Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix REVIEW

Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix Review (PSP)

The legendary Tony Hawk series makes its debut on Sony's spanking new PSP system, and Tony and his havoc-wreaking buddy Bam Margera hit hard once again. While the games's a definite port, like so many early PSP titles, THUG 2 Remix still stands out as a impressive title on it's own two feet, and helps to illustrate why the PSP's potential has captured so much attention from the larger gaming audience.

If you're being picky, you'd notice that the PSP version of THUG 2 Remix isn't quite as sharp or detailed as it's PS2 cousin. But if you're also being honest, since it's on the smaller PSP screen, and the frame rate remains silky smooth and eminently playable, you'd be hard-pressed to say this isn't a awfully good looking title; especially for one so soon out of the gate on the nascent PSP system. Colors are bright, and the levels are easy to see and navigate. Overall, it's a solid performer graphically, and in many ways, not that much less effective (or attractive) than the PS2 version itself.

The game's effects are as solid as ever, with the sounds of rolling wheels and the clacking of board hops as clear as you'd expect. The voice acting has been stripped out of the game almost completely; although I have to admit that I don't really miss it that much anyway. It's not that it wasn't acceptable; it's just that on a handheld system, I'm more tempted to skip it and get back to playing. Apparently, Shaba Studios thought so, too - which is great, because it allows more room on the UMD to showcase a traditional Tony Hawk strength - the soundtrack. In a game as wildly skewed from reality as THUG 2 Remix, it only makes sense to have a soundtrack that caters to such sensibilities. So skating to Johnny Cash, The Ramones, Violent Femmes, Metallica and the Sugarhill Gang makes perfect sense here. Want to top it off by grinding that rail to "'Ol Blue Eyes" himself, Frank Sinatra? You betcha. The soundtrack is one of the highlights of an already-impressive game, and it adds a lot more to the proceedings than you'd expect.

First and foremost, even though Shaba Studios has ported this game to PSP, they've added even more to the tempting mix, mainly four new levels that work perfectly with both the game and the slightly revamped control scheme. These levels (especially the inventive Las Vegas level) stand up very well to the already-familiar locales in the PS2 version, and add a fun new wrinkle to help keep this version feel fresh.

The face-mapping used in the PS2 version of THUG 2 is now handled in an even simpler fashion on the PSP. Simply load a JPEG image on to your PSP via a USB connection or your Memory Stick reader, and you can adjust it to add whoever's face you want on to your custom skater. It's a great touch - and one I honestly didn't expect to be incorporated into a PSP version - but it further illustrates how seriously the Neversoft/Shaba team took this project. THUG 2 Remix may be at heart a port, but that doesn't mean that the developers simply mailed it in.

The "World Destruction Tour" is back. THUG 2 Remix's Story Mode will take you from city to city wreaking mayhem and havoc wherever and whenever you can. Expect to be causing tons of damage, slapping stickers all over town, and generally roam wild and free completing whatever tasks you wish, whenever you get around to doing so. To old-school Tony Hawk players, Classic Mode provides a refreshing and fun return to the old timed runs and goals of Hawk games gone by. Collecting letters for "SKATE" and "COMBO", finding "secret" tapes, and racking up the highest scores possible are the order of the day. Personally, I think I enjoyed this mode more then Story Mode - not only because I simply prefer the straight-ahead fun of Classic Mode, but it simply seems better suited to the handheld game-playing "lifestyle". Making a few quick runs here and there seems to fit better when you're waiting for a bus, at the doctor's office, or whatever - then you can quickly turn it off, and come back and try again later.

Regardless of which mode of play you'd prefer, however, you'll be happy to note that THUG 2 Remix's controls are still simple, effective and mostly intuitive - even when transferred to the somewhat less capable PSP unit's buttons, stick and pads. There are slight changes to certain controls, but the main one has to do with the new context-sensitive R trigger. While you can still use it to revert, it now helps with grabs and various other moves in game play. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it's not too bad - although you will find your skater doing things you didn't anticipate from time to time. The analog stick on the PSP can't be used for skateboarding, either - the D-pad is your only option. I didn't find that to be a problem at all, but there's no question that the D-pad isn't quite as responsive as the analog stick, and as such, some players may feel as if they're somewhat more limited than they anticipated they would be. However, given the large difference between an ergonomic, button-laden Dual Shock controller and the elongated and less-flexible PSP unit, the question wasn't whether the control scheme had been changed - of course it had to be. The question was whether it would work well, and thankfully - the answer is "yes". Taken as a whole, this game feels like a Tony Hawk game should feel - just more portable.

THUG 2 Remix offers "Ad Hoc" Wi-Fi online play, a fancy sounding way of saying local connections only, much like a wireless System Link game on an Xbox. It's a shame true Internet online play (or "Infrastructure", as it's referred to on the PSP) isn't here, but something is still much better than nothing. There are a ton of different games to be played with this type of connection, though - so if you have a bunch of friends with a PSP and a copy of the game, there's a lot of fun to be had here.

Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix is undoubtedly a port, but it's an awfully good one. The game's core elements remain unchanged from its console counterpart, and its addictive game play makes it a perfect title to leave in your PSP for that five-minute chunk of time where you can make it one more quick time around the block. An excellent soundtrack and surprising amount of customizability just add to the tasty Remix. If you're a huge THUG fan, then the new levels alone may make it worth your while, but if you haven't played a Tony Hawk game in some time, this is a perfect place to hop back in, and be delighted at what that new PSP of yours is capable of.

Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix Score
out of 10