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Players: 1 - 2
Developer: SuperVillain Studios
But before going any further, I have to mention that this review was a completely different beast when I first started writing it; there were negative comments lined up one after another. But then I kept on playing the game and kept on playing the game, and realized that Downhill Jam's racing was actually pretty fun and very intense. I found myself enjoying the experience as a gamer, rather than playing the game as a reviewer. Now there’s one golden rule to reviewing: If the game is replayable and fun, despite being bad, you can’t give it a bad score. And in this case, even though there were times when the character would get jammed in between a split, or would turn around while trying to go up a ramp at full speed, or would fly off a rail and magically spin in the air and head back the other way, the game was still an enjoyable laugh-riot.
And much like previous games in the Tony Hawk series, the controls are rather straightforward, consisting of grinding, grabbing the board in mid-air or kicking the competition when they get too close...well, you couldn’t always beat up the competition, but you get my drift. The whole point of this game, though, is to challenge gamers with various objectives while skating downhill. In the single-player portion of the game, players will pick or create a character (male or female) and proceed to unlock new tasks, characters, bonus videos and race tracks by completing any of the tasks in a tier. Conveniently enough this game is very long, and that’s mostly due to all the different objectives that must be completed in each tier. Some of these objectives range from performing tricks to reach a specific high-score, beating on as many pedestrians as possible, or racing slalom against the clock I could also go on all day about the small details of playing this character, racing on such-and-such track and unlocking this-or-that item, but instead I’ll keep it short and say that there’s a lot to unlock and tons of replay with the way the single-player game is setup.
As for the actual downhill racing...the game is fast, it’s fun, it’s goofy and most importantly, it’s entertaining. Pulling off tricks is extremely easy and there's a general arcade feel to the racing. There's no simulation skating here folks. The tracks are also setup to embrace the game's arcade feel with constant grinding and continuous opportunities for pulling off tricks. It's overly easy to come in the top 3 of any event, but that's not to say that some stages pose worthy challenges...if not sometimes teeth-grinding frustration. Yet once you hit that downhill starting-line ramp, it's all about maintaining speed and trying to win. In a way, it's how arcade racing games should be.
When it comes to the multiplayer modes there’s a good variety, but it’s only one-on-one battles between two players, a down-grade from the four-player mayhem on the Wii. So the fun – while exuberantly present – isn’t quite as long lasting as it could have been if, say, there was a four-player mode or at least the option to play online. Nevertheless, everything that can be unlocked in the single-player portion of the game carries over to the two-player portion of the game. This includes characters, racing environments and additional modes of play. The only thing that can’t be used in a two player game is a created character. Yep, that’s right....after spending time learning to master their skills you can’t compete against another player with your custom character. Is that bogus or what?
The sound in the game is a mixed bag for the auricular palate, but if you’re not into the monster-voice rock anthems or hip-hop street-punk tunes, there’s a playlist option to pick and choose what songs that play during the game. It’s about as good as it can get given the hardware’s inability to house custom soundtracks, but if it’s really that important then you should just save up and buy a PS3. As for the in-game sound effects, they are the standard fare that resonant according to the environment. There’s also some friendly taunting from the other competitors mixed in with the common dings, plings, bings and boing sounds that come with pulling off tricks or achieving certain combos.
Overall, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam for the PS2 isn’t a great game. However the simple one-on-one two-player modes, extended single-player objectives, custom character features, unlockable content and fast downhill racing round this game out with an acceptable enough appeal. If you’re looking for a simple, fun, weekend romp through a Chicago mall or the streets of San Francisco, without being ticketed and hauled off to jail, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam wouldn’t make for a bad rental at all.
Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam Review