No not Tony Hawks the UK comedian who once hitch hiked round Ireland with a Fridge (thanks to a bet with Arthur Smith I believe), but Tony Hawk, the American who gets paid to fly through the air with a little plank of wood and four tiny wheels.
Let's get the good news out of the way first. Tony Hawk looks wonderful. Compared to any of the other 3-d and 3-d Style games on the N-Gage (Tomb Raider, Red Faction, etc). Tony Hawk has probably the best 3-D look of all the N-Gage games to date (Feb 2004) and was clearly the "best game" available when the N-Gage was launched in Oct 2003.
So for everyone who's never heard of the Tony Hawk series (Hi Dad!), what is it all about? Skateboarding. And not just skateboarding that gets you down the shops fast - skateboarding where you jump onto kerbs, off ramps, around strange quarter circles, swimming pools and poles scattered around the landscapes.
It's a bit like Figure Skating - once you're in the air, you can hit some buttons and wiggle the D-Pad to pull off tricks - then the mystery unseen judges give you points (from 50 to 5000) depending on the skill and difficulty of the trick... assuming you didn't fall falt on your face and break your nose. So in simple game play, it's all about how many points you can amass.
Now that would be a pretty short lived game - because it would be boring, so they've done quite a bit to spice up this concept of skate around an do tricks. It's called 'career mode.' When you start your career (and you get to choose one of ten skaters with varying attributes for speed, balance, etc) you start in a location called the warehouse
You have five challenges to complete (each one represented by a Video tape for some reason), and they generally follow the same pattern.
These are a nice mix and force you to do different things around the location. Collecting the SKATE and performing the Physical Challenge lets you go around the whole location, checking out where the ramps, obstacles and barriers are. You'll need that knowledge when you go for the high score challenges. Generally the first high score is pretty easy to do, but you will need to learn new skills as the score needed creeps up over the levels. The Ridiculous high score is going to be the one you need to practice the amazing skills for.
So why collect tapes? Becase as you get tapes, you unlock the extra levels, with exciting locations like "School" or "Downtown." Each of these arenas have the new challenges, and you have to learn where everything is and where you can do monster tricks (like doing a triple-salko over a pick up truck). And here's the rub. Once you know the locations, it's a matter of perseverance to get all the tapes to move to the next level. The gameplay, for all the flashy graphics and challenges, is very same-y. Little two minute bursts of tricks, get to two ramps opposite each other, and start spinning and stuff. Great for on the go games, but not really suitable for long term addiction.
The controls help here, as they are pretty easy to use. The direction pad controls where you lean (forward back left or right) and the number pad uses a reverse T of controls. 2 allows you to grind, 5 is jump, and you use 4 and 6 to do... stuff... Quick to learn, and not something you can easily forget. If you do, the game shows them to you (and allows you to redefine them, but why would you when they work so well)?
Tony Hawk looks nice, great demonstration of the N-Gage, but it highlights a problem with the N-Gage launch titles. There was no signature character. Tony Hawks is a well known game, especially on the PlayStation,( Tony has 37 licenced games as of Jan 2004 over every game console on the planet). This doesn't really help the N-Gage stamp it's own identity on the gaming world. But...
...it's a good game, just not great. I expect later games to build on the quality here. Narrowly missing the Recommended award, Tony takes away a very respectable 79%
Okay, Nokia sent me a nice email to point out I forgot to mention the N-Gage Arena. Here's what they have to say...
Thanks to AAN for the review, but we'd like to point out one important feature that Ewan forgot to mention: the N-Gage Arena. This mobile online gaming community allows THPS players from around the world to log on and compete against each other. Pick an opponent you think you can beat and race against his best performance. If you win, you climb up the rankings board towards ultimate N-Gage Arena glory. You can also be your own director and create a gameplay clip showing your coolest moves. With the ability to adjust the camera angle you can give your clip a professional look and then upload it to N-Gage Arena to impress your friends and rivals! Sometimes everyone needs a little help from the pros, and the N-Gage Arena experts have got what you need with THPS hints and tips. Download a THPS gameplay clip that shows you how to find all the video tapes to unlock the next board or next level. At the end of the day, N-Gage Arena is a great compliment to THPS that keeps you interested, inspired and eager to perfect your best tricks.