Reviewed by Jimmy | 11.08.06
Tony Hawk is jammin' downhill in the latest offering from the illustrious Tony Hawk franchise. Good or bad, Mr. Hawk and his team of developers in Vicarious Visions is going for something different in Downhill Jam. Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam lets skate garmers around the world get down low with the wind in your face, racing towards the finish line. Welcome to the new era of Tony Hawk, now strap on your helmet, we're headed downtown with Downhill Jam.
Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam is the first time I've played a Tony Hawk game that didn't feel an old revision of a Tony Hawk game. This could be good or bad given your stance on the Tony Hawk franchise, but at least Downhill Jam is trying something different and that's exactly what the franchise needs. Over the years Tony Hawk has grown a little stale, and I haven't really gotten into the skateboarding shenanigans of the Tony Hawk games since Underground 2. Downhill Jam peeked my curiosity with its crazy artistic new look and its speed inspired gameplay. I'm not going to say this is the best adaptation they have done with the series, but it's certainly fresh.
In Downhill Jam you will create your character from a limited variety of character parts then your off to train, or head straight for streets competitions. You have a few basic options World Tour (Story Mode), Jam Sessions, Quick Race, Free Skate, and Lessons. Since World Tour is most people's destination, I'll touch on that mode first.
In the World Tour mode you have to take on rivals and building up your character while touring the world entering competitions. Building your character and improving his stats is always a fun little project within Tony Hawk games, but if you want a quick fix to the winning lane you can switch over to Tony Hawk himself. There are eight characters in total which become unlocked the more you progress in the story. Tony Hawk also acts as your mentor in game and he will encourage you and give you tips as you travel the world. It's pretty funny because even when you play as Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk will give you tips. It's like he is talking to himself, ah that Tony Hawk, always good for a laugh.
The skating in Tony Hawk through all the competitions and modes pushes the gamer downhill like speed racing which comes off feeling similar to SSX Tricky. You will always be soaring downhill and the trick is to complete objectives on your journey down. A few of the different competitions go from the bland, straight racing, trick competitions and elimination races, to more elaborate photo challenges, combo challenges, special move challenges and so on. No one competition stands out above the others and since its based on moving quickly the game can seem more repetitive then other Hawk titles.
Tony Hawk Downhill Jam controls using the side four buttons and the D-Pad, it's a disappointment that the didn't work in the touch screen more then just the basics, name entering and editing parts for your character. With this game coming out for the Wii as well, I expected more innovation on the developer's part. It's too bad because Tony Hawk Downhill Jam doesn't benefit at all from being on the Nintendo platform.
Continuing with controls Tony Hawk has a few more arcade elements thrown in like Boost Meters, and Power Sliding that fit right along with the new cartoon inspired look. The action is always close and even though it A.I. feels a little contrived and this is where multiplayer steps in for some human-vs.-human competition. Although, a word to the wise, max out your character before you head out for some friendly competition. Everyone seems to have finished the game online and even though I used the Hawk, I was still brutally crushed.
In a nice touch you can check your stats on the Downhill Jam website which ranges from the Most Popular User to the Longest Winning Streak. You can quickly tell that the US loves Tony Hawk because the leader boards in all categories are dominated by the US. I did catch one Canadian, Emerica who is leading the combo ranking with 91 ticks. Not so bad Emerica, keep on ranking Canadians. The integration of the website into the game is great and will keep the fanatics checking and improving their stats and this is also one of the biggest draws for Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam.
The graphics in Downhill Jam are very different and capture a bit of that Sk8land attitude with a more doped up feel. Even Tony Hawk looks like he smoke a big reef in the interpretational art of him in the game, and this goes for most of characters. I'm not a huge fan of the actual art, but I do like the comic book line-art style. It's really a shame they couldn't do more with the quality of the graphics because the game looks a little dated and squared off. I'm not going to write off the graphics in score, because overall the cartoon look is fresh and unique and deserves some credit.
The audio for the Nintendo DS is very good and hosts the typical punk rock, alternative soundtrack from the other games. Distorted guitars, loud intense vocals and fast beats on the drums, that kind of deal. I'm not going to complain about the music what else would I expect from a skateboarding game. Now, If I had to complain it would be in obnoxious voice overs, but in a way it kind of fits the drugged out art style. I know the audio can be improved upon, but in a way the cheese factor helps fit in with the games image, go figure.
Tony Hawk Downhill Jam is a new step forward for the series offering something different from the norm. Stepping into the role of half downhill racing and tricks, this new Tony Hawk game is a nice diversion from the typical free roam skate story design of the other Hawks. I wasn't completely sold on Downhill Jam as I believe the production could be stepped up, I did enjoy the new challenges the game presented. If you enjoy games like SSX Tricky or if you're a certified skate freak then Tony Hawk Downhill Jam will please your adrenaline rush. Other gamers and casual fans, I have to suggest you try this Downhill Jam out before you slap down your cash, simply because it might not be what you expected.
Gameplay: 6, Graphics/Sound: 4.5, Innovation: 5, Mojo: 6. Final: 5.5 / 10
A New Way To Play Tony Hawk, Great Online Stat Tracking
Unimpressive Graphics, Gameplay lacking, Gets old Fast.
Choose Tony Hawk or One of Eight Original Characters: Play your way through over 90 events in 8 enviornments.
Arcade-Style Racing: Crouch for more speed, jump or grind over obstacles and pull off all of your favorite air tricks to gain boosts as you race down the steepest terrains in the world.
Ride a Variety of Skateboards: Choose from a wide variety of skateboards, all of which have different attributes that affect gameplay.
Create-A-Skater: Create and customize your own character with the quick and easy customization menu that allows you to instantly preview items and see them on your skater.