At one point in time, the name Tony Hawk was synonymous with big air. Since the advent of Activision's illustrious line of Tony Hawk skating games, however, the pro endorser's handle has come to mean big business across a range of consoles--and even on mobile. Jamdat proved that it could bring the series' freewheeling action to the cell in 2003's Tony Hawk's Underground. The company's mobile version of THUG2 fine-tunes its predecessor's gameplay and updates its presentation to match new technological standards. Thanks to the game's wide variety of tricks and terrain, there's enough skating action here to keep you busting combos for hours.
Your nameless skater in THUG2 is caught between a rock and a hard place. World-famous skaters Tony Hawk and Bam Magera (also of Viva La Bam fame) are embarking on a competitive world tour, and they both want to use your insane shredding services for their own ends. As you travel with them from place to place, they'll order you to sow all sorts of creative anarchy while you bust fat moves and collect bonus items along the way. Who knew that derailing a cargo train in Germany would embody the irreverent skater ideal?
THUG2's playable levels include Boston, Barcelona, Berlin, Sydney, New Orleans, and the skater shantytown of Skatopia. Each of these locations has a skate park bordered by steep ramps and filled with all sorts of rails, ramps, stairs, and jumps to fool around on. To progress through the levels, you have to satisfy a certain objective, which usually involves whomping a set amount of private property and/or innocent bystanders with your board. For instance, to get through Boston Common, you have to knock the heads off five minuteman statues by jumping off ramps at the right time; the objective in New Orleans requires you to collect party beads and use them to inflict (censored) toplessness on some nubile girls. The levels are also littered with a variety of detritus to snag and special bonus tasks to perform, all of which give you points. It takes a fair amount of exploration to pick up all the extra cash, cell phones, and special items and to perform all of the extra jobs on a level--especially given that several of the level layouts are expansive vertically as well as horizontally. These levels require a lot of precise jumping and grinding to exhaust completely.
This game's controls are probably its best feature. The 5 button serves as the jump key; 2, 4, 6 and 8 move you in a respective direction; 1 and 3 perform tricks; and 0 stops you dead. Your skater will auto-grind on any rail he touches, and he'll never lose momentum, even going uphill--true to Tony Hawk form. The game also simplifies all of the tricks into single-button-press affairs, as the two trick buttons shift according to your skater's positioning. If you're in midair, they'll be assigned to grab and spin tricks. If you're on the ground, they'll perform manuals, which display a balance meter, just as in the console games. If you're on a lip, you can use the buttons to pull off stalls and grinds. In addition, it's a simple matter to catch huge air off a ramp, achieved just by pressing the jump key at the right time. The game's controls add up to just the right mix of CPU assistance and user skill. It doesn't take long to pick this system up, and once you do, you can fly from rail to rail and chain combos together with abandon.
THUG2's graphics are fairly detailed and run extremely fast on the LG VX7000, even if they are on the small side. The game doesn't seem to sacrifice much visual quality to preserve its run speed. The skating environments and trick surfaces are rendered in bold, easy-to-see colors, and the background graphics are very lush. THUG2's fast rendering makes the gameplay feel more realistic, too. On the other hand, there are definitely a few areas in the game's presentation that could have been improved. The multitude of collectible items, bystanders, and obstacles are good for gameplay, but they also make the game feel very busy from a visual standpoint. On some levels, it seems like the screen is unnecessarily cluttered with objects, and this can prove disorienting when coupled with the game's fast pacing. Another small problem lies in the game's pseudo-3D perspective. It can be difficult to tell where midair objects are located depth-wise (they don't always seem to correspond to their shadowing), so grabbing them off of a jump can be a little frustrating.
THUG2's sound is genuinely impressive. Each level's title screen has a full, themed score, so that Boston's music is on the punky side, while Berlin's is more new wave. In combination with the high-quality title screen music, this game really rocks out, even if there aren't any custom tracks from obscure hip-hop artists. The sound effects are a little sparse but also excellent. The loud exclamations that Spanish and German natives make when you barrel into them are especially hilarious.
Overall, THUG2 is a very slick update to the original game, which was itself a fantastic product. There may not be many playable levels, but the ones included are large enough to provide a solid amount of gameplay--especially when you consider that THUG2 keeps track of your highest level and combo trick scores. Fans of the first mobile THUG and/or the Tony Hawk console games should be tripping over themselves to download this game. Alternately, if you haven't played a skateboarding game on your phone yet, you won't go wrong here.