After the massive success that was the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Vicarious Visions started work on reviving not only a previously struggling franchise but in my opinion revitalizing a niche genre of games that had previously laid dormant for nearly 2 decades.
I’m talking about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Although the fifth installment in the franchise was released back in 2015 to mediocre review scores fans did not dissipate in fact they rallied together to use their collective voice to urge developers to make more quality skateboarding titles and in doing so it seems as though some have agreed such as the likes of EA and Activision revitalizing Skate and Tony Hawk respectively.
Announced as the first surprise of Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest THPS 1+2 is a remake of the legendary PS1 games from 1999 and 2000. These games set the ground work for dozens of titles and franchises laying down the groundwork for generations of console skating games but more importantly evoked a large and dedicated following. When remaking the game Vicarious Visions ensured fans that everything we loved about the originals will stay intact but I don’t think I was prepared for how faithful yet innovative they were with the original recipe.
It is uncanny how immediate my skills from the original franchise came back, almost instantaneous.
Reviews of remakes follow a slightly different approach when judging thus the game will be reviewed accordingly.
As stated above if you were a fan of Tony Hawk titles from its inception up to the Gamecube era then you will be happy to know that the more things change the more they stay the same. Upon grabbing my controller and landing my first ollie it felt absolutely gratifying as if I successfully unlocked a mental vault of Karate Kid-like skills hidden within my brain and within minutes I was back to trying to chain together 100k point combos like it was nothing.
Tony Hawk games have always been subtle about the practice/reward in chaining combos which has been its bread and butter from the start. THPS 1+2 includes remakes of the first and second Tony Hawk games that revolved around completing objectives in a certain amount of time. Each map is packed with several objectives to complete making each run more of a management of your skills and time rather than a free and open experience like future titles.
The games are fairly short with both titles being 100% completed in less than 12 hours which makes sense for how games were back in the day. The inclusion of a challenge board is however new and really brings the entire package together breathing continuity and new life into an otherwise arcade one and done experience. Challenges offer a range of rewards from as simple as experience points to oddities like special boards and characters.
They’re All Grown Up
As a remake would suggest, Vicarious Visions worked hard to offer the ultimate Tony Hawk experience to a new generation with some pretty spectacular environments and models. One of the biggest strokes of genius was including playable characters from the original games but as their older current aged selves. They also added plenty of newer skaters to balance it out to prevent fans from seeing the game as a glimpse to the past and more of a window to the current and future.
Each area still evokes the same emotion and theme that I remember from the originals; Warehouse still brings out a sense of endless possibilities, School is an absolute masterpiece, and Downhill Jam is, well, it’s a level. I found myself hating a handful of levels but in the grand scheme of things they need to stay untouched because as sketchy as they are it is in essence what the Tony Hawk games are all about. Skateparks aren’t always clean it’s all about finding the potential in somewhere whether it’s Roswell or Philadelphia is up to your imagination.
There are plenty of features that make this game less of a remake and more of a Tony Hawk endless playground full of endless creativity. Create-a-skater returns and with that offers a new incentive to complete challenges in order to unlock new clothing and boards. My one gripe about it is that a lot of the clothes are very much of the same kind; archaic, very baggy, and very generic with a few real life skate brands but they are very far and few in between leaving you with the same checkered shorts you might have been using back in the original games.
In my opinion, Vicarious Visions should have invested a bit more into the create-a-skater aspect as many fans want to play as themselves and at this time the options are slightly limiting.
Create-a-park really gives you a brand new experience as you get to make your very own skatepark to show off to the world with many tools at your disposal. Hopping into a created park takes just as little time than it takes to hop into a pre-made level while each created area offers the ability to “remix” the stages allowing you to put your own flare on someone else’s work and so on and so forth. Having online in this game and in this day of age is what I dreamt about decades ago playing the original games waiting to try out my friends parks when I would come over after school.
Challenges keep the game fresh and fun keeping me grinding for hours trying to unlock certain boards. Many of these challenges get downright impossible but there in lies the fun in Tony Hawk games. Just like actual skateboarding practice makes perfect and although it may take up to hours many of these challenges and achievements are in fact doable.
Online multiplayer is like a dream come true with a more straight forward approach, rather than setting up matches via menus and lobbies THPS online quickly drops you into a map with several others and throws a new objective at you every round. It’s incredibly simple but that simplicity really goes a long way here.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 Remake is the perfect storm of nostalgia, quality, price, and playability.
You can tell Vicarious Visions had fun making this game and it’s evidently apparent with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 not only did they faithfully bring back Tony Hawk they made the Birdman even better than ever. These remakes are emblematic of what could be when the right team respects source material and further injects ideas of the future in a proper manner. Each game plays exactly how you’d expect from the very first move to your one millionth kickflip.
The challenge board is a much needed incentive to continue playing after completing the base games and the online mode pushes you even further against others from around the world. Vicarious Visions proves yet again that they can have one foot in the past while running straight forward into the future with any franchise.
As a remake it’s second to none, as a title it’s something I would say any console owner should have in their library.