Tony Hawk is a great franchise, but it has been in dire need of a reinvention. The venerable skateboarding game has gone a little stale, as year after year they’ve released a similar game. In a bold attempt to reinvent one of their star franchises, Activision has released Tony Hawk’s Motion along with a Motion Pack that plugs into the GBA slot on the Nintendo DS. They’ve also thrown snowboarding into the mix, a first for a Tony Hawk game. Is this is the kick in the pants that Tony Hawk needed?
On top of that, they’ve packed in an additional game, entitled Hue Pixel Painter. In this game, you’re a ball of paint named Hue, and you have to bring color back to the world, while defeating the dastardly Drabs. Is this a worthwhile pack-in, or is it just filler?
I dove into Tony Hawk’s Motion after avoiding Tony Hawk games for a bit. I’ve found that after absorbing myself so heavily in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (I know, I’m old), from then on a little Tony Hawk goes a long way. Would Tony Hawk’s Motion bring me back to the fold, or will I still stay on the outside looking in?
The character models in Tony Hawk’s Motion have an “edgy,” angular look to them. It actually works out well, considering that the DS really can’t handle realistic graphics. The game looks fairly similar to the kind of graphics you would find on the original Playstation, which really isn’t a bad thing considering the small screen size. I will say that the skating arenas do feel very sterile and un-lived-in, but they do the job.
Hue Pixel Painter looks even better. There are all sorts of neat-looking effects, like the trail of paint behind your character that starts narrowing as you run out of paint, or the look as color gets filled into areas that were once gray.
The music in Tony Hawk’s Motion is kind of cool. It’s got a cool techno/dance/club vibe to it, and it’s not at all obtrusive. It won’t grate on your nerves or make you want to throw the DS against a wall, and you might even find yourself enjoying it. The other sounds don’t fare as well, as your skater will make the same couple of whimpers and grimacing noises, and those get old rather fast.
Hue Pixel Painter has a really catchy track that sounds way too good to be in a pack-in game. Problem is, the developers knew it too, and so the game plays it over and over and over again. Still, both games sound surprisingly good.
Considering that the new control scheme is the big selling point behind Tony Hawk’s Motion, the motion controls better be good. They do accomplish what they set out to do, namely, make you tilt the DS for controls. The controls are mostly dead-on accurate, although I kept finding myself reaching my fingers over to the D-pad to control my skater and wishing I could use it for convenience sake. Hue Pixel Painter controls well too, but that doesn’t change a fundamental problem behind motion controls in a handheld.
See, motion controls work for the Wii because the screen stays stationary. I can wave my hands like a moron, and my character will move, but the TV will not. However, on a handheld you’re not only moving around the controller but the screen as well. This means that as you tilt the DS, it gets harder to see the screen, and drastic turns mean you really can’t see the screen at all.
On top of that, the tricks in Tony Hawk’s Motion are kind of messed up. There doesn’t seem to be any real skill behind the tricks, as button mashing will oftentimes pull off a chain of crazy tricks. I couldn’t tell you how I pulled off most of my tricks. Even when you try and pick your tricks strategically, they don’t really work like you would expect them to.
I will say that grinding feels much more natural with motion controls, but it’s also way easier. Still, grinding feels broken when snowboarding, as you can do everything the manual tells you to do and you will still very rarely grind.
If you’ve played Tony Hawk, you know what you’re doing: rolling around on a skateboard, doing tricks and generally being rad. They did manage to move the feel of skateboarding over into Tony Hawk’s Motion fairly well, and for that I give them kudos. For the most part, they decided it wasn’t broke, so they didn’t fix it.
As mentioned, snowboarding is presented for the first time in a Tony Hawk game. It doesn’t really fit, though, because Tony Hawk games are about free-roaming exploration, finding a strategy that works for you, and trying out different tricks. Snowboarding is about going downhill and doing tricks on the way. They don’t really mesh when you put them together.
On top of that, there are only four arenas in the game: Vermont, Dubai, Tokyo, and the Alps. That’s it. Each one is divided into about 7 different tasks that range from roaming around in the level without a time limit to grinding on a series of poles throughout the entire level. Some of the tasks will take a really long time to master, and some of them you will finish in 30 seconds. Most of them are extremely restrictive as well, so there’s no time to do the stuff that Tony Hawk is known for, like finding new parts of a level or finding bonus secrets.
To make matters worse, in order to pass most tasks, you need to merely complete the level. Sure, you can go back and get a better score and unlock more boards, clothes, hairstyles, and faces, but it doesn’t really matter. Since you don’t really customize your character at the beginning, you don’t actually care enough about your character in order unlock more things, taking away most of the incentive to continue playing.
What value there is in Tony Hawk’s Motion comes with Hue Pixel Painter. I had about ten times more fun with Hue Pixel Painter than Tony Hawk, in part because Hue Pixel Painter had an interesting concept, if a little light on variety. All you’re doing is rolling around in paint and drawing circles around different parts of the level in order to give them color. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the general idea. Sure, the same issues that mess up the controls for Tony Hawk’s Motion tend to affect Hue Pixel Painter, but since Hue Pixel Painter isn’t twitch-based like Tony Hawk is, they are far more forgivable.
Maybe if Tony Hawk’s Motion would have had more levels, I would feel more confident recommending it. Since there were only four arenas, you don’t feel the same sense of exploration as you do in other Tony Hawk games. Hue Pixel Painter is good, but Tony Hawk’s Motion is supposed to be the main draw, and they missed the mark by a long shot.