Skateboarding didn't used to be a crime.
Novelty controllers are all over the place these days, from the Wii to Rock Band to DJ Hero. Other franchises have given us maracas, conga drums, floor mats, steering wheels, light guns, and even fishing rods, so perhaps it was inevitable that I would end up here one day, perched atop an electronic skateboard. Unfortunately, this is not a vantage I can recommend. Trust me, you should really hold out for the virtual pants.
[image1]Tony Hawk: Ride puts you once again in the Vans of a young gromet, out to make a name for himself in the world of pro-skateboarding. By beating a series of challenges by doing tricks, racking up high scores, and winning timed races, you'll open new areas, new events, and eventually become world famous.
Sound familiar? At least that part of the formula stays close to the Tony Hawk roots. From here on out, however, you can chuck the book right out the window because the game can only be played using that aforementioned toy controller. And I call it a toy on purpose because while the board feels solidly built, it just doesn't work very well.
Ollies and nollies are easy enough to do, and control exactly as you would expect – just tilt the board a bit and hold it there. Performing a random trick is similarly easy, as you can simply waggle the board around any way you please to do some impressive looking stunts. Heck, on easy mode, where your skater automatically rolls along a good path, even a dog can play it. Awww... so cute, and he looks like he's having fun too.
However, even that dog won't find any fun in the game's Challenge modes because they require you to do specific tricks in specific places, which is fairly impossible due to the board interpreting your movements any way it damn well pleases. This includes both the movement of the board and the sensors that are supposedly able to detect your hand movement for grabs. If, or rather, when you fail any one specific trick, it's a loading screen (blessedly short, as you'll see it a lot) and back to the beginning of the challenge.
[image2]The difficulty is only highlighted when you turn the game up to “confident” or higher and have to control the speed and direction of the board, along with the tricks. Frustrating doesn't begin to describe it.
Even when you finally beat one of the increasingly impossible challenges, you get no sense of accomplishment. You simply feel lucky and relieved you don't have to muddle through it again. Even if you've done it once, you can't count on doing it again with any success.
The Race mode fares better, sending you Downhill Jam-style towards a goal, with powerups along the course to reduce your time. However, it's criminally easy in easy mode, so here you'll want to ramp it up. Oddly, though it's not particularly fun, Race is still easily the best mode.
Trick mode, which puts you in standard environments and occasional half-pipes, looks fun, but isn't thanks to the random trick factor. You'll almost never feel like the trick onscreen is what you intended to do. It looks impressive, but randomly waggling the board and achieving a high score feels less interactive than whack-a-mole.
Strangely, the most half-assed part of this half-assed game is the unbelievably bad (T-Mobile branded) interface. Before every single event you'll have to set the board to regular or goofy-footed, and unbelievably, you actually can't say no when you're asked to "Try again?". You have to try again (yep, loading screen) and then hit pause mid-try in order to shuffle awkwardly back to the main menu. Sometimes you can get through the menus using the board; other times, the game will force you to grab a controller for no reason I can figure out.
[image3]Oh, and in case the T-Mobile thing didn't make this game seem like it was half a marketing ploy, just off the top of my head, I can recall even more branding for Vans, Nike, Mountain Dew, and Stride... which I believe is gum. Don't buy it.
Alright, so it's not entirely broken, and you can get better at using the board with enough practice. But that's the problem: You can only get better, you can't actually get good. You know, where you can reliably go where you want to and pull off the trick you want to, like you can in every other Tony Hawk game.
However, the final “try to grind the railing only to take a vicious shot to the nuts” is the price: $120. Ouch. I can buy any number of better games and stack them on a real skateboard with that kind of cash.
Tony Hawk: Ride is approximately the two thousandth in the long-running series of games that has allowed the hawkman to build himself a private skate park made of solid gold in his back yard. Therefore, I still really must applaud it for trying something new and innovative. Attempting a trick and falling painfully is still worth praising, because that's the only way you'll eventually land it. Fellas, I am genuinely sorry that it didn't work out, but I still hope you try it again someday.