The venerable Tony Hawk series has achieved that status after debuting just over 5 years ago on the PlayStation. Neversoft's cash-whore has arrived on practically every video game unit released since 2000; even a variety of mobile versions were created. Oddly enough, the Nintendo DS has yet to get its version, but I digress. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was the franchise that put Activision back on the map during the 32/64-bit days; and despite the annual releases, the titles manage to be million sellers. Now, the DS aside, many handheld units have received their own version of a Tony Hawk title. The GameBoy Advance was the first to 'wow' gamers with its isometric perspective and true to the original details, but the awkward view and controls still made a faithful handheld port a long shot. The N-Gage was just about the closest, as gamers got with a faithful handheld port of Tony Hawk, except the N-Gage is a total waste, has a terrible screen and an appalling button scheme, rendering its Tony Hawk title worthless. So, after suffering through a variety of lackluster handheld ports, we've finally got something that can be called a cure — and we have Sony to thank.
Upon first play, you'll instantly note that THUG2 Remix looks a lot like its console cousins. Nothing about the stages has been cut out, scaled down, or severely changed. That is of course, when you first take a look at the game. Take a closer look and you'll notice that from a technical point, this port is pretty darn rushed. While the overall image of the game is quite good looking, standing too close to certain textures in the game's levels will have them warping and cracking — this is something I haven't seen happen since the PlayStation days. Other times the textures would darken or brighten up constantly, or you'd see these really ugly seam lines. The edges are jaggy too, so anti-aliasing doesn't seem to be applied here. The more you play the game the more you notice the issues and they become quite obvious. In addition to that, the texture detail is scaled down all around, when compared to the console titles.
Regardless of all the negatives, Remix still manages to look decent enough to be compared to its console cousins. The skater detail is intact, the skater animations have carried over almost flawlessly and the levels are still enormous and don't have any draw-in issues. The framerate is a silky 30 and hasn't been bothersome thus far, so that's good news as well. It needs to be said, that despite the visual issues with the game, and the texture downgrades, this isn't something that'll bother you unless you stop your skater and stare at it. Since the game is very fast paced, you'll likely almost never pay attention to the faults; though regardless, they are there and make it rather obvious that the game may have been rushed.
I'd say the majority of us know what to expect from the gameplay. It's classic Tony Hawk basics; lots of trippy-ass combos linked to each other to form one enormous line of points. THUG 2 Remix is basically THUG2 with a few extra goodies, such as 4 exclusive stages (16 total), new secret skaters (bringing it to 21 skaters in total), goals, and new level altering cut-scenes. But aside all of that hoopla, Remix still provides the most important thing (which seems to be the keyword for the entire PSP launch)…fun! It seems like with THUG 2, Neversoft caught on that not everybody is fan of the whole free-roaming, go anywhere you please stuff; I sure am not. I prefer a bit of linearity in my games and I find myself getting bored with very broad and open-ended titles. So what THUG 2 features is two modes, a story mode and a classic mode. Story takes you through the rivalry between Team Hawk and Team Bam, and you use a custom skater whose skills you will naturally develop the more you play the game. In the levels, you have no time limit to complete the goals, and you have a completely different set of goals to complete, as opposed to classic mode. Story mode goals are directly involved with the environment; such as tagging over graffiti, unhooking a boat from its dock, scaring off pigeons, beheading statues, lighting a bird on fire, and so on. For every level you play in Story mode, you have different sets of goals to complete: your goals, pro goals (this is done with your professional skater teammate), secret goals (find the secret skater/celebrity of the level) and guest goals (a guest skater — this character is usually something quirky, like a bull fighter or a hippy). Every time you achieve enough goal points to complete a level, a new portion of the story will be revealed.
Classic mode is exactly what the Tony Hawk series used to be. The goals are simple, always enjoyable and each level has a two-minute limit. Anyone who's ever played the older Tony Hawk titles will know what to expect from this mode; collect S-K-A-T-E, achieve a High score, pro score, sick score, find the secret tape, collect various items, grind a certain line and so on and so forth. There are a total of 140 goals to collect in the game, and die-hard fans of the original four titles will absolutely love playing this mode. It should be mentioned that the game allows you to turn off link tricks like the invert, manual, walking, autokick and 180 spin taps; so you have the ability to customize the feel of the game to match the feel of your favorite.
Tony Hawk title. THUG2 is deep…very, very deep. It's packed with modes; you can create your own skater, graffiti graphic, goal, and even your own trick. Then you have the multiplayer modes, which are unfortunately limited to local wi-fi and not an entire online network. Still, the multiplayer experience is a ton of fun; you've got events like Score Challenge, Combo-Mambo, Graffiti, Firefight, King of the Hill, H.O.R.S.E., Capture the Flag, Elimiskate, Goal Attack, SLAP! and Trick Attack. It's a great feeling when you're playing against someone and he/she's only a few feet away from you and you're not sharing a split-screen. THUG2's multiplayer modes are definitely a lot of fun, as is the rest of the game, but it would've been nice to see a broader online scope so I could play with my friends who only live just a few blocks away and not always rely on inviting them over. Also, I don't quite understand the decision to not include a create-a-park mode in Remix, since that was always a favorite of mine starting with Tony Hawk 2 and into the fourth. Still, after taking a break from the series, it feels good to pick it up again — on a handheld no less — and relive the classic gameplay in addition to the more open-ended story mode. It's still more of the same, and the lack of a fully functioning online mode hurts a bit, but it's fun and very time consuming.
THUG2 Remix's biggest fault is its horrendously poor audio quality. If it wasn't for the voice acting and the rather kick ass soundtrack, the sound would've gotten a flat out zero. For starters, the audio is poorly encoded and the quality is pretty trashy when compared to the nearly flawless quality of EA's Need for Speed Underground Rivals. In addition to the poor quality are sound glitches during voice acting, where the lines would just get cutoff and you'd start hearing the next portion of dialogue (and no, I'm not accidentally pressing a button). Then we have the horrible, the oh-so-very horrible, ticking effect that occurs when the music plays. Have you ever burned an audio-CD too fast and when you listen to it you can hear a distinct ticking sound in the background? It sounds exactly like that, and it's very irritating to hear. I love the soundtrack to this game, so turning it off really bothers me. Since I've got the music off, I noticed that the sound effects sound pretty good, especially when you have the earphones on. Despite the sound effects, the rest of the game's audio is pretty much worthless; the decent voice acting is ruined by the glitching, and the fantastic soundtrack is ruined by the ticking.
There's no doubt that while THUG 2 Remix is a very fun game, it's also a flawed game with some very rough spots that make it obvious that it was rushed. The visual glitches and, more importantly, the unbearable audio glitches really hinder the overall playing experience quite a bit. While Shaba converted the PSP port very faithfully, it overlooked a number of issues that I can only hope are not overlooked in the next Tony Hawk title — whenever that may be. Until we see a new Tony Hawk game, we'll have to live with THUG2 Remix; and that's not such a bad thing.
THUG2 Remix is the best handheld conversion the franchise has ever seen, as it manages to retain the fundamental basics that make the Tony Hawk series so well received year in and year out. If you're a fan of the series, or you'd like to get back into the series, this is the title to pick up for your PSP. Providing the old gameplay and blending it with the new, THUG2 doesn't alienate its original fan base and that's a welcome treat — for me, at least.