Thrasher: Skate & Destroy has the unfortunate distinction of being the game that came out after Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. While both are skateboarding games, they are about as different as two games in the same genre can get. While Tony Hawk takes a real rough-and-tumble, pick-up-and-play approach to skateboarding, Thrasher delivers a steeper learning curve and an almost sim-like approach to the sport, and ultimately, it has a completely different feel than Tony Hawk's.
The goal of the game is to appear on the cover of Thrasher as the magazine's skater of the year. But you'll start as a lowly boarder, skating around your local industrial zone. Each level has a set point total that you must break to proceed to the next area. As you proceed through the game's twelve levels, you'll learn new tricks and earn new sponsors. You can cover your skater with logos from clothing makers and board manufacturers, like Converse, DC Shoes, and DVS. Or, you can avoid selling out and stay logo-free. Each level starts out with a free skate, which lets you have all the time you need to get used to the area and figure out where all the big trick spots are. Then, once you feel ready, you hit select, which starts your two-minute timer. You must use these two minutes to best the level's clear score, which starts at a measly 5,000 on the first level, but you'll have to beat 25,000 to complete the game's final level. When time runs out, some sort of bad guy will chase you, be it a cop or a mugger. Some levels are skate parks, so you won't have to rush to a level exit to keep from being accosted. There are also several multiplayer games, including best tricks, worst wrecks, horse, longest grind, biggest wallride, and a simple two-minute session.
Thrasher focuses heavily on technical tricks, with an emphasis on grinds and kickflip-style moves. There is plenty of big air to be had and as the game says, "big air = big points." But the real thrill comes from linking together four or five flips, grabs, and grinds on and over different obstacles, like walls, tables, and cars. Variety and location play a huge part in the game's scoring system. If you keep doing the same trick over and over again, or you keep doing tricks in the same spot, you'll never meet the point requirement. Luckily, this game has a ton of tricks. Once you've earned all the tricks, holding down any one of three buttons and a direction willlet you pull off different tricks. Holding down the L1 button can modify some tricks even further. Some tricks require more than one button press. The list is long, and just about all your favorite skating tricks are represented.The characters and animation have a very distinct graphical style. The skaters have a rounded, cartoonish look to them that works pretty well. The game's animation is great, too - especially the wrecks. The environments are fairly large, and the textures used for buildings and other objects look OK. The game runs at a nice fast pace, slowing down only to let you watch your wrecks in all their slow-motion glory.
The game's soundtrack is incredible. Not only are all the skateboarding noises and ambient sounds terrific, but the music is a collection of classic hip-hop tracks, ranging from Run-DMC's King of Rock to the Ultramagnetic MC's with Kool Keith Housin' Things. Other tracks include Rapper's Delight, White Lines, and Planet Rock. Most people wouldn't immediately associate skateboarding with old rap music, but it works really, really well in the game.
Thrasher: Skate and Destroy is no Tony Hawk. But it doesn't really try to be Tony Hawk, either. You may not be able to pick it up and start doing switch 540s right off the bat, but once you've taken the time to learn the controls and pick up the game's subtle timing, you'll be rewarded with an incredibly fun skateboarding game. If you're finished with Tony Hawk, and you're hungry for another challenge, Thrasher: Skate and Destroy is the meal you're looking for.