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Matt Keller
23 Jul, 2006

Tony Hawk's American Sk8land Review

DS Review | Hawk returns to form?
The Tony Hawk franchise has been through all sorts of highs and lows (often the latter in recent years), but the series remains a strong seller and a favourite of many gamers across the world. Activision seems to have a knack for putting the Birdman on every single available format, so it was no surprise when they announced Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land for the Nintendo DS. What was surprising was that the game was to be a full 3D kickback to the earlier Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games with full support for Nintendo’s Wi-Fi service – it was in fact the first game to be released to support the service. Unfortunately, PALGN has had a little trouble sourcing a copy of the game (we’re cheap, you see) over the last 8 months, so now we present our much belated review of what may possibly be the best Tony Hawk game of recent years.

American Sk8land is a handheld adaptation of Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, retaining the same sort of story mode and setting of the console game, but toning down certain elements to make it more accessible to a wider market. Of course, these compromises only affect the story mode and its goals – the core elements of the Tony Hawk series are in fine form here, and best of all, most of the extraneous crap that has plagued the recent console games is nowhere to be seen; no car driving, no off board crap, no Bam Magera antics – just pure skateboarding: the way a Tony Hawk game should be.

..
Brendan was a sk8er boi.

The game is broken into a number of different modes, but the main single player meat is centred on the Story and Classic modes. The story mode has you roaming the countryside with Mindy and Tony, much like the console game, and talking to citizens of the various locations to get goals to accomplish – rinse and repeat till you’re at the end. The goals found here are easy enough for those who are new to Tony Hawk games, but for veterans of the series, the lack of challenge is on the verge of being ridiculous. There’s also a Kid mode which makes these challenges even easier; perhaps designed for very young children.

Classic mode, on the other hand, returns the game to the goal-like structure of the first three Tony Hawk games, and actually offers a reasonably good degree of challenge and enjoyment. Players are given a list of 10 goals, and need to accomplish as many as they can within a two-minute run. These goals range from collecting S-K-A-T-E and C-O-M-B-O to getting specific scores from combos and total scores, just like the older games. Some of the goals can be a little easy for veterans, but it’s still really fun. The levels are reasonably big, but seem to be designed more towards skating and tricking, as opposed to the ludicrously oversized levels of the more recent console efforts.

Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land’s most intriguing mode is its Wi-Fi option. While limited to only two players, American Sk8land offers enough options to make the multiplayer game enjoyable. Trick Attack awards the victory to the skater with the highest score, while the Score Challenge rewards the player who makes it to the target score first. Combo Mambo is a combo contest where the skater with the best single combo score wins the challenge. There’s a game type that’s new to the series called The Price is Wrong, where players need to get their scores within a certain range – going under or over this range will cost you the match. The statistical tracking that is offered with the online mode is pretty good, but it is disappointing to see some of the better multiplayer modes like Horse and Graffiti omitted – it’s forgivable in this case given that it’s Vicarious Visions’ first shot at an online game for the DS, but we won’t be so lenient in future. The game can also be played locally if you have a chum with his/her own copy of the game.

..
Luke said, "See ya l8r, boi."

Vicarious Visions have always been noted to be a versatile group when it comes to handling ports and challenging jobs (see Doom 3 for the Xbox), and they’ve shown with Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land that they also have a mastery of the Nintendo DS’ hardware. American Sk8land is one of the few 3D titles on the system that looks really good, thanks to the use of cel-shading, as well as fast gameplay speed without compromising the framerate. The only downsides are that the game can look a little rough thanks to the lack of texture filtering and anti-aliasing, and the draw distance on some of the in-game objects isn’t too flash. In terms of sound, American Sk8land holds up the series’ tradition of supplying a good variety of rock/punk music, which sounds reasonably good given the relatively crappy DS speaker. Players can also record their own sounds to play in online matches, which obviously leads to people recording farts and curse words – it’s a good feature, but has unfortunately been abused by the masses.

Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land is a return to the foundations of the series, thanks largely to its emphasis on tricks and combos, rather than the extraneous crap and goofing around that has plagued the last four games on the consoles. It’s good to see Vicarious Visions' talents in full effect – they’ve conjured up some really good technical achievements (cel-shaded 3D with a good framerate, and the first Wi-Fi DS title), but have also managed to produce a good game at the same time. American Sk8land is a bit easy, but it should provide hours of entertainment for all handheld gaming fans, whether they like skating or not.
The Score
American Sk8land manages to create a feeling of fun that has been missing from recent Tony Hawk titles, by focusing on pure skating, rather than mischief. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Content

