Tony Hawk's Proving Ground

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2007-10-24


Developer: Vicarious Visions Publisher: Activision
Release Date: October 16, 2007 Also On: None

Handheld Tony Hawk games (GBA, DS) have had their ups and downs. They've all been broken-down versions of the console games with isometric camera angles and bright, colorful graphics. I would consider the GBA's Tony Hawk's Underground the best, at least until Vicarious Visions released Tony Hawk's Proving Ground this October. This handheld skateboarding game doesn't do anything particularly groundbreaking, but it is better than the last few games.

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground replicates some of the best elements of the early Tony Hawk games and combines them with the missions and miniature goals of newer console versions, like Project 8 and Proving Ground. Like Proving Ground's console versions you will be able to determine how your skater's story pans out, but unlike those games you will become a Neutral, Hardcore, or Career Skater. Neutral skaters follow a simple path, completing missions that work with Tony Hawk's skateboarding tour of the East Coast. Hardcore skaters tear up the craziest spots in each level, pulling off high-scoring combos through the craziest spots in the game. The path of the Career skater involves more showoff missions and competitions against other skaters.

The path I took was the Hardcore one, and I enjoyed the way the goals worked. Each mission consists of three criteria: you can perform a minimal standard and receive the Am ranking. You can improve to Pro by performing a more difficult version of the challenge, and finally, a Sick ranking by completing an even harder one. The only complaint here is the jump in difficulty between Pro and Sick; imagine a goal that requires you to reach 10 checkpoints for Am, 20 for Pro, and 60 for Sick. It is this rocketing difficulty that creates the game's element of frustration, but only players who are determined to earn the most cash for the skate lounge and customizable skatepark will have complaints. The other methods of earning cash are finding hidden cash icons located in hard-to-reach spots and finishing difficult lines akin to the free-form spot challenges found in the console versions.

Aside from the storyline and its branching paths, Proving Ground features a complete Classic Mode with goals that are very similar to those in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 & 3. You'll earn Pro and Sick scores, find Hidden Tapes, collect objects of all shapes and sizes, and perform tricks in specific areas of each level. The ramping difficulty problem from the Story mode also applies here, but mainly only in later levels. Multiplayer is as robust as it has ever been on the DS Tony Hawk games; you'll be able to challenge players on the Nintendo Wireless Connection in several different modes. Unfortunately, my all-time favorite Tony Hawk game, Graffiti, was excluded from the collection.

Visually, Proving Ground is comparable to the first two Tony Hawk games, with an impressive amount of detail and a perfectly steady pace of 60 frames per second. I found it a little annoying that you could skate right through bushes and right up stairways; this by all means is just the result of development laziness. The soundtrack is impressive for the restraints of a handheld cartridge, but I didn't really like any of the songs (discluding Nirvana's "Breed", of course) and thought they sounded very grainy coming out of the DS's speakers. The sound effects are the same ones used in the oldest Hawk games, which is slightly annoying and just another sign of laziness. This sloppiness is the biggest setback, aside from the all-too-familiar gameplay.

Proving Ground DS manages to cram a ton of content onto a DS cartridge, including touch-screen tricks and goals that require the use of the stylus, a lot of unlockable content like skate lounge items and pro videos as well as secret skaters, and more. Some of the lame things in past games, like their cheap custom skater modes, have been improved (although the new create-a-skater still doesn't allow a huge amount of customization). It's a loaded game, but I can't help feeling like it's a little too familiar, despite my opinion that it's the best overall handheld game since Underground on the GBA. Fans of the older games might want to check it out, but otherwise, send the message to Vicarious Visions, Neversoft, and Activision that the series is in desperate need of refreshment.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 3.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7.5
Final: 7
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn