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Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

Score: 86%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Toys for Bob
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Sports (Extreme)

Graphics & Sound:

While the other systems have seen editions of Project 8, the Wii is seeing a completely new spin on the Tony Hawk franchise with Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam. While it could crudely be referred to as “SSX on Wheels”, Downhill Jam is a little more than that.

Visually, Downhill Jam goes for a more over-the-top look than other pro-skater games. Sure it doesn’t look like Project 8, but it is a completely different game and really doesn’t need to look ultra-realistic. The garish art style fits the game’s character really well and is likeable. Animations are smooth and the transition between tricks lacks that robotic, jarring feel. Levels have just as much personality as the skaters, both of which contribute to a fun atmosphere.

The game’s soundtrack is nothing short of awesome. About forty licensed tracks are available and include artists like White Zombie, Iron Maiden and Motorhead. Even better, you can create a custom soundtrack list, so if there’s a song or two you don’t care for, you can remove it from rotation. The only problem is a lack of a preview feature; so if you’re like me and not very good with titles, you might overlook one or two songs you actually like.

You also have some really oddball commentary during races as well as comments from other skaters.


Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam is split between single and multiplayer modes, though single player is where most of the fun is. Multiplayer is simply something that is there, but without online gameplay, can be problematic.

In Downhill Challenge, you can play as one of 12 made-up skaters (Tony Hawk is the only real-life pro in the game) or choose to create your own. Each skater has his or her own attributes like speed and balance.

Races all begin the same way – at the top of a hill. The object is to skate down and either be the first to cross the finish line or, depending on the race type, complete one of several other challenges. These include trick challenges or reaching checkpoints. As you race down the hill, you’ll come across shortcuts that can give you the upper hand by either shortening your route to the end of the race or by giving you a few new places to trick from.

Downhill Challenge is spread between 8 real world locations like Scotland and Tokyo. At first the number seems small, but as you progress through challenges, new tracks and routes are unlocked. You’ll also unlock new decks that will further enhance your skills. In short, despite appearances, there’s a lot of game here.

Again, multiplayer doesn’t offer a lot, but it is there if you want it. Six multiplayer games are available, though the split-screen presentation makes it hard to play unless you have a really big TV.


The most difficult aspect of Downhill Jam is learning the controls. If you played Excite Truck, the learning curve is significantly smaller, but is still there. Compared to other Tony Hawk games, the trick system is a little easier to learn. I found myself fumbling around with the controls less and moves seemed to work better. This led to an easier time building up combos. It still takes skill, practice and timing though – so don’t expect to blaze through races quickly.

Your skater’s growth and progression also ties into learning curve. The better your skater’s stats, the easier it is to pull off more complicated moves or get the jump on other skaters in races.

Game Mechanics:

The big question is, of course, how does Downhill Jam use the Wii-mote? The set up is similar to Excite Truck’s; no nunchuck is needed and the controller is held sideways, similar to the old NES controller. Tilting the controller left or right turns while pressing the 2 button causes you to crouch and gain speed. If you haven’t played any of the Wii racing games, the tilt can take some time to perfect. Your first instinct is to tilt the controller all the way, but all it really takes is subtle movement. Once you have this down, it is really all about pushing buttons and timing.

Releasing the 2 button pulls off an ollie, which launches you into the air. Once there, you can tilt the controller to spin or press 2 in combination with the D-pad to pull off tricks. Similar to other Tony Hawk games, the object is to link together as many moves as possible. Though the number of button combinations may seem limited, there are plenty of moves available, ranging from flips, to wall rides, to even attacking other skaters. As you pull off combos, a meter fills. Once it has enough juice, you can waggle the Wii-mote to produce a short burst of speed. Pulling off combos also fills up another meter that, when charged, enables you to pull off skater-specific moves by pressing A and either 1 or 2.

Reinventing a franchise, especially one that has been around as long as Tony Hawk, is always risky. While the downhill racing style may not appeal to every fan of the series, it is still a fun side-story and one of the more entertaining games in the Wii’s launch line-up.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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