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland Review
23 Mar, 2006 A wasteland of potential.
Easy Mode #10
19 Aug, 2005 Everybody's favourite bitch-fest goes and celebrates double digits by berating Microsoft's 180 on the 360.
Tony Hawk's Underground 2: Remix Preview
10 Jul, 2005 The best Tony Hawk game ever?
23 Comments
7 years ago
He wasn't good enough for her.
7 years ago
Luke had a pretty face but his head was up in space...
7 years ago
Damn....I had a chance to buy this game when it came out, good thing the price has lowered over here.
7 years ago
...he wasn't good enough for her
7 years ago
Brendan is a Tupac listening sk8er boi for sure.
7 years ago
I'm a bit loss; what are you guys talking about?
7 years ago
They're secretly Avril fanboys.
7 years ago
Is that so? hmmmm......
7 years ago
I am so sick of Tony Hawk's games. The first was awesome, the second was better, and the third was overkill, and now they're still going. I understand they have aa large fanbase, but give it a break!

(My hate for TH games is mainly because I have it on PSP and suck at it)
7 years ago
I'm the opposite, I also have it on PSP and it was the first one that I was good at. icon_lol.gif
7 years ago
Wow - I was wondering about this game now that it's cheap. Loved THPS 1-3, hated 4 and onward, so sounds good.

<rant>As an actual skater, I'm pretty annoyed that these days the first thing people think of when they hear the word is that commercial crap Avril. That's not skating, that's a no-talent hack being used by record company stooges to cash in on skating. </rant>
7 years ago
TH peaked at 3 imo and while AS is a step in the right direction, I still felt it was more of the same, but with poor level design.
7 years ago
I remember when TH games used to be difficult. I played 1-3 constantly, but then they got too crazy with the tricks. I am not interested in running up walls or walking around, I am not interested in doing silly donuts, I want good old fashioned skating without a lame plot. I rented Wasteland for PS2 and it was so easy I almost cried. Whatever happened to needing 4 billion point combos? That being said, Sk8land doesn't look too bad as you mention it is just good old skating.
7 years ago
David wrote
Wow - I was wondering about this game now that it's cheap. Loved THPS 1-3, hated 4 and onward, so sounds good.

<rant>As an actual skater, I'm pretty annoyed that these days the first thing people think of when they hear the word is that commercial crap Avril. That's not skating, that's a no-talent hack being used by record company stooges to cash in on skating. </rant>
David skates ! Awesome, so do I, for 9.5 years actaully. I totally agree with your rant.
7 years ago
What about the inclusion of bikes? Has that made it any worse?
7 years ago
You are probably thinking of American Wasteland, not American Sk8land, b/c I'm quite sure that there aren't any bikes in Sk8land.
7 years ago
Yeah, I obviously was. My mistake.

But my question still stands, how were bikes in TH?
7 years ago
New TH is so much better than old ones. I reckon the 2nd one was the best. Back to just skateboarding is a good change.
7 years ago
slapshakle wrote
David wrote
Wow - I was wondering about this game now that it's cheap. Loved THPS 1-3, hated 4 and onward, so sounds good.

<rant>As an actual skater, I'm pretty annoyed that these days the first thing people think of when they hear the word is that commercial crap Avril. That's not skating, that's a no-talent hack being used by record company stooges to cash in on skating. </rant>
David skates ! Awesome, so do I, for 9.5 years actaully. I totally agree with your rant.
That's about as long as I have too. I haven't really leant a new trick in about two years now though! What do you do most? I'm prefer mini-ramps, but I like a bit of skatepark or real street too.
7 years ago
I tired to learn to skate for a while, took a bit of a slam trying to learn to primo slide and slowly faded out, I think my main problem was I had an pretty crap board and didn't practice enough, still I enjoy watching and like to hop on and ride every now and then.

I think the last alright TH was Underground, except for the rubbish car stuff, well te skating parts were good.

But 2 was the one I played the most and 3 was V. good and has received a rating of 10.

Glad I'll be getting this one for my b-day, now all I need is adsl and wifi icon_razz.gif
7 years ago
Same boat as cro, I used to skate for a few years, a few years ago. I wasn't fantastic, and many of my old friends have moved on / I don't see anymore.

I also bought this just a few days ago. Agreed that it brings back the series to a more THPS4-esque stage of design, except the levels themselves are a lot less creative and unique. The controls could be a bit tighter too (especially when manualling following a revert).
7 years ago
This was my favourite Tony Hawks since number four and it was really quite good. Originally I thought it was like the wireless version, 2D and crappy but after I saw some videos I picked the game up a couple of weeks ago.

I loved the story line's cut scenes, the artistic style is awesome and being able to add your own fail and combo sounds is awesome. Well worth 8.
7 years ago
Cerebral wrote
The controls could be a bit tighter too (especially when manualling following a revert).
Hopefully its not too bad, that is essential to make big combo's.
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| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Activision
Developer:
  Neversoft
Players:
  1-2

Extra:
Wi-fi Multiplay

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