Videogame skateboarding didn’t really exist until the arrival of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the PlayStation. Atari’s cult classic 720 was a massive hit in the arcades, despite its ridiculous rollerball controls, but after that, there was a decided lull, probably owing to the slump in interest in the art that is skateboarding.
Then NeverSoft released Tony Hawk. And everything changed. Suddenly, casual gamers were exposed to what could easily be compared to a fighting game, using skateboards as a simple guise…
The idea of a free-roaming environment wherein anything could be tried, balanced by simple yet deep controls was a winner.
Contenders to Tony’s crown, like the doomed Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, paled in significance next to a game that stands out as a massively important milestone in the evolution of the videogames industry.
Tony Hawk’s underlying mechanic is the combo system. Like all systems of this nature, the longer you can keep a run of tricks going, the more points you will score on an exponential scale. This essentially ripped the head off what might have been a simple task-based game and threw THPS into the lions’ den that is hardcore gaming.
Incredibly, Underground is the fifth in the series, from the famously franchise-aware Activision, and many will argue that it’s the best.
You see, all that happens when a new game is developed is the things that were not liked in the previous game are scrapped, and the things that were successful are kept, adapted and evolved.
The biggest changes in recent times have been the revert-to-manual option, enabling players to continue a combo after a successful ramp trick, and the transition ability, which sees little Tony able to launch over the spine of two connecting half pipes.
The jump onto a portable 2D-biased system was always going to be difficult, but Vicarious Visions has again pulled off a blinder. The entire game is recreated in isometric mode, seeing a blend of the latest Tony Hawk game blend seamlessly with the best aspects of 720.