Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 Review

Developer: Vicarious Visions Publisher: Activision
Release Date: October 4th, 2004 Also On: GCN, PS2, and Xbox

While the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Underground games have been successful on the Playstation 2, GameCube, and Xbox, the handheld versions of the games have had a lot of trouble drawing in fans of the bigger games. The Game Boy Advance versions have always been plagued with an isometric view that was acceptable back when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 came out, but now with the Nintendo DS and its 3D capabilities, I find it to be pure laziness that the handheld iteration of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 was ported sloppily to the Game Boy Advance.

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While the past games have been solid attempts to recreate the skateboarding experiences from the big-brother console games, Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 simply goes overboard with the amount of things that can be and need to be done in order to play the game. There are so many different maneuvers in the game that it is almost impossible to map everything to the GBA’s four-button setup. The Natas Spin is almost impossible to do, as you’ll basically have to be skating an inch away from an object to hop onto it. The Focus Mode is “conveniently� mapped to the L trigger, which happens to be the same button that operates your Flip Tricks. More often than not, I was Focusing when I was simply trying to kickflip. This results in a frustrating, sluggish, and forgettable experience that shames the otherwise impressive series.

In Underground 2 for the GBA, you’ll still skate around large levels that include Boston, Barcelona, Australia, and Skatopia—all ported and altered for the GBA—but basically, any sense of enjoyment that could be found in completing missions has been lost in the translation. While some challenges in the console version seemed repetitious, they can’t compare to the handheld game, where every level contains the same boring chores. Before I reached the game’s end, I had already collected SKATE and COMBO letters, played HORSE, and tagged graffiti locations more than I ever cared to do. The experience isn’t just boring—it’s painful.

The cramming doesn’t just end there. While the graphics are colorful and respectably detailed for a handheld game, they are simply too much for the game to handle, as the frame rate often drops when you skate through grass or a vehicle drives across the screen. The trick animations hold up nicely, but most of the animations are actually the same ones that have been in the handheld series since THPS2. Only to add to the jumbled mess is the awful music. While I find it interesting that Vicarious Visions managed to cram actual clips from the console version’s soundtrack, there are only four or five songs—meaning I hated “Rock and Roll High School� and “Break on Loose� within the first few hours of gameplay.

My personal opinions as a fan of the series (even the handheld predecessors) are very negative, as I feel this title simply overloads itself. While this plastic-encased junk is available for the Game Boy Advance, the developers are also working on a PlayStation Portable version that is fully-3D and even has parts that the console version didn’t have. I sit and ask, “Why couldn’t this have been on the DS?� Even with the isometric view, the graphics could have been better, the music could have been longer, and the gameplay might not have been so choppy. I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone, and if you’re looking for a roadside skateboarding game, wait for the PSP game or buy the GBA’s previous Hawk titles—they are much better than this game.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 5.5
Gameplay: 6.5
Creativity: 4.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 6.5
Final: 5.4
Written by Cliff Review Guide

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