At a recent Activision press event in the UK, we got to take a preview PlayStation 2 version of Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure for a spin. The game plays a lot like a slightly simplified version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, only with the pro skaters replaced by popular Disney characters, and the city streets and skateparks substituted with locales from Toy Story, Tarzan, and The Lion King.
Before playing the game for the first time, we took a look at the available skaters and found that, in addition to a number of popular Disney characters, the game features 10 "kid skaters," as well as a Tony Hawk-style create-a-skater option. Your choice of character determines which of the game's levels you play, so choosing Buzz Lightyear, for example, will see you skating in Andy's Bedroom from Toy Story, while opting for Simba from The Lion King takes you to a level based on Pride Rock. Opting for one of the kids from Disney's "Extreme Skate Crew" takes you to a more-conventional street level by the name of Olliewood, from which it's actually possible to warp to the other levels via large glowing filmstrip icons that appear in certain areas.
Each of the characters in the game has ratings for speed, spin, ollie, trick, and balance, and it's possible to improve these by collecting stat points as you progress through the game. The Disney characters on offer at the start of the game included Tarzan and Tantor from Tarzan, Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, and Simba and the pairing of Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King. A number of unlockable characters were also evident on the player select screen, with one locked character for each that was already available. As such, playing as Tarzan may very well unlock Jane, while playing as Simba will unlock Rafiki, and so on.
The tricks and goals in the game are very similar to those in the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, although both are significantly easier to complete in this game, no doubt because its target audience is a little younger--a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by McDonalds or Nokia, as both of these companies have placed advertisements in the game. Nokia's simply take the form of billboards and the like, but McDonalds' presence in Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure plays an unusually significant part in the gameplay. For instance, the McDonalds in the middle of Olliewood is one of the starting points for a mission. You must deliver tasty burgers, fries, and apple pies to other characters in the level, and, when the job's done, your reward is a pair of Ronald McDonald clown shoes (known simply as the "Big Red Shoes" in the game) for the create-a-skater mode. Could Ronald himself appear in the game as a secret character?
Aside from the easier gameplay and the Disney-inspired visuals, the main difference between Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure and the Tony Hawk series is the way that much of the bonus content is unlocked. Rather than being awarded money to spend on unlockable items, you basically unlock a piece of bonus content each time you successfully complete a goal. Everything we managed to unlock during our time with the game was geared toward the create-a-skater mode, including lumberjack shirts, mohawk hairstyles, and the aforementioned clown shoes.
Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure is unlikely to appeal to fans of the Pro Skater series, but it should prove ideal for newcomers to the genre who might find the latest Tony Hawk games a bit too intimidating. It might serve as an effective training ground for Tony Hawk wannabes, though it seems more than strange that the game might also represent an exercise in hamburger advertising--at any rate, the game is scheduled for release later this year for the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube.