Tony Hawk's American Sk8land


posted 2/8/2006 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: DS
The story is a tad on the corny side, but if you tire of the escapades of your nameless skater you can play old-school in arcade mode. This option returns to the earlier Hawk games, where you grind and ollie your way across the parks but have no story-based objectives to meet. It’s great for pick up and play moments and really makes Sk8land a perfect example of portable gaming.

While arcade mode offers some quick distraction, the online mode is the meat and potatoes of replay value. Sure, you can play head-to-head over Bluetooth (assuming your friend also has a copy of the game) but the real action is found on the Nintendo Wifi Connection. With a few prominent exceptions the multiplayer offers the same modes as the console release, and a couple new ones to boot. Vicarious Visions also planted the foundations for a thriving online community, with new downloadable content on a weekly basis, and a web page perfect for entering records. The custom sprays and boards are another form of online status, and as I stated earlier it’s a way to show off artistic talent and cult fandom. Sk8land’s multiplayer will have a healthy following for quite some time, at least, until the next Tony Hawk DS is released.

A given factor in any Hawk game is the audio, and because there are so many Hawk games it tends to get overlooked. Sk8land received the same attention as any other title in the series, with a sizeable selection of licensed music tracks that run the gamut of tastes and styles. It’s a good thing there’s such a variety, because these songs are the only music in the game—no supplemental, no incidental. As expected, there is a way to select specific tracks at any time during play.

Sound effects and voice acting are not as plentiful as the music; you’ve heard the same rail-grinding noise a thousand times before. But without the woodwork, the presentation would fall apart, and it’s nice to see Tony Hawk and his fellow star skaters providing their own voice work.

These days, after what seems like dozens of Tony Hawk games, it’s surprising to see one make a splash. The superb multiplayer aspect and myriad options keep Sk8land on par with its brethren, and the 3D presentation is finally done justice on a handheld. There might not be anything new or radical here besides the cel-shading, but if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Fans of the series and DS owners in search of a good game should definitely pick this one up.

It’s rare to see a quality console-to-portable translation, but Vicarious Visions pulls it off with flying colors. A fresh new art style, mildly intriguing story, rock-solid classic modes and a stellar multiplayer component launch American Sk8land to superstardom on the DS.

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