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Tony Hawk's American Sk8land

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports (Extreme)

Graphics & Sound:

It is a well-known fact that the DS isnít the best when it comes to 3D. Sure, a few games have managed to pull off decent looking N64-era visuals, but the systemís strengths are still its 2D capabilities. Tony Hawkís American Sk8land makes up for the systemís lack of true 3D prowess by employing a unique cel-shaded look that fits the gameís style well. Everything is very colorful and character models donít look all that bad. Youíll run into the occasional flaw, namely clipping issues or a stiff animation every once in a while, but it is still better than most 3D games on the DS. Vicarious Visions, the developer, even managed to squeeze large, recognizable sections of Los Angeles into the DSís small carts.

At the start, youíre given a nice selection of parts with which to customize your skater and, if youíre feeling particularly creative, you can even draw your own deck and tag designs using the stylus. The DS's microphone can also be used to record your own sound effects which can then be used in-game, making for a very unexpected (and really cool) feature. Personalization is always a good way to earn a few easy kudos from me.

American Sk8land even impresses on the sound front as well. There are a surprising number of voice clips in the game that help to push the gameís story along. Youíll even hear an impressive soundtrack, which includes bands like Green Day, as you skate your way across L.A.


Gameplay:

Tony Hawkís American Sk8land begins like any other Tony Hawk game. After tearing it up at a skate competition, Tony approaches you about joining his team for a skate tournament. You, of course, join him and soon find yourself in Los Angeles, which has become a giant skate park (or at least, it is being used as one).

The city itself is broken up into five distinct areas, all of which will be readily recognizable to anyone who has ever visited L.A. These areas include Hollywood, Beverly Hills and East L.A. Whatís even better is that you donít have to select these areas off a map or menu. Instead, you can skate from one area to another if you want, giving the game a wide-open feel.

However, youíre not given free reign of L.A. from the start. Each section must be unlocked as you complete tasks for the competition as well as completing challenges given to you by Mindy, a local artist who has taken an interest in you. Youíll also run across other skaters, like Bam Margera and Bob Burnquist, who will also present you with challenges.

Aside from single-player experience, American Sk8land also includes multi-player support through Nintendoís newly unveiled WiFi service. After taking your DS online though a wireless service, you can hook up with other players online and play through familiar Tony Hawk multiplayer games like Trick Attack, Score Challenge or Combo Mambo. The online experience is very smooth, especially for a brand new service; plus it is a lot of fun if you can find the right person to play with.


Difficulty:

Tony Hawk's American Sk8land wonít put you through the paces like past Pro Skater games. While there are a number of tasks that keep the game challenging, especially when taking on the timed challenges in Classic mode, the game is very accessible to fans who may have found the console versions a little too complex. Of course, long time fans will still find some of the later challenges more up to their level; or they can jump online and look for competition.

Game Mechanics:

Once you get the hang of the control scheme, which is hampered more by the smallish buttons found in the DS, youíll find that tricks are very easy to pull off. A healthy learning curve is still present, but it doesnít feel all that steep Ė at least not when compared to other games in the series. And, being a DS game, American Sk8land makes full use of the bottom screen and does so without it feeling forced. Throughout the game, it will display a map of the area (which is REALLY helpful) as well as a set of pre-loaded tricks. The latter contributes to the less-than-steep learning curve found in the game and, at least as far as Iím concerned, helped to make the game more enjoyable.

Given the limitations of the DS, I wasnít expecting much out of American Sk8land when I first popped it in. And, as has been the case for most DS games Iíve thought this about, Iíve been proven wrong. While it is a tad on the easy side, Tony Hawkís American Sk8land is a great entry on the DS and an even better first-wave title for Nintendoís WiFi service.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Microsoft Xbox 360 Call of Duty 2 Sony PlayStation 2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare

 
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