Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam - PS2 - Preview
Last November, Activision released a Wii-exclusive racer that combined two genres and took advantage of a new control style – Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam. The Toys For Bob-developed classic was exactly as it sounds: a Tony Hawk game that traded in the large, non-linear courses for several smaller racetracks with multiple paths and shortcuts. Using the Wii’s motion-sensing controller, Downhill Jam was one of the most uniquely controlled racers of 2006. Its only close rival was the Nintendo DS version, which was also very unique.
A recap of a previous year’s hit game is usually followed by: (A) notes about a sequel or (B) information on the game coming to a new platform. The former will have to wait as a Downhill Jam sequel has yet to be confirmed. But if you’ve been craving more since the first game was released, Activision and developer SuperVillain Studios are prepping a port that’ll give existing fans a reason to return – and provide PS2 owners with a great racer they may have missed.
From Wii Remote to Dual-Shock 2
Not counting any of the new content (which I’ll get to next), the biggest difference between the Wii and PS2 versions of Downhill Jam is that this new version is without the beloved motion-sensing controls. No more tilting to flip and turn; no more shaking to speed boost. All steering elements are handled with the analog stick, which means the PS2 version controls just like every other Tony Hawk released for the console.
Those who have played the Wii version are likely to miss the motion steering. But it’s unlikely that anyone else will think twice about it. Tony Hawk games are successful because the original creators (Neversoft) worked their butts off to perfect the controls. Since that time, the various sequels and spin-offs have focused on new courses, game modes, objectives, etc., all the things that make a sequel different from its predecessor. That’s why most of the Tony Hawk games control the same, but do not play the same.
Downhill Jam follows that plan with a game that looks and feels like Tony Hawk, has the spirit of Tony Hawk, and features the hundreds of tricks and stunts you’d expect from a Tony Hawk game – but plays like a racer.
In Different Console
SuperVillain wasn’t about to bring Downhill Jam to a new console without giving the existing fans a reason to play. Hence the creation of new, PS2-exclusive modes like Cash Grab (single-player) and Air Time (multiplayer).
Cash Grab appears to have been taken from the same place of inspiration that brought us the S-K-A-T-E collection objective. The goal is to find and collect a large sum of money. Snatch a small amount to surpass the bronze medallist and claim first place; score a medium sum to take second place; and score the most overall to win the gold medal.
Circular cash icons are planted everywhere, leading the player down one path for the first portion of the stage. After that the money icons disperse, forcing you to pick one route. You don’t have much time to think – this is a game that’s always moving forward. It is possible to backtrack but not without wasting time, and the clock is always ticking.
The dozens of shortcuts, grind-able objects (like power lines hanging over the city), and hidden areas really come in handy. They’re helpful in getting you to the finish line first, but that’s not always the primary goal. The Trick stages are more about points than speed, but you’ll still need to know the fastest route.
Air Time is a jumping game that should strike a chord with anyone who has played the recent SSX games. It’s a one-on-one, player-versus-player race where the person who scores the most airtime wins. This mode is not about the biggest jumps, but rather the amount of air scored overall. Thus, it’s possible to win just by executing several small jumps from beginning to end. Granted, a good competitor won’t let you pull such a devious trick. But if your friends are new to the game, who’s to say they’ll be able to stop you?
Skating across America in May, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam is a grand-scale Wii racer whose content has been expanded for a new audience on PlayStation 2. If you missed it the first time, this is your second chance. Don’t make the same mistake twice.