Some things in life are simple yet exciting. Easy to learn, but hard to master. Memorable, but brand new. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 has all of these qualities and more! The team at Vicarious Visions set out to re-create two of the greatest sports games ever. But did they deliver on expectations?
History of the Series
If you have never played a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game before, let me give you the basics. It’s a high-flying, arcadey skateboarding game that tests your skill, will, and patience. In the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, released in September 1999, you take control of a pro skater and complete a series of skateboarding-based objectives over multiple levels. There was no online play given the release year, but players could compete locally in split screen.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 came out the following year with critical praise. It is still the 2nd highest rated video game on Metacritic of all time. It boasted modest visual upgrades but added several core gameplay components such as the Manual and create-a-park mode. It’s highly addictive two-minute drill levels provided just enough time for “one more session.”
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 takes the earliest entries of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series and polishes it like your grandmothers silver collection! It adds 2020 visuals, moves from THPS games beyond 1 & 2, a robust create-a-park, online play, and most of the original soundtrack from the first two games. Remasters are tricky as old school players are hard to please. But this game fires on all cylinders and is the perfect example of how to remaster something so beloved.
Story + Gameplay
What I love about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is how easy it was to pick up and play. After roughly 15 years since I last played a game in the series, I felt like I never left. You start out with the option of a tutorial as well for those new to the series.
Levels & Tricks
The main “story” mode of the game is called Skate Tours. This gives you the options of THPS 1 and THPS 2 tours. I put story in quotes as there isn’t an expansive one here. But quite honestly, the gameplay is good enough to stand on it’s own. Pick your favorite pro skater from the original games, or one of eight modern skaters. I went with Bob Burnquist as he was always my favorite back in the day.
There are nine total levels in THPS 1 and eight in THPS 2 (plus two bonus levels). But each level is only available once unlocked by completing enough goals or earning medals at competition levels. The original game only had about five goals per level, whereas this remaster doubles that for most.
Goals are as simple as meeting three different high score challenges and collecting floating letters that spell out “SKATE,” to more robust goals like landing specific tricks over certain gaps. Additionally, each level has a few stat points you can collect to level-up your skater. Competitions do not have these goals, but instead you should score as many points as possible in one minute heats.
Perhaps the best update in THPS 1 + 2 is the addition of moves not found in the original two games. Some purists may scoff at the idea, but it honestly is a great improvement. And if you really desire, you can play with classic controls by flipping an option in the settings. The main upgrade is the ability to revert, which as I described in the preview is essential to stringing together high-scoring combos.
Each run within a level is timed at two minutes. Your must complete as many of the goals as possible within that time. Many require you to collect items in a series, which must be completed in one run. There are also other side objectives within the levels such as gaps. The in-game menu provides a handy checklist for the completionists out there.
A new feature not in the original games is Challenges. These can be found during gameplay on the pause menu, and are cumulative for the life of the game across all skaters. Things like completing all gaps in a level or performing a specific combo string are great examples which keep you entertained long after completing story goals within the levels. Additionally, each skater has around 20 unique goals which increases your replay value exponentially.
Completing goals and challenges earns you cash and level rankings. While the cash is mostly for cosmetics in the skate shop, the aforementioned skill points can be used improve your skater’s abilities in 10 areas ranging from hangtime to rail balance. The skill points are usually easy to spot but can be challenging to get. If you find all the skill points throughout the skate tours you will max out your skaters stats, which you can complete for each skater.
THPS 1 + 2 is mastered by learning techniques for stringing together combos of dozens of tricks. And there are many challenges to string together ridiculous combos! Maybe you start off by hitting a vert ramp and performing a 540 Indy. As you come down you revert (pivot the back of your board to the front) and start a manual. You do that until you find a rail to grind on. I could keep going, but combos can honestly last as long as you have the skill. All it takes is not losing your balance on a rail or bailing off your board otherwise.
Other Game Modes and Music
Also within the Skate Tours is Ranked & Free Skate. This mode allows you to work your way up the leaderboards or just skate for fun and explore the levels solo. Additionally, Speed Run challenges you to complete all goals as quickly as possible for a spot on the leaderboard. I will say though, it’s ridiculous how fast some people can complete levels. But I’m sure you’ve watched Games Done Quick, right?
I would be remiss to not mention the outstanding soundtrack THPS 1 + 2 lays on the table. With the majority of songs returning from the original two games, plus several new additions from the last 20 years, I just can’t speak highly enough about it. Additionally, the ability to skip songs was added if one comes across you aren’t a fan of. With a mix of punk rock, hip-hop, and indie rock, there is something for just about everyone.
Controls & Visuals
Part of what allowed me to pick up and play THPS 1 + 2 so easily was the basic control structure was not modified much. With the exception of adding moves from later games, the basic functions of hitting ‘X’ for a flip trick, ‘Y’ to grind, and ‘A’ to ollie remained unchanged. I found it incredibly helpful using the D-pad instead of the left joystick while playing.
While the controls didn’t change button layouts, the feel of the controls is much smoother. Moving from trick to trick seems to flow very well, and isn’t as rigid as the original games. My only complaint is the Xbox d-pad generally, but that has nothing to do with the game itself.
Visually, the game isn’t competing with the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 or Halo. But it certainly is a very smooth and visually pleasing update. To play the original THPS games on the PS1 is almost impossible with today’s technology.
The colors are bright and the distance you can see is expanded. Originally, the level ‘Venice’ from THPS 2 was gray and very muted. Now the sun is setting in the background and you can see into the ocean as far as the eye reaches.
One of the best features of THPS 1 + 2 is the online play. The game allows you to jump in with other players across the world very quickly. Or you can invite your friend to play with you through the Xbox’s party system. Compete in a number of game modes including Trick Attack (highest score wins), Combo Mambo (biggest combo wins), or Graffiti (tag the most objects by performing a trick on them to win).
All levels are available in online multiplayer before you unlock them. This is a nice feature for those who just want to play online with friends prior to beating the game.
Staying at home with your significant other? Local multiplayer is also available and has all the same great game modes. My favorite for local play is Horse, where you perform tricks and combos the other player has to beat, otherwise they get a letter. Yep, just like basketball.
Of course, there are many specific multiplayer challenges available in the game. Just check the menus at any time to see what is within reach!
Create A Park & Create A Skater
The THPS series has always built upon previous entries with expanded features and abilities. The create modes are no different from the core game in this respect.
Create A Park is the most expansive mode the series has ever offered, with hundreds of tools, ramps, rails, and objects. My favorite is the smart rail tool, which allows you to drag and drop rails quickly and effectively. I’m not the best park creator out there, but a great bonus is the ability to play other players created parks. There are so many good ones the game almost has infinite value in that respect.
Create A Skater makes its return to the series as well. If going through the game with famous skaters isn’t your thing, make a replica of yourself or someone you know! The game offers plenty of options to customize your board, clothes, appearance, and even voice!
While nostalgia certainly played a role in my excitement for the game, the team at Vicarious Visions did not let me down. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a fantastic update to a game series that has been stagnant the last several years. They didn’t try to re-create the wheel, but instead went with a formula that was tried-and-true.
The level detail, visual updates, control smoothing, and overall refinement of a great but otherwise dated game really hit the mark. I recommend this game without hesitation to anyone seeking something to play. Whether you played the original games or not, do yourself a favor and give this one a shot.
- $39.99 USD available on the Xbox Store
Digital Deluxe Edition:
- $49.99 USD available on the Xbox Store
- Bonus: Includes ‘The Ripper’ character from Powell-Peralta®, unique retro 80s-era outfits, and unique retro content for the Create-A-Skater mode
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