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ups: Love the ability to hand draw your own board design
downs: The graphics can't touch it's big brother counterparts, Only six levels to play

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Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam Review
game: Tony hawk's Downhill Jam
four star
posted by: Matt James
publisher: Activision
developer: Vicarious Visions
ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 11:31 AM Sat Dec 23rd, 2006
last revision: 11:31 AM Sat Dec 23rd, 2006

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Click to read.Tony Hawk\'s Downhill Jam isn\'t the red-headed step child of the skating series that you might initially think. If you don\'t think of Downhill Jam as a spin-off of the latest Hawk games, but more of a Tony Hawk\'s Pro Skater 3 spin-off, it seems even less of a departure. You still follow the same basic structure of completing goals within a time limit. It just so happens that you are racing downhill during each attempt.

Tony Hawk\'s Downhill Jam starts off like every other Tony Hawk game: creating a character. Being a DS game, I didn\'t expect the graphics to be on par with the console versions, but I wasn\'t prepared for how ugly the create-a-skater was going to be. It turned me off from what was usually one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Tony Hawk series;,creating a mini-me of skating bad-assedness. Otherwise the graphics are fine. (For the DS, still nothing compared the console or PSP Hawk games.) Luckily, before I could get too disappointed, I finished that part of the game and was surprised with something really neat, and DS specific.

The ability to use the touch screen and stylus to hand draw your very own skate board design was a brilliant addition. It definitely gives this DS entry to the franchise something unique. Even if the Wii\'s Downhill Jam has a simliar feature there is no way that the Wii-mote can compare to the pen to paper feel of drawing on the DS. It completely washed out the bad taste of the create-a-skater from my mouth. Heck, I\'d even totally ditch create-a-skater in favor making my own board design. Even if it is just the novelty of it, this feature got me jazzed.

Once you get done with the customization portion of the game you are prompted to begin the training. You can skip the training. Even as a Tony Hawk veteran, I found the training to be helpful. It gave me a chance to acclimate to not only the DS control setup but the downhill format. Many players won\'t really need the training, the controls are pretty well designed so that people familiar with the series can pick it up pretty fast, I still found it useful. It is also a good introduction to Downhill Jam\'s new \"trick\" the Burtslide.

The Burtslide allows you to powerslide around corners so that you don\'t have to slow down. This is a concept that gamers should be fairly familiar with. Since much of Downhill Jam is glorified racing, this move comes in real handy. It is probably the best reason for doing the training.

The training doesn\'t take too long, especially if you are and old pro. Soon you are off to your first race. The main section of Downhill Jam could be described as Tony Hawk meets Burnout. You are given a boost meter that you must fill by doing tricks as you race down the track. This makes tricks an imperative part of the races. In much the same way that the time limit in Tony Hawk 3 forced you to learn each level so that you could build the ultimate line for the highscores in the optimal amount of time, you must pay great attention to the level design in Downhill Jam to find the optimal route for tricking and racing. There is a balance that must be achieved between racing and tricking. Spend to much time on tricks and you could be left in the dust, not enough time will leave you with no boost, and the same results. It ends up being deceptively deep gameplay.

That is only the racing stuff, too. Like I said earlier, Downhill Jam has a very similar goal system to the Pro-Skater series. The main difference is that you must actually pick the goal you are going to attempt before you start the level. Some of the goals are very downhill oriented while others feel like they were lifted right out of one of Downhill Jam\'s predecessors. There are challenges where you must land specific tricks, get the high-score, complete specific combos, and much more. What is created is a wonderful mix of nostalgia and freshness, which is really the best way to please long time players.

There are only six courses to master in Downhill Jam. With all the different goals though, you actually get quite a bit of bang out of each course. Still the hardcore may finish Downhill Jam a little quicker than they\'d like. Thankfully there is a really nice multiplayer component, with plenty of variation to keep you busy.

Nintendo\'s friend\'s codes system of online play is no less annoying for Downhill Jam, once you get in a game, though, it is a pretty robust experience. Just about every one of the single player experiences show up here as well. Ther is even a voice chat feature. It isn\'t quite the same as chatting over Xbox Live but it cool to see them at least try. The difference is that you don\'t speak in real time. You record a message, send it off, and then your friends can reply. It is more like messaging then chatting, it\'s pretty nice though.

I was a little weary of this newest Tony Hawk game because it seemed to be a radical departure. In the end though, I was actually happy to see them try somehting a little different with a franchis that has many games under it\'s belt already and little in the way of innovation. If your a Hawk fan with a DS then Tony Hawk\'s Downhill Jam isn\'t a bad way to spend your cash.

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