When midnight hit and the calendar rolled over to the 4th of September, my PS4 kindly letting me know that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 was ready to play and in my head I said to myself “so am I!”. It had been years since the last time I played a Tony Hawk game, a franchise that dominated my teenage days and seeped into every aspect of my life at that time. My music taste was full of bands I first hear in Tony Hawk games, I was an avid viewer of all things Jackass and related media and, most importantly, I never tried to skate. I knew my limits and although I was jealous at those who could skate I still appreciated the art form. So when I booted the game up and those first few notes of Goldfinger’s ‘Superman’ hit, I started grinning from ear to ear. That grin never went away throughout my entire time playing this game.

The odd thing is that I never really played the Pro Skater line of Tony Hawk games. I had THPS 2 on the Game Boy Advance, a version of the game that is surprisingly decent (and might be worth a revisit soon). I also briefly had THPS 1 on the PS1 but I bought it post-Underground and could never get into it, thus selling my copy of the game almost immediately. I regret this immensely. Still, I don’t have the nostalgia that some people have for this game and while I have dabbled in the older games here and there since I’ve never truly delved deep into the formative years of the Birdman’s skating franchise. I started with Underground and played up to and including Proving Grounds (which I could never finish because my PS2 copy was busted).

The excitement of having a new old Tony Hawk game was all I needed though, in a way this was going to be a brand new experience for me. Yet the game still feels familiar and natural and within minutes I was back on the daily grind except in this case it’s a skateboarding grind and that’s much better. The controls feel exactly how I remember them being – and that is impressive because it means that they have been tweaked to fit modern standards but without it feeling jarringly different. It only FEELS like how I remember them being in those latter Tony Hawk games and that’s taking rose-tinted glasses into account. Vicarious Visions absolutely nailed how a Tony Hawk game should play in 2020.

These are two faithful remakes and those who know these games like the back of their hand will be right at home here. For me it took a little while to learn the locations and how to complete each goal. Every stage has ten goals and they follow a certain formula. There will be three score targets – High Score, Pro Score and Sick Score in that order – which are fairly self explanatory. You get points by doing tricks and you can link multiple tricks together with manuals on the ground, grinding rails and reverting off an aerial move on a pipe. These are combos and there is a goal to get a certain score within one combo. These are generally the first goals I’ll always go for and let me tell you, you get good real quick at balancing while grinding or manualing. Whenever you do these moves a bar will pop up with an arrow that indicates how balanced your skater is – the goal is to keep the arrow in the middle but it will become more unstable as time goes on. Luckily you can increase stats to make that easier but more on that later.

This website is now sponsored by Monster Energy (it’s not, but I want them too).

Other goals require exploration of the level and usually require you to find or smash five of something and finding the hidden tape somewhere fairly hard to reach. Some goals require you to complete gaps in a certain way – gaps are certain jumps and grinds that the game deems to be cool and completing them will increase your combo. Some goals may require you to complete these gaps while doing a certain move which means you gotta get experimenting with your moveset if you want to learn how to do these moves. All of these goals are designed to make you explore the game fully, both in the levels themselves and the games mechanics.

It all builds up to the competition levels where you have one minute to get the highest score possible to be judged. If you bail – fall of your board – then you will be penalised points. Once you get used to making combos and learning the best time to use your special moves – signature moves that all skaters have that can only be done if you fill up your SPECIAL meter by doing normal tricks – these competitions become really fun. Even if the timer runs out, if you are in the middle of a combo you can continue that until you either complete the combo or fall over. You then get judged with a perfect score being 99.9. Yeah, I got one of those… on literally the last competition. I succeed in reverse.

You unlock new levels by completing these goals, with a special level at the end once you’ve completed every goal in the respective game. In addition, thrown around all the levels are a bunch of stat upgrades that you can collect with each skater to increase their stats to your liking. If you plan on doing every little challenge in the game then you will have to collect every stat boost with every skater on every level.

Once your done with the levels and you think you’re done, the game goes “no way, no way” and points you to the direction of the challenges. You complete a lot of these as you progress through the game and they range from playing around with the create-a-park mode, completing levels and include around 21 challenges for every skater in the game. If you’re a completionist – god bless your soul. There are over 700 challenges and through a basic playthrough and playing around in each mode I unlocked about 70 of them. If you are truly dedicated to the task you’ll be playing this game for a very long time so you’d at least be getting value for your money.

