Tony Hawk is back and at it again with his 4th GBA
release, Tony Hawk's Underground (THUG). This time around,
there a new twist to the story, as well as new features
in the game that's never been seen before.
Just like the previous games, everything is locked
when you start, which means that you'll have to work
your butt off to make it up the ladder. There are 4
main types of game play; Story, Arcade, Free Skate &
Arcade mode features the exact same game play from
the last Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 with a similar set of
goals on each level to complete (high score, high combo,
get the tape, get SKATE, get COMBO, etc). One thing
you must remember about Arcade mode is to unlock new
levels and riders. Free Skate gives you unlimited time
to practice your tricks with the skater of your choice
and the location of your choice. In Underground, there
is a total of 10 locations to play in and a total of
17 skaters, plus your created skater when you are playing
Story mode is what this game is all about. You start
by selecting a name first, after which you'll get to
choose your skater's look. All the clothes are changeable,
except for the face and body which stays the same through
out your career. When you start you have only 1 stat
point per skill (grabs, flips, rail, etc) and to get
the next stat point, you must complete a skill, for
example, for a rail point you must grind for 2 seconds.
Because you have to gain your points, this is where
Underground differs from the Pro Skater series. In THUG,
you now have another challenge to complete while you
finish your goals which gives the game extended value
in the game play department as compared to previous
Tony Hawk titles.
Another new item you will notice when playing in
story mode, is the two extra meters on the right hand
side of the screen. The top bar is your health. If this
goes down to nil, you pass out and go back to a reset
point with minimal health. You can, however, buy health
by purchasing candy bars, energy bars and energy drinks
in the skate shop. The bottom bar is your safety equipment
status. When you're decked out in protective gear like
a helmet and pads, your health will last a lot longer,
but as you take falls, your equipment status degrades
and consequently effects your health. This is another
very nice addition to the game which gives the Story
mode an added element of realism.
THUG also has a multiplayer mode with two options:
'Hot Seat' which uses one GBA which is passed back and
forth and 'Link Play ' for two players to play head
to head at the same time.
In 'Hot Seat' you can play HORSE or Trick Attack.
I really liked the 'Hot Seat' option in THUG, and found
that it's also a really good way to get your friends
interested in the game. Unfortunately, I couldn't try
the 'Link Play' option because I didn't have a linker
or a friend with another GBA.
The controls in THUG are very familiar to the prior
Tony Hawk games, which are tight and precise as ever.
There is, however, a new control feature in THUG where
you can now get off your board and walk around. During
the story mode, most of the level is still out of bounds
until you get permission from people with in the level
to go there. But if you still want to explore that area,
you can simply get off your board and run around and
not get in trouble for that. Once again, the controls
don't disappoint, though as in previous games, you'll
still have to get used to the locked isometric view
and learn how to use the controls accordingly.
The graphics aren't much different then before, although
the menu system has been tweaked and presented a different
way which makes it more appealing and easier to navigate.
The size of the levels are comparable to those in Tony
Hawk Pro Skater 4 on the GBA and the quality of the
level layouts and graphics are still phenomenal. The
skaters look great and the create a skater mode has
lots of nice swag for your skater to wear. The animations
for the skaterís moves are also very well done and have
a true 3D look and feel to their movement and reactions.
All in all, the graphics in THUG remain true to the
high quality that we've come to expect from Vicarious
Visions and their GBA Tony Hawk releases.
Sound & Music
The music in THUG has a good grunge feel and suits
the game nicely. The game features three full length
good quality music tracks. Unfortunately, this can get
repetitive because one is used all the time for the
menu, while the other two gets rotated between the levels.
Like any good game though, there's an option to turn
off the music, so no worries there. As for sound effects,
nothing disappoints. The sounds from the skater and
his board are very crisp and precise as always.
Kudos to the development team! With THUG, they've
given the Tony Hawk games for the GBA a new lease of
life, thanks to the new Story Mode which adds a fresh
and almost RPG like element to the whole game. If you've
gotten tired of the series because of the lack of changes
and new ideas, then THUG is definitely what you've been
waiting for. Do yourself a favor and get it today!