Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is one of the best games ever made. In fact, I’ve beaten the game so many times on Dreamcast that, even a decade later, I can still blaze through and achieve 100% with any character in under two hours. It’s an incredibly challenging and rewarding game and it’s a bit of a surprise to see on iPhone. After all, THPS2 is a fast-paced action sports game that requires quick button taps and precision steering in an open world. Not exactly iPhone’s strong suits. But Activision pulled it off. While it’s missing some features from the original and has imperfect controls, this great game is a solid experience on your Apple device.
THPS2 is the perfect blend of challenge and reward. After choosing from one of the numerous skaters (many of whom are no longer well-known), you must progress through a series of levels, completing goals and earning cash in two-minute runs. The challenges for each level are pretty simple. You’ll have three scoring marks, a secret video to grab, the letters S-K-A-T-E to snag and a few level-specific tasks. Getting 100% on a level (including grabbing the random cash spread around the levels) takes some skill.
Money unlocks new levels, but is also used to improve your stats as well as purchase new tricks and boards. There’s no storyline and no side characters to interact with, but this is as close to an RPG as you’d want a sports game to get. How you spend your money makes a real impact. Do you make yourself the master of grinding rails or do you increase your hang time and spin to become king of the half pipe?
I was pretty skeptical of THPS2 when I first picked it up. I’ve had little luck with iPhone games that have virtual d-pads and buttons. To my surprise, Tony Hawk works. And it works well!
There are a few control options. The Classic option, which puts a d-pad on the left and four virtual buttons (Ollie, Grind, Grab and Flip) on the right, feels most natural. There are some accelerometer options as well, which free up the on-screen clutter so it’s easier to see the action, but it’s far too imprecise for any serious Tony Hawk fan to use for long. The controls are not perfect — steering is unreliable, you can’t pull off as many moves as you’d like with the buttons — but they are pretty solid. Some of my hot spots in levels for high scores just didn’t work in the iPhone version, because I couldn’t get the same air (not sure why) or pull off the same number of blazing combos. That said, I still had a lot of fun figuring out some new ways to maximize my scores.
Playing THPS2 again is sort of like having a PB&J sandwich and a cold glass of milk at your mom’s house. It’s nostalgic, but incredible nonetheless. I’m not able to dominate the levels like I can on a console. It’s tough, for some reason, to get good air and the occasional framerate hitches on my iPhone 3G lead to a few unfortunate bails. All that said, I kept trying, again and again. Hours of my weekend were eaten away and I couldn’t have been happier to lose them to THPS2.
As with the original version, THPS2 on iPhone comes with plenty of unlockables. There are only eight main levels to beat, but there are five more to unlock. These include the classic Chopper Drop and Skater Heaven from the original game as we all three levels from Tony Hawk 1. Unfortunately, Spider-Man is not unlockable. Major bummer. At least the epic gap checklist is intact. To truly beat the game, you need to find and make hundreds of gaps. It’s an awesome treasure hunt which along can take a dozen hours to complete.
There are a few differences from the console versions. The classic soundtrack which included Rage Against the Machine and Anthrax has been replaced by The Spanks, Killing California and others. I can live without the old soundtrack. But it hurts a bit to lose the ability to create your own skater and to have the multiplayer stripped away. Make no mistake, there is a whole lot of game in the single-player, but multiplayer would really have pushed this one towards the top of the “must have” list. Even if it were just hot potato gaming, being able to play a game of H-O-R-S-E with a mate is part of what built THPS2′s original lore