Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (iPhone) Review
Teach your iPhone to spell S-K-A-T-E...
One of the toughest questions I've been asked about video games seems like it would be one of the easiest to answer: What is your favorite game of all time? After 25 years knee-deep in this hobby, it is extremely difficult to single out my single favorite title. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!!, Resident Evil 4, Pokemon, Kingdom Hearts, Darksiders, Super Mario 64, Mass Effect 2, Actraiser, Patapon, Contra, Mega Man 2, Super Metroid with so many great titles under my belt, how can I be expected to choose a favorite? In addition to these favorites (and the countless others I either forgot or left off because the list was getting too long), one title always seems to come up as one of the best Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. The PS1 sequel was, at the time, arguably the best "sports" title ever created, and its amazing soundtrack, addictive, twitch-based gameplay and eons-long replay made it the solitary reason for more missed classes, ignored papers and shunned friends than I care to remember. I even recall thinking how glad I was that the game didn't have a running clock, as seeing a save file with hundreds of hours of logged gameplay would have been more upsetting than a source of pride. It's been a few years since THPS2 infected my every spare second of free time, and the game has now been resurrected on the iPhone. Can this port to a buttonless device hope to recapture the magic and precision of the revered original? And why wasn't it released as a PSN Classic, which would have made way too much sense?
Sadly, I can answer only the first of those two queries. Much to my surprise, THPS2 actually works on the iPhone. Not as well as it did as a PS1 title, or as well as it could as a PSN download (I'm anxiously awaiting the day when the PSP will become my portable Tony Hawk lifeline), but it does work. Whether you are a fan or not, you'll have to admit that the virtual d-pad of the iPhone is in top form, as are the "buttons" you'll be using to rack up them high scores. Ollie, grind, grab and flip are arranged much like they were on the PS1 controller, and once you acclimate to where your fingers should be, you'll be completing challenges and breaking records in no time. I did find, however, that some of the grinds I worked so hard to string together in the PS1 version don't work as well here, mostly because of the too-complicated-for-a-virtual-d-pad actions required to pull off special moves. The combo-linking manuals suffer the same fate, but with a little practice the highest of scores is achievable. Even with these two hiccups (it isn't impossible to recreate the performance of the PS1 controller per se, but it is very, very difficult), this is as near to the Tony Hawk experience as you'll find on any handheld right now.
As a small aside, there is an option for using the iPhone's accelerometer as part of the control scheme. Being that I'm rather set in my ways when it comes to the franchise, I found this control scheme to be awkward and unnatural. Someone viewing the game with fresh eyes might find that it is the best way to go, but if you've got any Tony Hawk experience, you'll end up wiping out far more often than you will like.
Along with my amazement over the well-implemented virtual D-pad came a few other pleasant surprises; I'm still downright floored by how much of the original game is squeezed into this port. The gap checklist remains intact and addictive as ever and every single skater, level and special move have been carried over. It's easy to dismiss some iPhone ports as lacking, but this one has all the fixins and the potential for you to spend hundreds of hours completing everything (again, in my case). If you get hooked, you won't be able to find another game on the platform with this much replay value. And for only $9.99? Now that's a bargain.
There are some drawbacks to this version of THPS2, though. The graphics aren't quite as good as they could have been, and rather than using the soundtrack from the original game (Bad Religion, Lagwagon and that "Runnin' in the Cyclone" song were among the standouts), they have brought in a handful of new songs, none of which are any good. This is compounded by the fact that there aren't very many songs, so you'll be forced to listen to the same horrible music over and over and over again. I thought there might be a way around this I manually created an iTunes playlist of the songs from the original game but there is no option for using your own music in-game. Hopefully this will be addressed in a future update, but I'm not holding my breath.
These restrictions aren't even the worst part of the game's sound. For whatever reason, there is an underlying "scratch" noise present throughout the game. If you're old enough to have had a record player, imagine the sound between tracks that white noise, static-y hiss is present everywhere. Also, I experienced some slowdown in certain places, but it never truly breaks the game. I should note that I played the game on an iPhone 3G, and the 3GS may or may not share these issues. I guess the same goes for those with an iPad, but I'm not sure if this title can be played on that hardware just yet.
Despite the somewhat higher price point, THPS2 is an app every gamer, skater or curious party should download. The controls are great, there is a huge amount of content and for whatever reason, these 2:00 minutes runs, being high scores and collecting S-K-A-T-E hasn't lost any luster since the game debuted on the PS1. Now if we could only get it as a PSN/PSP download
Final Rating: 94%
Transmitted: 3/2/2015 8:04:41 PM