Platform Reviewed: Nintendo DS
Say what you will about Activision using and abusing the Tony Hawk license, but they’ve always managed to make a good game of it. Whether it was the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater titles or the THUG series, you had to give Activision and Neversoft points for trying to add something new to the license every time. Like Grand Theft Auto, the changes would never be defined as groundbreaking, but they’d always add some new element. Now with Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam for the DS, they’re at it again – this time switching things up by taking players out of the skateparks and urban areas, and putting them on huge downhills.
Anyone who’s played Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land, last year’s Hawk title for the DS, will quickly recognize most of the key elements in Downhill Jam. The graphics, artwork, sound and general gameplay are all still there. What’s new is the downhill element, which has players performing tricks as they careen down insane hills on the outskirts of major cities. This means lots of speed, and with the added “boost” feature, the game is almost too fast to play at times.
Like all other Tony Hawk games, this one is all about using combos of the d-pad, button presses and the ollie button to flip, spin and otherwise trick your way through the levels. The problem arises (and I know others have brought this up, too) when you need to boost. You see, most players are used to holding down the ollie button to gain speed, then releasing it to pop off a jump. Problem is, it’s nigh impossible to hold down boost and ollie at the same time, thus limiting how big of a trick you can go for in boost mode. Boosts, by the way, work just like burnouts did in the Burnout games. Pull big tricks and you’ll increase the boost meter, then unleash boost for more points and speed.
One of the key elements of the Tony Hawk license has always been the various challenges. Remember collecting tapes in the original games? Well, at least those were objectives that were attainable, because some of the challenges in Downhill Jam are downright evil and nearly impossible, and the worst part is – you can’t skip many of these artificially difficult challenges.
As with American Sk8land, Downhill Jam has a great customization system. You can trick out your character, while also customizing your board and character skills.
We should all bow down and kiss Activision’s behind for having the foresight to include online multiplayer in all the Tony Hawk DS titles. While you may not find thousands of matches at any time, there’s still plenty of online action available, and the various game modes ensure you’ll have plenty of fun. Scores are synced up with an online ladder, so you can show off your chops to your friends.
Downhill Jam is a good game, just not an awesome one. Its speed-freak obsessive gameplay can get frustrating, as can the control layout and overly difficult challenges, but in the end, it’s pretty fun, and will be a welcome addition to your DS library if you like skateboarding games.
- Overall: 7.5
- A few quirks and maybe a bit too fast at times, but overall, an enjoyable game.