Just under nine months ago, Activision released its first Game Boy Color skateboarding title, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Unfortunately, while the game's 2D half-pipe competitions were excellent, the overwhelming focus was on 3D slalom racing, an activity that proved utterly contrary to the trick-based gameplay of the PlayStation and Dreamcast Tony Hawk titles. It seems Activision has been listening to consumer sentiment, because the sequel, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, is pure tricks and obstacle courses. Just in time for the holidays, the Game Boy Color finally sports the best handheld skateboarding title ever created.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for Game Boy Color features 13 skaters and seven stages of skateboarding excitement. If the innate skills of Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Steve Caballero, Kareem Campbell, Rune Glifberg, Eric Koston, Bucky Lasek, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska, Andrew Reynolds, Geoff Rowley, Elissa Steamer, and Jamie Thomas aren't familiar to you, they soon will be. The game's professionals are modeled after their real-world counterparts, with skill ratings delineated by four distinct categories: ollie, speed, acceleration, and control. From the technical skill and raw speed of Tony Hawk to the tactically average Elissa Steamer, you won't just be skating with 13 clones. Backing them up, the game's seven stages - Skate street, New York City, the hangar, school, the bull ring, Venice Beach, and skate heaven - are the nuttiest mix of half pipes, jumps, and ramps this side of ESPN. In an added twist, half of the stages are present in a 2.5D side view, while the rest are rendered via a top-down isometric 3D viewpoint. In the 2.5D stages, half-pipe trick combinations and grinds are the order of the day, whereas lofty airtime and grind-induced kick flips are the keys to success in the 3D stages. Keeping it all together, a password save system tracks your progress.
Although the game has a free-skate mode, the meat and potatoes of Tony Hawk 2 is its career mode. Before each stage, you're presented with a four-item checklist of things to accomplish. Gather the letters to spell the word "skate," and you'll get $500; accrue 20,000 trick points, and you'll rake in $1,000; and so it goes. If you manage to earn enough cash, you can put it toward the purchase of newer and faster boards, which in turn improve your statistics, or you can use it to unlock the game's later courses - the choice is yours. Actual on-course gameplay is exquisite, and it accurately depicts the same tricks and obstacles as the game's Dreamcast and PlayStation versions. The control pad lets you move around the course, the A button initiates tricks, and the B button acts as a brake. Strewn about each course are a cadre of benches, cars, half pipes, ramps, and other assorted launching points, which may be utilized to perform a variety of trick combinations. Once in the air, you can chain together tricks such as ollies, melons, methods, and handplants with the relative ease of the A button and a directional press. It's all quick to pick up, easy to learn, hard to master, and quite painless - just the way a Tony Hawk game should be.
More surprising than how well Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for Game Boy Color plays, is how great it looks and sounds. Each of the game's 3D environments are colorful and detailed, full of the kinds of buildings and decorations you'd expect to find on a street-skating course. Cabs, trees, potted plants, benches, railings, lockers, and helicopters dot the game's courses, while sponsor logos from companies such as The Firm and Etnies top things off with a realistic flair. Smack in the middle of everything is your chosen skater, a fluidly animating cartoon-style sprite that executes kick flips, handstands, and methods with an abundance of animation frames, all the while dressed in the same padding and colors that you'd witness during televised skate competitions. Best of all, this is one of the few Game Boy Color sports games that sounds as good as it looks. Apocalyptic, percussion-laden music and a diverse array of sound effects really go hand in hand with the game's graphically faithful feel. Long story short: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is a must buy for any handheld-boarding fan.