Vicarious Visions Look to Have a Great Handle on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

When it was revealed that the first two THPS (or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater) games were getting remade in a two-game package last May, the news that Vicarious Visions were at the helm of the project was perhaps the least-surprising detail to emerge. For a studio that had done such a great job marrying the old and the new with Crash Bandicoot via the N. Sane Trilogy, it actually makes perfect sense for Activision to entrust another of what once was one of the publisher’s most-respected series of games to them. 2017’s bundling of Crash Bandicoot’s first three games, though splendid a trip down memory lane it was, housed many a fond little detail long-time fans were sure to spot. One notable example being the studio’s replicating the differing (arguably inferior) physics of the original Crash Bandicoot compared to its improved two follow-ups. An annoyingly-commendable attention to detail, but further proof that Vicarious had a great handle on what had made those platforming classics such an addiction to see to completion.

That same admiration and appreciation for the finer detail is once again on show in the demo for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. The presence of the Warehouse stage alone is by no means limiting, nor is it more importantly, coincidental. Many are sure to raise the parallels the release of this demo draws with the original game’s demo way back. And while video game marketing has become a lot more ludicrous in recent times — as THPS has somehow found itself affiliated with — you can’t fault the deliberate ways in which this latest remake has been released with the intent to draw on nostalgia first and foremost. That job’s objective is more than fulfilled, but it’s how Vicarious have allowed those fond memories to flourish again where the real positivities lie and why seeing the Warehouse stage alongside its fellow remade brethren is now an even more intriguing affair.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 Screenshot
For a demo whose single-run, free-play sessions last a mere two minutes — and, by modern standards, for a stage that seems smaller than how one previously remembered — it’s surprising just how many times this same warehouse and those same two minutes were replayed. Over and over, attempting to rack up an even higher score than before. A measly 100,000 on first go, bettered by countless more hundred-thousands, by the tenth or twentieth attempt. Part of the reason for this is of course the emergent, sandbox-like environments that all the best Pro Skater stages are built around. Even for a stage like Warehouse — a surrounding that on the surface looks bare with its two enclosed areas connected by a mere slope, a few rails, quarter-pipes and one major half-pipe your only discernible apparatus on show — there’s plenty to work out, to test out and possibly, to risk in that never-ending quest for the highest combo imaginable. The self-loathing frustration of losing a 300,000+ combo just as horrid a feeling as it ever was.

Vicarious Visions themselves state that original developer Neversoft’s original code remains at the heart of this year’s remake — touched up and tweaked with modern-day standards — and it doesn’t take long for that same feel of the original PlayStation titles to come to the forefront. Whether it’s going for another half-rotation on a grab trick, following that up by going straight into a manual so you can reach that nearby rail…only to realize you don’t have enough momentum to keep both you and that treasured combo going for much longer. These are all ambitious strides (slowly turning into dumb mistakes) I made back with the original games and while there’s a sentiment to be made about not learning from past ways, it means that Pro Skater 1 + 2‘s gameplay is just as indulgent as it was all those years ago.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 Screenshot 2
But even when you turn attention towards that which Vicarious have admittedly added to the formula, again the argument is not that which has taken away from the fond memories of the original, but rather what smart choices the developer makes to keep you coming back for another two-minute round again and again. The most notable being the way players can so quickly get back up after such a costly “bail” or error of judgment. Sure your character still falls to the floor in a heap, but in a matter of seconds, you’re back on your feet ready to go again. The game delivers this as if the character is literally being reverted to a previous state (imagine rewinding an old VHS tape) and better still, if you fall whilst enough forward momentum is present, the time between skating — before and after said mistake — is surprisingly minute. Again, it’s such a small insignificant little detail, but it has the potential to go a long way for those who are a touch more susceptible to keeping tabs on the clock.

For all the new technical improvements or even those returning assets (the former sound-bites like the paparazzi-like flash and reaching-for-glory burst you hear when pulling off a special move) sure to raise a smile, Vicarious look to have done their homework when it comes to working out why Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater eventually amassed such a passionate following. It may only be one stage — in a one-mode, two-minute-per-session demo — but it’s a promising impression to strike out from. A studio whose intent may be to harbor a remake both nostalgic and smartly-arranged, but can still cut to the heart of why these types of games garnered so many follow-ups. Because replaying the Warehouse stage over and over again — going about mapping potential routes for a combo, like we did all those years ago — is a clear-cut sign of a convincing gameplay loop. Even without the pretty visuals and the better-looking environments. In the end, Vicarious Visions may not even need the remarks on such regular “current-gen remake” staples to prove they may possibly have a great handle on doing for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater what they did for Crash Bandicoot. Early days, but the signs are promising.