list as a feature. This meant the only way I could play the game against live opponents was through a Nintendo WiFi hotspot. So it was off to my local McDonalds for a chance to race against others online. The hard part was finding players to compete against, although this is likely due to the amount of time the game had been released at time of review. I had no trouble finding a few 2-player games of elimiskate or big air, the names of which basically describe the goal of the games. I was not able to find enough players on line to play a 4-player match, but I found the 2-player games to be decent fun, and different enough from the solo player as to be worth the price of the double cheeseburger and fries I ate while playing.
The games audio was decent, if not exactly overwhelming. I’ve found that all audio on the DS Lite is better through headphones than the units’ speakers, and THDJ was no different. The soundtrack is comprised of pretty much the type of songs you’d expect from a skating game, though the sound quality wasn’t exactly what I had hoped, and gets a bit choppy while loading a multiplayer game or waiting for opponents online.
My only other issue with the game was with the controller setup. All of the trick and movement controls are laid out nicely except for one, the boost control. The buttons are so close together on the DS, that for someone like myself with larger fingers, using one finger to sometimes press two buttons right next to each other obtain the best possible lift off a ramp is literally a cramp causing maneuver.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed Downhill Jam. While it doesn’t offer the free-range play the last few Tony Hawk titles have been known for, the race play is not so contained as to not allow some feeling of freedom, especially when catching big air as a shortcut from one area of the game to the next.
Fans of previous Tony Hawk or skateboarding titles who like combos and big air are going to love this game. It might not be the most realistic game (300 foot long big air traveling through downtown Hong Kong?), but it is certainly a lot of fun.
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