Tony Hawk's American Sk8land
Cel-shaded, online Tony Hawk at your fingertips. This is a must-own for the DS!
It's a shame that the primary focus of Nintendo's own Wi-Fi service is just solely going to be Mario Kart DS. Now some might scratch their heads and yell out "WHY?!", as Mario Kart is in fact one of the best handheld games out there this year, online or not. But I say this because Activision's Tony Hawk's American Sk8land, introduced at E3 by Nintendo themselves earlier this year, is just as strong an example for the service. And, hey, it has the hit franchise to lean upon in case that isn't enough strength for it. Ahh, well, Nintendo DS fans will find quite the treasure to discover.
The American Sk8land game doesn't follow a storyline with the console versions, and instead trudges along its own path. Basically, Mr. Hawk himself has invited you down to California to do a little shredding, since he's seen you in action and admires your skills. Once you head down there, you'll meet up with local skating chick Mindy and eventually get your appearance put together, then hit a number of locations, pulling off as many tricks as you possibly can as you work through goals and push that much further to conquering the so-called "sk8land".
One thing that you'll notice right off the bat is that American Sk8land doesn't look like your typical Tony Hawk game. Sure, it has a similar engine to other games on the market, but it happens to carry a cel-shaded appearance this time around, which further heightens the appeal of the game and makes it run incredibly smooth on the Nintendo DS. The animation is sweet, the levels are very expansive, and the visuals remains a delight throughout, with nary a bit of slowdown or break-up whatsoever. I loved the look of this game.
Surprisingly, sound holds up good as well. There isn't many voicework pieces in the game, but there are a few songs that managed to make the cut and sound terrific. Furthermore, the sound effects are just as likable as always, although some may not get the idea of what "grinding" really sounds like unless they bailed out on a landing off a ramp. Um, ouch.
The game features exquisite controls, just as good as any of the previous Tony Hawk games, complete with all sorts of moves for grinding, manuals, and more. The way you can chain these together into countless combos is appealing, and pushes the multiplayer factor into the stratosphere. However, I wish that there had been a little more exploration with the touch-screen. Sure, you can use it to pull off instant specials and expand your "freak out" meter to get really insane during a run, but it seems gimmicky at best. Maybe with a sequel...
Where American Sk8land really shines is in its multiplayer. Through either a Wi-Fi connection or local LAN play, you can take on friends in a number of games. There's Trick Attack, Score Challenge, the ever-addictive Combo Mambo, and the all-new Price Is Wrong, all of which come together for hours of countless play. Just be aware that there are lurkers out there who love to thrash a high score in a matter of seconds. Be prepared with your A game.
To further make this game appealing, Activision's allowed people to post their own customized logos and profiles on a website to share with others, so they can score new friends. And the customization feature in the game itself, while not large by any means, is still enjoyable and lets you create anything, such as a woman in a tank top with a mohawk. BABY!
Tony Hawk's American Sk8land is one of the better games in the series and one of the best DS games released this year. It should be a required holiday purchase, even if you're just giving the game to yourself. Hey, go on, you deserve it.
What's Hot: Online play aplenty, and an appealing new presentation
What's Not: Some of the touch-screen stuff is indeed touchy.