Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 feels like returning to your hometown for the first time in years. The things you love about it—those warm and familiar memories and touchstones—are all still there, as well as all of the parts that drove you from there to in the first place. It’s more than a remake but a little bit less than a full reimagining.
If you played either of these games when they first released, then Vicarious Visions’ remake will feel almost exactly like it did all those years ago—with the exception being that the core gameplay toolkit from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 has been added to 1 and 2. There are manuals, wall plants, and reverts to ensure that your combos never end, but you can choose to play with the original games’ trick-sets if you really want to. In a way, it feels almost odd reviewing a remake that feels so true to the original games. Yes, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 looks genuinely fantastic and the enhanced details in each level are sights to behold. But it still feels like a game from a different era—it is almost like playing through a memory. Grinding and manualing my way across School while Powerman 5000 plays on the game’s soundtrack takes me back to those late nights playing this game on an old CRT television in my childhood bedroom. It is a remake in the truest sense, even down to the original games’ flaws. Downhill Jam still absolutely sucks and Downtown is still one of my least favorite levels in the whole series.
Yet, I find myself falling in love with this game not due to how it adheres to what once was, but in how aspects of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 have been reimagined and shifted for the sake of modernity and to fit in with the skateboarding scene of today. Firstly, the roster is more diverse and built out with female skaters, POC, and even the series’ first nonbinary skater. And these additions do not feel like they are just checking off a box; each one feels earnest and thought out. The character creator system is never gendered, and levels and outfit choices ground the game in the immediate with signs that advise social distancing and mask wearing due to COVID-19. Seeing the aforementioned inclusivity highlights how Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 fits itself into the modern skate scene because, while there is still a lot of work to be done, skateboarding has never been as inclusive as it is right now. Another interesting change is how players fall in-game. No longer does blood fly out and cake the ground. Instead, there is a pixelated visual rewind that occurs when the player falls and gets back up. This small change emphasizes how the “skate and destroy” mantra has changed. Bails are still part of the journey but they are not meant to be glorified. It’s okay to fast-forward to the trick being done. And all of the games’ original skaters have been rendered as they are now—pretty old. This game does not shy away from age and from the power of time, and through doing that it shows how skateboarding is something that lasts forever. It is a way of life. If you have ever stepped foot on a skateboard and fallen in love with it, then it will always be a part of you.
Beyond aesthetics and inclusivity, my favorite addition to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is the new challenge and leveling system. It is a small edition but it extends the game and forces players to look at levels and obstacles in a variety of ways. It is similar to the challenge and ranking system found in the Call of Duty games but instead of getting 20 headshots in order to get some experience points, players are tasked with doing specific tricks and combos on certain levels or with certain skaters. They are usually fun and challenging, and I am a sucker for anything that makes me look at game mechanics or level design differently.
The multiplayer suite in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is also pretty fun, if a little forgettable. There are Jams and Competitive playlists where six players are pitted against one another in a variety of modes (Score Challenge, Combo Challenge, Trick Attack, Combo Mombo, Graffiti, Tag, and H-O-R-S-E). While fun, the multiplayer comes to life when played locally. Splitscreen is an absolute blast and is just another way this game makes that walk down memory lane. Locally battling it out in Trick Attack and Graffiti is one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences that I’ve had in some time.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 is one of the best videogames that I have played all year, and not because of nostalgia. The simple, welcoming (but hard to remaster) experience is a breath of fresh air in the wake of the disastrous Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. Moreso, it really is a great game for right now. It is unabashedly warm, upbeat, and fun in literally every way. It endears itself to the player and just asks us to have fun. If you fall over and mess up a line, it is okay. Just give it another shot! Vicarious Visions has done something special and I am so happy to say that The (virtual) Birdman is back and better than ever.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 was developed by Vicarious Visions and published by Activision. Our review is based on the PlayStation 4 version. It is also available for PC and Xbox One.
Cole Henry is a freelancer writer and an avid taco enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter @colehenry19