Originally released for the PlayStation all the way back in the year 2000, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 [App Store] was the definitive skateboarding game of its day. Since then, the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series has spawned a ton of sequels, but, at least in my opinion, no skateboarding game has come close to the same level of fun. I played Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 so much that I quite literally wore out controllers. I really can’t think of another game I can say the same for.
I’m not alone in absolutely loving the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 either, as it’s currently the #2 top rated game on all of MetaCritic, second only to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In its day, THPS2 received flawless reviews from nearly everyone who touched it, and believe it or not, even the Gameboy Advance port was great… An accomplishment not to be taken lightly given how terribly mediocre even the best Gameboy ports of “full" 3D games were.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 stikes a perfect balance between an in-depth career mode with multiple skaters you can slowly improve by buying additional stat points, skateboards, and tricks while also sporting an extremely open game world that seems to never run out of things for you to do. Once you do finally beat the game, there’s always topping you and your friends’ scores which begin to become a test of endurance for how long you can keep an infinite combo going before falling.
Progressing through career mode involves selecting a skate location and completing goals to earn in-game money. Initially only the warehouse is open, and goals range from finding gaps (two ramps you can jump between), picking up the S K A T E letters, knocking over barrels, reaching several different point totals, and others. Once you make enough money the second skate location opens, and the rest of the game continues like that. Of course, you can always visit old locations, which is vital if you hope to fully tweak out your skater as each stat point you buy is incrementally more expensive than the last.
Sadly, even though Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 is based on source material that is pure gaming gold, there are the usual console game to iPhone issues. First off, the necessary evil of the virtual D-Pad and set of four buttons to handle all your jumping, flipping, grabbing and grinding really doesn’t do the game any favors. They’re slowly growing on me and work as well as to be expected, but I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever be able to pull the insane infinite combos I could on a real controller just because of how hard it is to rock your thumb between two virtual buttons on the iPhone screen.
Secondly, and potentially worse is that Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 flat out hasn’t been adapted to be a very good mobile phone game. It still utilizes a similar save system to the now ancient console game where your progress is only saved after each level, so any phone calls will result in you restarting from your last save. This probably isn’t as big of a deal as it sounds, since each skate session is only a couple minutes long, but it still seems worth mentioning.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 is also a game that would benefit greatly from some kind of online leaderboard integration. The sheer potential this game has to be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen by implementing leaderboards, push challenges, and replay sharing is out of this world. I can’t even imagine how much fun sending challenges to all my friends I used to play THPS2 with back in the day would be, and I really really hope they consider adding this.
In the graphics and sound departments, it’s all there. In fact, the game looks even better on the iPhone than I remember it. It has a soundtrack of real music, although the original game music by Anthrax, Rage Against the Machine, and Bad Religion are nowhere to be found. Currently the game’s availability is severely limited, but according to Tony Hawk’s Twitter should be available internationally fairly soon.
Despite these issues, if you have any nostalgia at all from playing the original game ten years ago, you’re going to need this game. From the familiar menus to all the skate locations filled with secrets you slowly begin to remember, there’s nothing that compares to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. There is no way you won’t be smiling ear to ear the first time you drop in to the warehouse, and chances are, you won’t even care that the controls aren’t ideal because you’re playing Tony Hawk on your phone.
If you’re only familiar with more modern Tony Hawk games, you might be annoyed that it’s lacking (and I use that word loosely) things like a story mode, a more structured career mode, greater depth of customization, and other things that have since become common place in recent skateboarding games. But, honestly, none of that even matters, because the actual skating in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 has an absolutely timeless feel to it.
This is a game I will never delete from my iPhone.
App Store Link: Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, $9.99