Still haven’t found Animal Chin.
Well, it’s official. After about a fifteen year lay off (since the arcade smash
720), skateboarding is making a comeback as a viable video game genre.
The reason? Four words: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
THPS took the gaming world by storm last year, capturing countless game
of the year awards (including Game Revolution’s PSX Game of The Year)
and selling like hotcakes. Rightfully so, I might add. It’s simply one of the
best games to grace the Playstation.
Grind Session, however, isn’t. That’s not to say that Sony’s highly
imitative skateboarding game is a failure. In fact, it offers several cool features
not found in any other skating game, THPS included. But bells and whistles
do not a great game make, and even Grind Session‘s hard-ass attitude
cannot deal with mediocrity… uh… dude.
The game features a number of ‘pro’ skaters, though only die-hard skate fanatics
will recognize John Cardiel, Daewon Song, Willy Santos or the aptly named Pigpen.
Most gamers could care less about this kind of thing anyway, as the game itself
is the star.
Grind Session simply has a ton of gameplay features. You can
participate in a Tournament to open new levels, practice moves in Free Skate,
test your skills in Endurance mode, or compete with up to 16 (!) friends in
5 different turn-based multiplayer games.
Each level has 4 goals to fulfill: Score Trick points, Pro points, Vandal points
and complete Tech Lines. Doing so gains you Respect points, which then open
up more levels and goodies.
Yes, I said ‘Respect’ points. Because, after all, skating is all about earning
respect. Oh, and vandalizing.
Knocking over boxes, trashcans, bottles or whatever other debris litters the
level scores Vandal points. Ah yes, a reward for being “bad.” I can just see
the suits dreaming that one up: “Hey Bob! I got a fabbo idea! Y’know, those
skater kids are always breaking things and being a nuisance, right? So let’s
make being BAD a GOOD thing! That would be good! I mean bad! You know how those
wacky kids talk! Harharhar! Anyway, it would be keen! Let’s have a meeting.”
Ugh. Spare me the transparent attitude next time, ‘kay Bob?
One new feature introduced in Grind Session is the Tech Line. While
you can skate just about anywhere, certain ledges, ramps, or objects are strung
together into technical lines. Completing a full line gives you added time.
This is a very cool way of nudging the gamer into exploring parts of the levels
that might normally be missed.
is all about control, and it is here where Grind Session eats some pavement.
While the button layout and trick system is intuitive (i.e. just like THPS),
the physics are wacky and unrealistic. You’ll often float through the air like
a feather. Grinding rails is very unsatisfying, as your board barely looks likes
it’s touching anything. Frankly, the game doesn’t feel like skating.
Though it does look like it. The graphics are adequate, if hardly comparable
to that other game (okay, okay, that’s the last reference – maybe.) The
skaters look decent, though a bit ragged around the edges. The framerate is
not great and occasionally things get choppy. But most of this is due to the
limited Playstation power, as Grind Session packs a lot of stuff into
The level design is very good, with a variety of hard to reach places that
will truly test your skating skills. Several of the levels have hidden areas,
so exploration is key.
Grind Session is difficult. Trying to meet the requirements to pass
each level is daunting, and I still have no idea how to reach some of the astronomical
Pro point totals. Practice makes perfect, but perfection also requires patience,
something you’ll quickly run out of when attempting to nail all of the tech
lines in one level over and over again.
The depth is really impressive. After completing the levels, you’ll eventually
open up your mansion, [Is that anything like Barbie’s Dream House? ~Ed]
which then requires you to perfect the levels to gain keys, which in turn are
used to open doors in the house to gain coins, which are then presumably used
to buy more coffee to keep you awake as you play this much Grind Session.
But you gotta give ’em credit for effort.
The variety continues as the game also comes packaged with a Create-a-skater
feature. While you can customize your move list, you can’t tweak your skater’s
appearance or skills, leaving a lot to be desired.
What would a skating game be without music? For starters, it would be much
more quiet, and in many ways, more enjoyable. This one comes packaged with a
good mix of punk and rap, including Black Flag, NOFX, KRS-One, and Dr. Octagon.
Really gets you in the mood to score some more Vandal points! Yeah, Beavis!
Knock over more trashcans! Yeah! Woohoo! I’m an angry skater, and I don’t like
The Man, or his damn trashcans!
Grind Session has enough depth and gameplay features to warrant a try,
and in the end is a decent game. But compared to the Pro Skater, this
is an amateur.