Letís pretend for a minute that Tony Hawkís Pro Skater does not exist and that they are not coming out with a sequel to it. Now letís talk about Street Sk8er 2. Electronic arts, creator of the first all skateboarding game for the Playstation, has returned with a simple but fun arcade style skating game. They have made the tracks longer and more complicated and revamped some of the aspects that were problematic. However it still suffers from repetition and the complete lack of realism.
The format of the game is very similar to the other skateboarding games with one major difference. Instead of having an arena in which to do as many tricks as possible the game is based on tracks. You pick a skater personality and start at the beginning of a stage. Then it is up to your quick fingers to get your skateboarder to the end of the stage in as little time as possible. Along the way you will have to do tricks and grinds on various ramps, bowls, walls, and rails. Each trick earns you points. If you get to the end of the stage with enough points you can go on to the next level.
There are also bonus levels, which are arenas where you can do multiple tricks and earn bonus time for the upcoming levels. Each one of these levels can be accessed in a Free Skate mode where you can learn the lay of the land without the overhanging threat of the time limit. The Competition mode has three levels that must be accomplished with each player before the game is finished. Unfortunately each new difficulty level only reveals one new track each so you will find yourself hitting the same courses over and over again.
The trick engine has been revamped from the original Street Sk8er. Unlike its predecessor Street Sk8er 2 requires more control over the board during the tricks. You cannot just hit a trick button on a jump and let the computer take care of the rest. Though this much more amusing than the original, it still is really dumbed down to benefit the imprecise button smasher. Hit a jump, press a bunch of buttons and watch the skater land some impossible trick. Some of them look really cool but other just look silly. Every once in a while the skater will fall, but the falls and the lands are terribly inconsistent. You can land a trick where the skater throws his board up in the air and flips around, but a simple grab will force you to topple over.
The best aspect of the game is the level design. There are plenty of ramps and environments to flip around on as well as some secrets and special surprises. Each level has its own mood and special attributes (tanks in Moscow for example). However, I just could not get over the fact that everything is cleverly placed for a skateboarder to go through. It would have been a little more believable if the tracks just looked like environments instead of crafted skateboarding courses. After all real street skaters donít have everything perfectly laid out for them.
Okay, now letís stop this faÁade of the non-existent Tony Hawk and his game. It does exist and it blows Street Sk8er 2 out of the water. Whereas Pro Skater is fun to play and offers diversity and realism, Street Sk8er is one of those kinds of games that you want to complete just so you donít have to play it anymore. There are no satisfying rewards for completing levels and to get anything worthwhile you must complete seemingly impossible tasks. I kept playing it and doing more and more hoping to get something more interesting than another ugly board or generic skater, but to no avail.
I guess I should mention some of the features that the game packs in to take the emphasis off of its mediocre main game. There are a couple multi-player modes, one that has you take a friend on in a bowl in an attempt to collect 5 boxes before your friend does. There is also a create-a-track mode that is surprisingly very addictive. You basically create your own skate park and although the choices are limited it is enough to quickly conceive, build, and play your dream park. Then you can go back and tweak that one part that always gives you so much trouble. Save it and take it over to a friendís house for bragging rights.
Street Sk8er is a decent game and might be something worth getting if there was not already a game on the market that does what it does and does it better. Still it is a big improvement over the original and offers some fun gameplay and some cool music. It just did not hold my interest past a few hours. After completing it with one character I was pretty much done playing it. And I am sure that any real skater from the streets would just scoff at this game and pop in some Tony Hawk.
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