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Tony Hawk's Proving Ground

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Multicard)
Genre: Sports (Extreme)

Graphics & Sound:

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground is okay visually. I've seen better looking games with smoother lines on the system, but there have also been a lot worse.

The environments tend to have a fairly open feel to them, but there were a couple of times when that openness was more of an illusion. Even when that's the case, there is quite a lot of detail in the levels and textures to really sell the feel of the environment.

As for the characters, that's where some of the game's graphical issues are noticeable. I found that several of the other characters that I ran into tended to blend together, even Tony Hawk's model didn't really look that much like him.

The game's music is, quite frankly, annoying. I found the rock-like noises coming from my DS' speakers to be rough and hard to listen to. It wasn't long before I turned the sound all the way down. Most of the time, the background music does its job when you don't really pay attention to it while the sound is on, but feel like something's missing when it's off. The reverse seems to be the case here.


I've never really been a big player of the Tony Hawk games. I think, of all of the different ones from this license that have come out, I've played, or watched someone play, two or three of them, and they never really held my interest. I have to say, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground falls in pretty much the same category for me.

This game has three gameplay modes where you can jump onto a skateboard and perform various tricks. Story Mode is where you will spend most of your time in Proving Ground. It is here where you will go from Philly to DC to Baltimore meeting up with various world-renowned skaters performing tricks and increasing your street rep. The game has a somewhat RPG quality to it in that the challenges you choose to take on will make you a either Professional Skater who competes in official demos (like Tony Hawk) or a street-based Hardcore skater.

Classic and Free Skate are the side modes that will let you either take on specific challenges in a quick-play style or just have fun in an open environment. These modes are really good if you feel like you aren't quite good enough to progress in the Story and you need just a little more practice getting used to the game's controls. This is something I found I had to do quite frequently.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground has another Menu option of note, Skate Lounge. This is where you will take the money and experience you've earned while in the other modes and customize your character with new clothes. Here you can also edit your character's logo and, probably most importantly, edit your personal Skate Park. Unfortunately, I found the Skate Park Editor to be one of the most difficult parts of this game to get the hang of. Objects can only be placed in very limited locations and the general mechanics of actually picking a ramp and placing it on the screen makes the experience all but useless.


I have to say, if there is one thing Tony Hawk's Proving Ground does right, its balance. I found that the missions did a pretty good job of gradually ramping up throughout the Story. I never felt like the task ahead of me was too much greater than the one I just completed, but I could tell there was a general upward trend.

Besides the generally well balanced feel of the game, Proving Ground handles difficulty in a slightly different manner than most games. While the game does have three different settings, they are not some option you choose before starting the Story Mode. You can earn an Amateur, Pro or Sick rating in pretty much any mission. The higher the ranking, the more difficult the tasks. These different ranks typically involve the same action, just doing it for different lengths of time.

For instance, if you are given the task of grinding down a curb, a certain length will earn you an Amateur rank, a bit longer will win you Pro, and after a jump and a bit more grinding you will gain a rank of Sick for that particular task. So while there isn't a set Easy, Medium and Hard setting, the modes are built into the gameplay itself, which feels much more natural.

Game Mechanics:

I can't really believe I'm saying this, but it seems like the DS just doesn't have enough buttons for Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. Why I find this unusual for me to say is because I am a major advocate using as few buttons as possible. If there is one thing I hate, it's a PC game that tries to use the entire keyboard. Anyway, Proving Ground goes in the opposite direction. Buttons are very context-based and switch meanings frequently, or at least it feels that way.

I found the biggest hurdle in this game was remembering to use the D-pad to balance while in a manual, but only after tapping (Up) then (Down) or (Down) then (Up) for different types of manuals; meanwhile, if you jump, those buttons are used to perform various air-based tricks. This game is filled with a lot confused controls that just really got my fingers and thumbs all tied up.

Proving Ground, like most Tony Hawk games, is for a very specific audience, namely, players who are already fans of extreme-sports based games. If you are the type to play other skateboarding or BMX games, then Proving Ground is pretty much right up your alley; otherwise, you should probably pass this title up.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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