“There’s a place where everyone can be happyyyyyyyyyyy. It’s the most beautiful place in the whole f***ing world!” – When you hear that while playing a game you’re very likely playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and it’s definitely a place where everyone can be happy. It’s a golden time in video games where the developers, Neversoft, came out of nowhere and produced what’s arguably one of the finest skateboarding games of all time and it plays as well as it ever did.
SK8 or Die!
The Birdman himself, Jamie Thomas, Eric Koston, Bob Burnquist, Rodney Mullen and more made up an impressive roster of 13 pro skaters. Each one had their own specific stats and signature moves made up of air, hang time, ollie, speed, spin, landing, switch, rail balance, lip balance and manuals. The concept is simple – play the career mode and earn cash for completing goals.
Each one of the eight levels had its own set of 10 goals that includes finding the S.K.A.T.E letters, getting a High, Pro and Sick score, finding a secret tape, finding notes of cash scattered all over the level and other level specific goals. For example, in The Hangar (the first level) you must collect 5 Pilot Wings, Nosegrind over the pipe and more. Head to the School II level and you have to wallride 5 bells and kickflip TC’s Roof Gap. Sometimes it’s tough trying to figure out what exactly it is they want you to do, especially in the latter levels, but trying to figure it out and succeeding is half the fun – especially considering that you have a 2:00 minute session to do as much as you can. It’s just that there’s something about this game in particular that stands out from any other skateboarding game, or most other games for that matter.
No trick too hard to master
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is an effortless experience. It just flows with ease and you’re there to enjoy the ride. Literally. Press and hold X to ready yourself for an ollie. When you reach the rail, steps or whatever you need to trick you let go of X. Follow this with the Square button and a direction to pull off flip tricks or hold in the circle button and a direction for a grab move. Once you get the hang of those basics it’s on to combining the two. Enter a half pipe and it’s a release of the X button follow by a quick press of the square button and then the circle button. Why? To build up your score dummy. Also, when you do enough tricks in a row, without bailing and repeating, you’ll max out your special meter that allows you to pull off the craziest moves ever seen. It’s obviously very unrealistic, but who cares when you’re having so much fun doing it? But there are more ways to achieve this.
Ollie onto a rail and press the triangle button and you’ll go into a grind or slide, depending on the angle that you hit the rail. Combine it with a few flip tricks and you’ll see your score multiplying in record time. That’s where the new move, at the time, came into place – manual. Basically it’s your character doing a wheely on the skateboard, which requires you to balance by tapping up and down on the left analogue stick, while making it to the next obstacle in your efforts to continue the combo and not lose your streak. The inclusion of the manual was a game changer and you can still feel its impact to this day. Without it Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 would be lost. But it’s there, and it’s fantastic and it’s made this a form of skateboarding addiction.
Extras! Extras! Read all about it!
After having collected all the cash it can be used to improve the stats of your character to make him or her much more improved in-game by being faster and reaching higher areas, previously out of reach. You can also use it to buy new tricks, decks and trucks, which will all help you in your aim to complete all those challenges. There was so much they got right in this game. The graphics, though it’s pixelated as all hell now, still looks good for a PS1 title. The soundtrack is just about unequalled. It’s filled with classics that puts you in the mood to skate including acts from Rage Against the Machine, Bad Religion, Anthrax and more. You can create your own skate park and skater using a pretty nifty editor that can be saved to the memory card and, after you completed everything that’s there, you’ll unlock rewards. You know? The DLC we pay for these days was free back then. For every skater that completes all goals you’ll unlock a cool video and should you bee cool enough you can unlock Spiderman as a skater with his own set of moves. And just when you think it can’t get any better it’s time to take on the 2 Player mode with a friend.
Yes, we all did the same thing. We played ‘horse’ mode whereby you come up with your own word and battle it out for the highest score. The skater with the lowest score gets a letter assigned to him or her. Once all the letters have been used up that skater is the loser and the game tells you quite frankly that you’re a (or an) *insert harmful word here*. There were basic Time Attacks and High Score modes too. There was no stone unturned. Around every corner in THPS2 there was fun to be had, no matter the mode.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is still the classic today it was 16 years ago in 2000. The graphics, gameplay, soundtrack, value for money, extras, addiction and pure pleasure you get as soon as the controller is in your hand still holds up in 2016. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 might have resulted in a faceplant of note, but THPS2 is all the proof you need that skateboarding games were once much cooler than school.