I’m not a skater. I’ve never skated. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen a skateboard. The closest I’ve ever come to skater culture was a brief detour through a local skate park (read: concrete half-pipe covered in bird shit) around 2006, where a friend attempted to kick a discarded pumpkin and broke a toe. I can only assume the pumpkin’s presence places this incident around Halloween. The reason for the kick, however, has been lost to time. The friend in question has since installed Linux onto himself and folded out of existence, so I can’t ask. Though I imagine it was over a girl, as that tends to be how it goes when you’re a hormonal heterosexual teenage boy. It’s all girls and punting pumpkins in my experience.
More to the point, I haven’t touched a Tony Hawk game—or any skating game, for that matter—since around that time. I played the ever-loving heck out of Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland for the Nintendo GameCube. I remember liking that game. I liked the games that preceded it, too, as I recall from brief encounters with it at friends’ houses and those grody test unit podiums at GAME. But new games were a rarity as a kid, and I preferred an altogether different kind of grinding. (This is an RPG joke, not a sex thing. I apologise.)
If you’re a long-time fan, or at the very least carry treasured memories of those first two instalments in the Pro Skater series, the bottom line is this: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is so perfect a reconstruction of the games you knew and loved all those years ago, a review is almost worthless to you. It’s as if Vicarious Visions reached into your brain and precisely replicated your rose-tinted memories. These are the exact same games you think you remember, only beautiful. This is entirely praise. Vicarious Visions have set a new bar (or grind rail, am I right Hawksters? Gnarly) for remasters, surpassing even the exemplary efforts of Bluepoint on their 2018 Shadow of the Colossus remaster. Everything is where you left it back in ’99. You don’t really need to be reading this at all. But stick around, though! Click some other links. Engage, baby. Daddy JumpCut gotta eat.
If you’re not too familiar with all things S-K-A-T-E, I’ll put it like this: Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 1+2 is Super Mario 64 on wheels. Ordinarily I wouldn’t elaborate further, but word from up top is that it’s “literally my job,” that old get-out.
It’s Super Mario 64 on wheels because, like Super Mario 64, Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 1+2 is a series of open sandbox geometry playgrounds in which one must employ and often master their repertoire of traversal abilities in order to achieve a number of objectives. It’s elegant in its simplicity. It’s sheer self-expression.
Assuming you’re not one of the people who have had the layout and item placement of every level permanently etched into their brain since 1999 (thanks for sticking around), you’ll probably clumsily cheese your way to many of these goals initially; haphazardly, inelegantly, and without an ounce of style. And that’s fine, I guess. You wouldn’t be cheating the game, but you may be cheating yourself.
That’s where the near-infinite replayability comes in. Sure, you managed to pick up that last Secret Tape, but you looked and felt like a damn fool doing it. You grabbed that thing by the skin of your teeth and you know it. You’ve got something to prove, so you tackle it again. And again. And again. Perfection is the name of the game, because Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 1+2 is also Sonic the Hedgehog on wheels.
In its easy to learn, difficult to master, high score-chasing simplicity, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is video games. On wheels. It’s OLD SKOOL… to the MAX!
Move with the analogue stick. Gain speed holding X. Release to jump. Triangle grinds, with each of the directional buttons applying a modifier to your grind. The same applies to the flip tricks done with the Square button and the grab tricks you pull off with Circle. Combinations of tricks yield higher scores and bigger boosts to your SPECIAL meter. Once your SPECIAL meter is full, you are able to pull off any special moves your skater has equipped. This is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 boiled down to its essentials, and mastering these essentials is you learning how to walk.
The fan favourite Create-A-Skater feature returns, and it’s something of a mixed bag. The lack of body types is disappointing, as is the way you are only able to select from a number of preset faces, to which I have given nicknames such as “Morlock” and “3am Bus Stop.” Unless you’re “lucky” and find a pre-set that resembles you (I am so, so sorry. I’m sure you’re funny), you’re not going to be replicating your own beautiful visage. But in terms of attire and customisation, there’s a lot to choose from, with many real-world skating-adjacent brands present and correct. These are purchased from the in-game shop with in-game currency, with new purchase options made available as you level up. There are no microtransactions present at the time of writing, though this may be subject to change. Let us not forget the shady shenanigans afoot in the last Activision-Blizzard remaster; microtransactions were added to Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fuelled after launch, once the game’s review scores had been secured. (Rest assured that should this be the case with Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 1+2, this review and its score will be updated to reflect this change.)
The Create-A-Park mode also returns, and the repository of user-created content is already replete with extraordinary and absurd creations for you to skate around in. That’s an ostensibly infinite number of levels! It’d be great to see this expanded in the future, but as it stands, it’s still a robust and accessible level creation kit that’s sure to keep people coming back long after the initial buzz has died down and we’re all disappointed by Cyberpunk 2077.
In true 1999 spirit, Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 1+2 sports a strong suite of local multiplayer options. Owing to the fact that there’s still a great deal of uncertainty about contact with people from other households due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, and the somewhat related fact of me having no friends to speak of, I relied heavily on my partner in reviewing this part of the experience. Having never played a skating game before, she jumped into the comprehensive tutorial, voiced by the eponymous Skate Lord himself, in order to get a grasp of the basics before we began.
Now, before we go any further, you should all know something. This is likely blasphemy to many, but the first thing I did when starting Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 was turn the soundtrack off. I doubt there’s a playlist out there that is less my personal jam than this soundtrack. I am just not Fresh enough, not even close to gnarly.
So, once she’d replaced the dismal soundtrack with the slightly-more-tolerable buttrock stylings of her beloved Blink-182 (Mark Hoppus, if you’re reading this: you’re her celebrity concession, and we’re open to talks), she was on her way. Unfortunately, the game had the peculiar effect of inflicting her with an extreme bout of motion sickness. I genuinely thought she was going to blow chunks.
Now, the Video Games Professional in me would have liked to attempt it again at a later date. However, the Person Who Feels Empathy in me prevented this. I mean, can you imagine?
“Hey, how was your absurdly long shift, for which you were stood up the whole time having to deal with the general public? That bad, huh? He did what!? Damn. Anyway, will you spend your evening playing the video game that made you feel physically ill?”
It’s not happening, Gamers.
So, I took drastic measures. I did what I did back when I was stranded in a foreign country, where I didn’t speak the language, with a never-present pyramid-scheme-thrall of a “parent” who never engaged with my interests: I simply hooked up two controllers. It sure is some local-co-op! As much as I would have loved to have examined each and every mode in detail, the fact is it’s “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2+Friend.” You really can’t go wrong with that.
[A copy of Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 1+2 was provided by the publisher for review.]