Tony Hawk Underground 2 Remix (PSP)
THUG 2 has been ported onto PSP format by Activision, Hurrah! Now the world can enjoy a fantastic game anytime, anyplace. Or, is it just a way for them to cash in and milk even more money from an already very lucrative series?
In the unlikely event that the PSP version is your first experience with the skating game that defined a generation then you will be pleased to hear that this is an awesome example of all the fine aspects of the series has offered up to now. It will definitely take you a few hours to get to grips with the vast array of flicks, grinds, combos, etc. so be prepared for some thumb-ache as this requires dedication. But once you've been guided through the training level by a host of pro-skaters and Jackass screwballs you'll feel ready to get cracking with the real meat of the games.
Admittedly it will take a good deal longer until you truly master building up massive scores by linking combos with 'manualling' and getting the most from your surroundings. But, from the moment that you link together your first huge score you'll be hooked and adapt your eye to look out for possible grinds in the most peculiar of places to fully explore a level. The selection of challenges means that you will need to explore to knock off all the objectives but once you get your flow it will all become so much easier.
If you are already familiar with Neversoft's finest creation then there isn't a great deal to say as you'll already know what THUG 2 is all about. The Story mode is slightly ridiculous and at times severely frustrating with some almost unattainably hard challenges. Many were appalled by the introduction of a Jackass theme introduced to a pure extreme sports entertainment package but something had to evolve for the series to continue. There are some challenges that add some light humour to the proceedings thanks to the Jackass crew but on the whole they don't bring enough to the game to warrant their existence. The good news is that Classic 2 minute mode is back alongside free play so if things do get too much then you can always move away for a while.
On the plus side this is a game that fits in brilliantly with the PSP ethos of being able to pick up a game here and there and be immediately involved in the action. The game has always revolved around the format of levels that have a plethora of mini-games and challenges to complete before moving onto the next phase. And that makes it ideal for those brief moments when you get a chance to get a quick game in.
There are 4 new levels; Las Vegas, Atlanta, Kyoto and Santa Cruz that have been added to an already huge amount of content so this game will definitely keep you busy over the long-term. There's something extremely enjoyable about cruising around on a board doing some insane tricks whilst listening to a sweet soundtrack even if you're not completing any tasks. Probably something to do with the fact many of us would like to replicate in real life but a lack of ability and strict council laws prohibit it from happening.
I suppose the vast amount of gameplay is really what makes it stand out on the PSP format as there are hardly any games to rival it at the moment. (Liberty City Stories may be the new heavyweight champion very shortly). It seriously makes you realise the potential of Sony's little black block and raises the bar for other games to reach. The future's bright, but the present's pretty glowing too.
The graphics are terrific and are coupled with a masterful mix of anthems that helped build the mass following of Hawk fanatics. Once again, the music isn't any different to the selection found on the larger console version so don't expect any fresh tunes. There is a small problem that such good quality graphics brings on a smaller screen; it's quite difficult to plan your route and clearly see where the next move is coming from. The game is extremely fluid (apart from the odd loading cut-scene when you trigger a challenge) so to become a true expert you need to know your surroundings. This poses an initial problem when scouting out a level because things are moving so fast that you can miss linking grinds or a half pipe at a crucial moment. But given the choice of a smaller less-detailed sprite with improved camera angles or what Neversoft released I'll go with the latter cause it looks lush.
So, is it worth getting THUG 2 Remix on the PSP if you've already clocked it on the PS2? Only you can answer that. The benefit is you'll have an awesome PSP game that can be played wherever and whenever you choose, the downside is you won't be getting much new for your money. Is it worth getting THUG 2 Remix if you've never played a Tony Hawk game before? Hell Yeah! It's an awesome game with shedloads of stylish moves and irresistible challenges alongside a fantastic soundtrack that will keep you hooked for a long time once you've mastered the art of skating.
8 out of 10
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.