Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (Nintendo DS) - Review by Caleb

8.9

Introduction

The Tony Hawk series have provided fans with the best skateboard games ever made. I certainly have no interest in skateboarding, and yet I love the Tony Hawk games. This serves as a testament to their excellent gameplay, perfect controls, and all around addictiveness. Tony Hawk's American Sk8land for the Nintendo DS is no exception. It's also been highly anticipated by DS owners as one of the launch titles for the DS Wi-Fi internet service. Does it live up to expectations in this area? Yes and no.

Gameplay

Tony Hawk American Sk8land is one of the rare games that's gameplay has achieved, for lack of a better word, perfection. That isn't to say that it's a perfect game, but it's hard to see how a skateboarding game could be any better. If you've ever played a Tony Hawk game, you know just about everything you need to know. It follows the classic TH formula to the letter, and has more in kind with the classic Tony Hawks than it does with the THUG series. This is definitely a good thing, as almost all fans agree that TH 1-4 were much better than their THUG counterparts.

The premise of the game's story (which is possibly its weakest point) is that you've met up with Tony Hawk - who happens to be quite impressed with you - and that the two of you are building a skate park. It follows the classic formula of performing tons of trivial goals to complete missions while collecting hidden items like video tapes, a process which is quite fun and addicting. The story mode will keep you entertained for quite some time, but the real meat of this game lies in the multiplayer modes.

The first thing you will notice is that the game is missing two classic game modes: Graffiti and HORSE. Horse has never been very popular, but many people will be upset by the lack of Graffiti. The game adds several new modes (some of which are quite fun, like The Price is Wrong), but it still hurts not to have Graffiti.

Other than the lack of those two modes, the offline multiplayer gameplay is excellent and sure to entertain you and your friends for countless hours. The internet multiplayer is an entirely different matter.

Everyone and their mothers knows that Tony Hawk's American Sk8land and Mario Kart DS are the two DS internet Wi-Fi launch titles. For the first time in history, Nintendo handheld owners can challenge each other across the globe - absolutely free! Well, free assuming you already have a wireless network set up in your home. If you don't, you can purchase the DS Wi-Fi USB adapter for a mere $30, and it's quite easy to set up. So how does the game's online play measure up? Well, to be fair it's certainly better-developed than Mario Kart DS's online play. Still, it could be much better. The same things that annoy you in MK's online play, like the chore of adding and playing with Friends, will still annoy you here. In addition the random match setup needs some major improvements. Nevertheless, the internet play is remarkably fun and adds a substantial amount of value to this game.

Controls

THAS controls mostly with the D-pad and buttons, with only minor touchscreen usage. Like the gameplay, the controls really couldn't be any better. It handles with perfection and doesn't feel remotely clunky. Very easy to learn and always intuitive.

Graphics

Another point where the game really shines. These graphics are so amazing that they could be easily mistaken for a Gamecube or PS2 game. The designers opted to ditch the traditional Tony Hawk look and give the game a complete graphical overhaul. It's now cel-shaded! And boy, is it beautiful. The framerate maintains a lofty 60 frames-per-second and never experiences any slowdown, even when multiple people are performing tricks onscreen. It's hard to see how the graphics could be any better. A testament to the designers is that this game looks better than the PSP version, despite the DS's inferior hardware!

Sound

Excellent in every way. The tracks work just right, featuring tons of hit songs at CD-like quality, and the sound effects couldn't be any better. The ability to use the DS microphone to voice your own "bail cries" adds a lot of fun to the game. Just keep it clean, children.

Dual screen

Nothing especially intuitive, but it doesn't really matter. The game follows the popular trend of displaying a map on the lower screen and the actual game on the top screen. In addition, the touch screen is used for "freaking out" when you bail on a trick. It's definitely a nice addition to the gameplay and is a much-appreciated touchscreen use.

Final comments

I haven't had this much fun with a Tony Hawk game since Tony Hawk 3. This game doesn't disappoint in anything except the online play, which is still excellent and can be thought of as a "bonus". It's also much more enjoyable than the console versions of the game. The DS has had some amazing new titles recently, and this is definitely one of them.

Pro: Great gameplay, impressive graphics, online play.
Con: Lack of graffiti mode, annoying flaws in the online play.
Final score: 8.9

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Boxart of Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (Nintendo DS)
Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: Sports
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision