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Reviewed: Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (Nintendo DS)
Producer: Activision
Required System:  Nintendo DS
Overall Rating:
Author: Michael Ahlf
Date: November 12th, 2006


Once, upon a long time ago, Activision had a great plan; to take various "extreme" sports, put them under a single license, and make games of each of them using some variant of the engine they'd used to make the legendary Tony Hawk line. They called it "O2 Sports." Their first entry to the idea of a downhill game was Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder, which various players thought was nifty and fun, and others thought was annoying because it tried to make Tony Hawk-style gameplay work in a setting where turning around for something you'd missed was nigh impossible.

Activision might have learned from this, but as luck would have it, they didn't, and the result is Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam on the Nintendo DS.

Graphically, Downhill Jam is what you'd expect from a DS Tony Hawk-based title; unable to muster quite all the polygons they think they need, the game's programmers did the game in a wacky pseudo-cel-shaded setup, and included lots of 2D sprites for conversational windows. Additionally, the DS's LCD screen can't handle motion past a certain amount (like most LCD's, it winds up looking blurry), and the added blurring "speed lines" for high-speed travel make it look even worse.

Fans of older Hawk titles will look at this wondering what's going on. Classic TH-line skateboarding moves are present in abundance, and a few new ones are added like the Bert Slide (hand on pavement to turn quicker). The tradeoff? Special meter's been replaced by a "boost" meter, which is alternately usable for doing "special" tricks or for holding a button for extra speed. In addition, the old method of doing special tricks is gone, and now characters only have the option to do one of each type (flip, grind, manual) by pressing a predefined spot on the lower screen... but doing so means letting off the other buttons, including the jump button. Good idea, poor execution.

Level-wise, Downhill Jam on the DS is much shorter than your traditional Tony Hawk game. Gone is the exploratory mode; instead, players are expected to complete a list of "challenges" in each city, each of which is completed on one of a couple very-small city maps. Challenges include executing a set of tricks, scoring points in a race, or winning a race with best time; the normal variety you'd expect from a Tony Hawk title.

Lose a challenge, and you're greeted with a bizarre picture of someone with gigantic hair screaming "Your friend doesn't stand a chance" at Tony Hawk. This gets old very fast, but you're going to spend a lot of time hearing it.

Soundtrack-wise, there's some decent music, but nothing really notable; it's a far cry from previous Tony Hawk titles, where an eclectic mix of music was one of the high points of the series.

If you absolutely have to have a Tony Hawk title for the DS, well, this is it for now, but I'd venture that the DS is probably a tad underpowered for the type of gameplay gamers are used to from the series, and the small size of the maps tends to illustrate this point all too well. Stick with the console ports and be well aware that the Wii version of this game is probably going to be a completely different beast from the DS title.

Added:  Monday, November 13, 2006
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 1/2

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