This will be a nightmare for completionists…

Every skater from the original is represented here but instead of looking like shiny versions of themselves from their heyday, they put in the skaters as they look today which is kinda neat considering there are a bunch of new skaters in the game too thus drawing the line between the classic and new skaters. It is cool to be able to play as some of my favourite skateboarders again like Bob Burnquist (who is my personal favourite) and Rodney Mullen but it’s also cool to see the new generation get a proper introduction to the series outside of the abysmal Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 like Riley Hawk, Nyjah Huston and Lizzie Armanto – all of whom appeared in some of the latter less remembered (for better or worse) games in the franchise.

Create-A-Skater is back and is still pretty cool, not the most comprehensive character creator out there but it does the trick pretty well. A cool thing they’ve implemented (or I guess, not implemented) is that none of the options are locked to gender meaning anyone can truly express themselves via their virtual avatar. In addition, an effort was made to change the name of the ‘Mute’ grab to the ‘Weddle’ – the original name was in reference to Chris Weddle, a deaf skateboarder who invented the move. Other skaters referred to him as the “quiet, mute guy” and the name stuck. Apparently Tony Hawk himself asked Weddle what he’d like to call the move instead hence why we now have the Weddle grab. His other suggestion was apparently ‘The Deaf’ to more accurately describe his impairment but I think they went with the right choice.

I can’t believe I’ve gone over 1,300 words without much reference to the music in this game. This is an absolutely brilliant soundtrack with them able to bring back most of the songs from the original two games whilst again bringing in some new blood to flesh it out a little, much like they did with the skater choice. It’s truly taking the best of the old and the new to bring us the definitive version of the game for a 2020 audience. Classic songs like ‘Superman’, ‘Cyco Vision’, ‘Guerilla Radio’ and of course ‘When Worlds Collide’ by Powerman 5000 are all here but the new kids on the block (no, not the band…sadly) are mostly worthy additions to the soundtrack too with some legendary bands like A Tribe Called Quest, Sublime and Reel Big Fish joining forces with newer acts like FIDLAR, DZ Deathrays and Machine Gun Kelly in his more pop punk phase not feeling out of place at all.

Once you’ve beaten either THPS 1 or 2 you get access to Game Mods, basically replacing some of the cheats from the original. If you just want to skate without worrying about falling over and embarrassing yourself then you can turn these on and become a literal skating deity. There’s also graphical mods that change the way the game looks if you’re into that sort of thing (I’m not) and mods that change your skater to be either really tall or really small if you’re into that sort of thing (I am).

This game is fantastic. Any issues I have while playing are largely chalked up to me not knowing where the last bell I need to wallride on School II to beat it, or occasionally my skater will get caught up in something and start going in the opposite direction I want him to go. The create-a-park mode is a really fun mode that I only did to complete a challenge but it is a lot of fun to see what other people with actual talent can make. I guess if I have any complaints it is that Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 left me wanting more, and that is the best complaint I can make at a game. If they announced a 3 + 4 or even an Underground remake or even better – a REAL Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 in this style, other than the mythical one that some people insist exists but I’m not sure I believe them.

Oh, and I don’t really like Downhill Jam that much. It’s the worst level by far but the fact it is the only level that I would say I only enjoyed a little is still saying a lot of good things to how strong a lot of the other levels are.

Small Combo

This is probably my 2nd favourite game of the year, just behind Final Fantasy VII Remake (I apparently hated originality in 2020) and it’s easy to see why. THPS is just pure fun and it’s familiar enough fun to feel all nice and warm, even someone who played later games in the series is still drawn into the late 90s/early 00s charm of it all. Yet it feels so fresh especially since there hasn’t been a good Tony Hawk game in over a decade that it’s comeback story is exciting to watch. I really want more these games in the future and they have a really strong base already if they want to make a new one (or more remakes).

In the year of the COVID, having something like Tony Hawk Pro Skater is comforting. A reminder of better days and hopefully a sign of better days to come. It sounds silly to put all that onto a remake of two games I never played much of but I just felt super happy and chilled whenever I put this game on. It’s taken 20 years but I’ve finally experienced this particular slice of gaming heaven and when the time comes, I will be ready for seconds. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 might have been one of the worst games of this generation, but Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 manages to be in the top tier.


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