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Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous


Graphics & Sound:

Wow. Even though the Tony Hawk series has always placed astounding gameplay miles ahead of eye candy, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 on Game Boy Advance looks better than we could've imagined. Character animations alone make this one of the prettiest launch titles; the skater models might not have any visible faces in-game, but they'll grind, grab and ollie like friggin' butter. Vicarious Visions did one hell of a job in the music department as well, providing several new digitized tunes ranging from punk to funk. Sound effects come in a mixed bag here, however -- the painful grunts and board squeaks don't sound too convincing, but everything else fits right into place. All in all, this phenomenal title certainly boasts the excellent presentation it deserves.

Gameplay:

Now, close your eyes. Imagine Tony Hawk 2 on the PlayStation at an overhead, isometric view with new street/vert levels. And imagine it fits in your pocket. Wham, you've got the GBA version of THPS 2!

Just like its predecessors, the newest version provides players with a list of goals for each level (collecting special icons and achieving high scores, etc.) and rewards them with cash upon completion. This money can be used to purchase new decks, learn new tricks, or upgrade the skaters' stats. Since it takes forever to reach every goal on every level with just one skater, and the only way to unlock every secret in the game is by completing all goals with all 13 characters... well, it either means a crazy amount of replay value or a buttload of tedious work, depending on how you look at it.

Either way, THPS 2's sleek level design should astound newcomers and kick up some memories with those already in the know, as the classic Warehouse level makes a reappearance in its new isometric form. A checklist in the Options menu lets you know how many hidden gaps you've discovered in each area as well (allowing for even higher replay appeal), and a quick tutorial even comes included to help out with those first few trial runs. It would seem that this baby's got it all -- except for a multiplayer aspect, that is! If only a two-player 'Horse' mode had been thrown into the mix for those of us with links cables, a perfect score might have been in order. Oh well... maybe they'll get it right with the forthcoming Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX.


Difficulty:

Not unlike its console counterparts, the portable THPS 2 demands some serious practice before every goal can be attained. Some of the 'SICK Score!' requirements can be incredibly intimidating to newbies and veterans alike, but with just a few hours of game play under the belt, nearly anyone can pick up a GBA and start Tailsliding with the best (and if you just can't handle it, make the tricks easier with Kid Mode in the options). But believe me, once you start playing, you won't wanna stop for days.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the game, however, rests with the fixed camera angle we're stuck with throughout the game. On many levels, this view works perfectly for a reasonable amount of space between popping tricks and grabbing icons; when you've been trying to grind a wall behind you in order to snatch that final hidden tape for the past 30 minutes, though, it's all a different story. The developers obviously did the best with what they had to work with, but sometimes a little frustration here and there simply can't be avoided.


Game Mechanics:

Controlling your favorite skate star on the small screen couldn't be easier. Grab/flip tricks and switches are assigned to the shoulder triggers, while jumping and grinding are performed with B and A, respectively. With only four buttons, how could things possibly be complicated anyway?

Well, that's a stupid question. Things could get complicated with such sparse controls, but in Tony Hawk's case, simplicity leads to perfection. Trick detection works exactly as it should (with the occasional exception of manuals), so players should rarely find themselves screaming at their GBA screens because that last 74,000-point grind string didn't come out at the buzzer. In all honesty, it's hard to find anything wrong with THPS 2's technical side. Bursting with originality yet maintaining the traditions of the series, this one easily ties with Castlevania: Circle of the Moon as the finest GBA launch title out there; pick it up today or miss out on one of 2001's best releases!


-Ben Monkey, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ben Lewis

Nintendo GameBoy Advance Super Bust-a-Move Nintendo GameBoy Advance Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3

 
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