Tony Hawk's American Wasteland review

The good:

-Better than the PSP tony hawks
-Online gaming is very good with 5 modes
-Lots of replay value
-Cel-shaded graphics look amazing
-Hardly any lag

The bad:

-Hard to find someone on wi-fi
-Some in-game challenges are amazingly easy


Tony Hawk's American Sk8land follows in the footsteps of its console brothers but doesn't try to bring the same experience on the go. The game still is set in the Los Angeles area with the goal of trying to build your skate park, but the game play takes a nod from earlier games in the series where you concentrated more on skateboarding and less on all the extras. It's so focused on the skateboarding element that you can't even get off the board to run around the world. Some may think it's a step back, but others feel that the series has lost its focus, so those who liked the older games should come out pleased.

In each of the levels you will need to accomplish various tasks before you can move on to the next area. As you do so, you earn money which will help you buy new props for your skate park. A nice touch is that you can either skate around to a person to offer you a task or simply bring up the menu to select a task and start it right away. For those who are feeling nostalgic, Classic mode offers the two minute limit tasks that the first games were built upon.

For the first time ever, the graphic style has taken on a cel-shaded look to the characters and backgrounds. Even though the likely reason for the art change was to help cover up some of the DS's shortcomings in 3D abilities, the decision is a smart one as you would never think it while looking at the game. The cel-shading combined with the game actually running at a full 60 frames per second makes the visuals stunning and something that you never thought you'd see on the system. A nice bonus touch is the included option to change the camera view to something of an isometric view that tries to mimic the Game Boy Advance games. While a nice touch, sometimes the camera scales in or moves too much. It's a bit quirky and not as good as the traditional view, but it's nice that they included it for the fans.

If the game excelling in the visual department wasn't enough, Vicarious Visions have included thirteen licensed tracks which includes famous artists like Green Day. The music tracks are shortened a bit but they sound great coming out of the speakers of the DS. There is also a decent amount of voice over from some of the characters you meet, including new audio recorded from Tony Hawk himself.

To top it off, Tony Hawk's American Sk8land is also the second game to support Nintendo's WiFi service. The network aspect is full featured, and you can play against other people head-to-head or in mini games. One problem that surprised me with the network setup is that it is tied to your game until you either delete it or transfer it to another DS. You simply can't let someone play it on their own DS and let them get online. Another issue is when you try to connect to someone, you just sit there and wait for a connection without any idea how many people are currently online or if there are any at all. This may not be the fault of Vicarious Visions, but instead with the way Nintendo has set up how network games are done. Either way, it's a less than ideal way of handling matchmaking online. Once you're connected to someone, it's smooth sailing without any hint of lag.

Tony Hawk takes advantage of the DS by offering customization features that take advantage of the touch screen. You can customize your deck and graffiti artwork through a basic paint program interface. Custom skate parks are also easily made by using the touch screen. A nice thing about all this customization is that all of this can be utilized online as well by yourself or sharing with a friend. Special tricks and freak outs during the game can also be executed by touching icons on the screen during the game. The problem with the touch screen usage during the game though is it can be quite cumbersome and not very easy to pull off quickly without being disorientated. You can even record a custom sound to play in either a good or bad situation using the built in microphone.

This is another amazing release by Vicarious Visions. One where they have not only gone all out with their effort, but have pushed what we can expect out of the system. It is easily one of the best titles to be released on the system thus far and that can be saying a lot given the flood of great games released for the DS lately. I thought Tony Hawk's Underground 2 was impressive on the PSP, but I find myself even more amazed with what has been accomplished here. Except for a couple spots where they shouldn't have utilized the touch screen, the game takes advantage of the Nintendo DS hardware and pushes it further than ever expected. So go paint yourself a custom skateboard and maybe I'll see or hear you online.

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