Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam Wii Review
An open game world and potential for massive combos are things that the Tony Hawk’s series has become synonymous for, so it comes as quite a shock to learn that Downhill Jam tramples all over tradition and bursts out of its new chrysalis as a racing game. True, the birdman’s name may indeed be in the title, but this is far removed from anything that came before it.
There’s valid reason for some fans feeling insulted by this spin-off, as it’s not exactly how you would expect to find a Tony Hawk’s game, although we do feel that it has been harshly treated for sharing the moniker of the games with the open world and endless combos. Simply put, we don’t even think that Downhill Jam should be rated as a Tony Hawk’s game, as this is one that has been born into an entirely different genre and given life by a fresh developer.
In fact Tony Hawk is the only real life skateboarder who shows up in Downhill Jam, the rest of the characters are colourful stereotypes that just so happen to be annoyingly cheesy. Intended humour plays a major role, but rarely did we feel the need to laugh, at least for the right reasons anyway, as we were actually forcing laugher upon ourselves, although just at how stupid some of the dialogue happens to be. Some people will warm to it, but don’t worry if you don’t as a single button press cancels out this silly banter.
Believe the title, Downhill Jam is about skateboarding down hills at stupid speeds and doing everything in your power to come out as the victor, and yes that includes some very underhanded and unsporting tactics. It’s not all racing though, as you’ll find that there’s enough variety to keep the interest from wandering elsewhere.
Besides ordinary racing, there’s elimination events, and as such events go it’s pulse racing stuff, punishing the boarder languishing in last position by plucking his or hers existence straight from the race. With all the latter said, it’s probably needless to say that you’ll never want to be in such an embarrassing position. Slalom events meanwhile have you racing through blue spheres to keep the on-screen clock alive, whilst trick events assure that there’s some other connection to the ordinary series besides the skateboard. Finally, the knockdown events are great fun and give you the opportunity to take out your frustrations on the inhabitants of the environments by crashing into them or using your limbs to do the damage, with the objective obviously being to take out as many people as possible.
There’s eight tracks in all including San Francisco, Hong Kong, Machu Picchu, Rome, Edinburgh, Rio, The Mall, and The Alps. All the tracks obviously point downwards and in many aspects they actually bring EA’s SSX series to mind thanks to their often crazy shortcuts. Good stuff, but what’s most important is that the tracks are memorable and not without personality.
But how does it control? Well basically you hold the remote in a horizontal position and move it in the direction you are wanting your skateboard to travel. Boosting is also possible by building up your boost meter by pulling off tricks and taking out your rivals, and then pushing the remote quickly to propel yourself forward, then there’s the power sliding around corners, in which releasing the A button at the right time will also result in a boost of speed. Tricks are meanwhile performed by using the 1 and 2 buttons in combination with the d-pad. The Wii remote is certainly put to good use, and gliding down the fast hills and merely steering your skateboard is a total joy.
Multiplayer for up to four players is also an option, and it’s the ideal manner in which to show your skills with the remote. All the options of the single player game are present, which means that if you’ve got someone else to play against, then multiplayer is sure to extend the games life off the shelf.
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam is a great early title for the Wii that proves once again that using the remote can certainly be a lot of fun. We liked it so much that we hope the Downhill Jam name will be turned into a series of games, as yes it may not be an ordinary Hawk game, but it’s still a nice alternative, and certainly a worthy play for those who have been perplexed by previous Tony Hawk games.