When you combine the Disney license with sports, a lot of pretty terrible games come to mind. Plenty of weak Disney Sports games have been released that run the gamut from football and basketball to skateboarding. In what appears to be a textbook example of "that was then, this is now," Activision has released its own Disney skateboarding game, named Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure. By taking the engine that powered Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 and combining it with kid-friendly characters from recent Disney films, developer Toys for Bob has created a game that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
The game is set up in roughly the same manner as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. Each level has a series of goals that must be accomplished. As you accomplish them, you'll unlock new levels, new goals, and new clothing for your created skaters. You'll visit levels and play as characters found in Disney films like Tarzan, Toy Story 2, and The Lion King. The game also has a collection of kids in the game, each of whom is based on a real-life child who was discovered in a contest held by Activision. Rounding out the cast is Master P's son, the young rap star Lil' Romeo. Lil' Romeo is an unlockable character who can also be heard on the soundtrack for the game. The children all skate identically to one another, but the Disney characters all have their own sets of tricks. Woody will politely take his hat off when he grinds, while young Tarzan will execute crazy flips and other wild-looking maneuvers.
The game has many of the same control options as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, but the trick set has been reduced. For starters, the game defaults to an extremely simplified version of the control scheme--which is better for kids and extreme novices. Turning on the "pro controls" gives Tony Hawk players a much more familiar set of controls, but even then the skaters only really have a handful of tricks, including three special tricks that must be unlocked. You can combo manuals, grinds, and lip tricks into tricks of the same type by pressing button combinations while holding a trick. You can even execute reverts and spine transfers. However, the game doesn't give you the ability to wallride or get a higher launch by tapping up twice before releasing the ollie button. Since the levels are designed around these limitations, and the goals are designed for novice players, this doesn't even become an issue.
As a game primarily designed to be played by kids, Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure still presents something of a challenge. The game's later goals do get a bit more difficult than the ones you see early on, and a few of them require you to think ahead and to be quick with your tricks. You'll still see plenty of collection goals, though, and you'll even still be spelling out the word "skate" in each level at least once.
The game has a good look to it. The character models look sharp, the levels are impressively large, and everything is about as bright and colorful as you'd expect from a game with the Disney name on it. The game's animation is also pretty solid. On the sound side of things, Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure shares many of its sound effects with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. The game does have a few new surfaces in it, though, and the new sounds for, say, grinding on solid rock are pretty good. The soundtrack is filled with Radio Disney favorites. Considering the game's target audience, the soundtrack fits just fine, but it also has the capacity to drive you insane. Aside from Lil' Romeo, you'll also hear songs from Smashmouth, Reel Big Fish, and more. Xbox owners can also load up custom soundtracks. The Xbox version of the game looks cleaner than the rest, though the PlayStation 2 and GameCube versions of the game are definitely comparable.
Many games released today, especially those found in the sports realm, contain some form of product placement. While this placement is usually limited to banners and other out-of-the-way advertising, Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure is pretty upfront with its sponsorships. One of the game's goals has you delivering McDonald's-brand food to people scattered around a level. Completing this goal lets you give your skater Ronald McDonald-like clown feet. A stop by the Nokia store gives you a goal to collect four ringtones before time runs out. The goal text even goes as far as naming the phone by its model number, which seems a bit excessive.
All in all, Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure is a good game for younger players or Disney fans who also enjoy skateboarding games. Fans of the Tony Hawk series may wish to rent this one as well, if only to have some new levels to play around in while waiting for the release of the next game in the Tony Hawk series. Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure won't hold the Tony Hawk pro's attention for long, but it's still a fun, well-designed skating game.