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Joystiq presents

DS Fanboy Review: Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (GBA)

Just about everyone has heard of Tony Hawk. Whether you're a fan of skateboarding or gaming, the man has made an impact, often considered equal, in both cultures. With his first game being released way back when on the original Playstation, folks have had plenty of time to learn how to bust kickflips and grind massive rails in his games.

His games on the GBA have been no joke, either. Featuring an isolated bird's eye view, previous games featured excellent 3D graphics and gameplay on the portable system. But where the old games were all about busting big lines and tearing up the course to your heart's content, this game is more of a racing game and, as such, you're limited in the tricks department.

Upon starting the game and going through the tutorial mode, you'll first find out that the game moves very slow. Your skater slowly creeps down the hill and must avoid sudden obstacles in the road, such as rivers and rails. These pop up very suddenly in the 10 different courses available, sadly, as the game really just can't handle anything more than a 5-or-so feet draw distance.

Each of the 10 courses features 3 challenge events and 3 trick events, plus the championship event. Trick events are straight forward and ask the player reach a predetermined score, where challenge events ask you to collect items and such. There's plenty to do in each course.

The AI works a lot differently in the GBA game than in the DS title. They'll essentially keep to themselves and, if one were to collide with them, are unable to knock you from your board. As such, they are easily ignored and aside from the conflict of making sure you beat them to the finish, almost nonexistent.

The game's controls work well enough and it's easy to ollie off ramps and grind rails with the best of them. The turning is spot-on, which is nice given the sudden pop-up of obstacles demanding the player be able to turn on a dime. There is also a speed boost that, provided the player gathers various skulls littered around the course, allows one to kick it into overdrive and speed down the hill.

Customization is also included in the GBA version of the game. Upon winning events and challenges, you'll spend your money upgrading your board. You'll also receive a new board for every championship you win, so that also helps you to progress past your competition in each race.

So, in changing the formula from Tony Hawk's previous games to this new one of racing before skating, has the game changed so much as to damage the amount of fun one could have with it? Yes, mainly as one who is going to be looking at this game, interested in it, will undoubtedly want the skating of old. It's a competent idea, but Tony Hawk should really leave the racing games well enough alone.

Final Score: 6/10

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