Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam
The term Downhill Jam spontaneously reminds me of the game Skate or Die which I as a kid played a lot. In that game there was a round where you had to get down the street faster than your opponent and Skate or Die then have me the idea to learn how to skate to quickly afterwards burry my ambitions after kissing the ground a couple of times.
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam starts from the idea of downhill racing and builds an entire new game around it. Forget what you know from previous Tony Hawk titles as this is completely different. The game world no longer consists out of a large domain where different characters are swaying around with missions, but each race needs to be started up from the menu. Afterwards you’re put on a certain track from which you can’t escape. Look at it as a step in the direction of the SSX series where certain fixed tracks need to be completed. You don’t get rewarded with as much freedom though.
These alterations were necessary as in my opinion the Tony Hawk series went downhill since number three. Also the changes with Underground and American Wasteland were futile since the devs kept building further on the same principle without changing the gameplay too much. So we get a new spin, but is it a good one?
The biggest change, for those familiar with the series, is without a doubt the new controls. Actually not so surprising since they’re done with the Wii-mote. By holding it in a horizontal position the character can be controlled like when you’re in a car. This liberates your left hand which now only needs to be used to choose variants (like kickflip, heelflip) of the tricks.
Like before, the right hand remains important for choosing flips, grabs and grinds. A difficult task as the remote only has two buttons contrary to the four that previously were used. Rotating in the sky also needs some getting used to as this is done in the same way as the steering. The possibility to set the sensitivity of the turning is unfortunately missing. A nice addition on the other hand are the special tricks that deliver SSX-like breathtaking – though unrealistic – stunts.
Since the race goes downhill, there’s less emphasis on the details of the track and it’s foremost important that you use the clearly shown ramps to get down as fast as possible. This also has a disadvantage as in the mode where it’s all about the tricks there’s truly a lack of enough locations to get monster scores. Manuals have also been removed from the game so you can add tricks up unless with grinds. To solve this problem here and there multipliers were put on the track to multiply your next score with a factor of two or three.
Downhill Jam contains a number of different game types including the downhill race, slalom, trick and damage that are quite obvious, but also one where you need to push as many pedestrians as possible aside. Original, quite funny, however all but simple. The races are divided in tiers that are gradually unlocked as your character grows. Also additional characters and skateboards will become available throughout the game.
Visually the game rather disappoints. The models look square and the textures seem to date from last century. Especially the parts in the country with little forest are very monotone. In the cities you’ll pass by quicker so the defects are less obnoxious. The game is accompanied by about 40 rock songs with names like Motorhead and Iron Maiden, typical sk8t3r boy stuff so to speak.
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam has become a fresh breeze in the series of games in his name. This time enough new elements were added to make sure it isn’t the x-th cash cow. Although this game falls down when it comes to graphics, the end result did surprise me with its swift gameplay.