Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review #384: Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

 A downward spiral course straight to mediocrity.
 What is this game? Thank you for asking! This is a Tony Hawk game based around Pro Skater 1's worst level: Downhill Jam, yes, they built an entire game around the first game's lamest level and the end result is... well, it's better than it deserves to be!

 There's no story mode to this game, you just pop in the game and you'll be received by two different modes: Downhill Challenge and Multiplayer. Multiplayer simply lets you play in a few different modes against another player, but the real meat of the game lies in Downhill Challenge. It's made up of 50ish goals, and as you complete levels you'll unlock more characters, costumes, more boards, more stages and a few other extras. Goals come in different flavors, just as simple races down the different courses against other skaters, slalom challenges through gates, having to smack a certain amount of bystanders as you go down, elimination races and even a few weird ones like having to avoid certain parts of the floor which turned to lava! There's certainly a fair amount of missions, but sadly, the amount of stages just isn't enough, so they will get boring pretty soon.
 While this is first and foremost a racing game, it retains the same controls from Tony Hawk's main games. Circle and Square do tricks, hold X to speed up and perform Ollies, triangle Grinds and... and you can use cheats to enable manuals as well. A new addition is L2 to boost when the gauge is full, which is filled by earning points as you trick around. You can also pummel your sides by tapping L1 or R1, which earns you points if you smack passerbys or knocks other racers off their boards. It kinda works, but be ready, the physics feel fairly different from the other Tony Hawk games, so it might take a while to adapt.

 The game's highpoint are the different courses: They are big, they are pretty, they are fun to skate down from top to bottom and they also offer various different routes. There're no pros besides Tony Hawk, but the new cartoony skaters are alright and they fit the tone of the game.
 As good as the controls are, as good as the level design is, the game falls apart on a technical levels. There're a dozen different graphical glitches, I came across multiple invisible grounds. Some collisions also felt kinda wonky, and don't even let me get started on the unacceptable slew of framerate issues that rear their head more often than I would've liked. Don't be surprised if the framerate issues throw you off your grove. The game froze on me once, and after clearing the tutorial I had to restart the game since it wouldn't read my button inputs. Yeah, it's a bit of a mess.

 But the cherry on top is the rubberband AI. You'll easily catch up to CPU opponents, but don't worry, it doesn't matter how well you skate, they will magically catch up to you. Dear developers: Rubberband AI isn't fun, it's annoying, please do away with it. Thank you.
 Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam isn't a total stinker, racing down these fantastic levels can be fun... when you aren't dealing with glitches or framerate issues. To be honest, it would've been easy to build upon this engine and make a better sequel, but it won't ever happen.
 4.5 out of 10

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