Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure

Watch on YouTube Just when I thought I had no more Tony Hawk Pro Skater, the magic of Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure became something I was aware of. Unfortunately, after playing the game, I must admit that the game leaves something to be desired compared to the games earlier in the THPS series; while the game isn't *bad*, it has a number of aspects that just make it fall short of the enjoyment I got from the original THPS 1, 2 and 3.

Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure is based on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 engine, and I believe this may be a major factor in my personal letdown. While I never played THPS4 -- living in my nostalgia fueled bubble of THPS 3 and lower -- I have always had the perception that the engine gave up some of the magic that I loved in the earlier versions of the game. While THPS4 received significant critical acclaim, I'm not convinced that it was ever going to be a good match for me.

That said, the Disney Skate Adventure is a perfectly reasonable Tony Hawk style game. You play through as a number of different Disney characters -- from Woody to Buzz Lightyear, Tarzan to Simba -- in a variety of worlds unique to the characters and their film franchises. As Simba, you can explore Pride Rock and the Elephant Graveyard; as a Toy Story character, you pick up points in Andy's Room and then at the Pizza Planet, and so on. Each of the three film franchises has 3 characters you can play as, and 3 different zones you can play in.

Overall, the game felt to me like it had a focus on "completing interesting puzzles on a skateboard" rather than a focus on doing cool tricks, picking up points, etc. The larger levels, while praised in the THPS4 reviews, make it feel like I had to spend more time just skating in order to get to my goals, rather than focusing on tricks. (This particular problem occurs in some levels of earlier THPS games as well -- the Airport level in THPS3 comes to mind as an example, but this is improved by having so much of the level be a series of fast-moving rail grinds.) This left the "trick-completing" portion of the game to feel somewhat left out, as I spent most of my time just trying to explore a level to find the letters or triggers for the next achievement, rather than maximizing points or working on cool-looking tricks.

Another problem was the music. Tony Hawk games are known for their music: it's been a defining component of the series since its inception, with punk rock ballads being a core part of the experience. Disney Skate tries to do the same -- providing a perfectly reasonable track selection -- but because of the very different theming of the game, the tracks just feel out of place. Reel Big Fish and Simple Plan simply don't go along with Woody exploring Pizza Planet: the odd juxtaposition feels out of place. I'm not really sure what could have been done about this: The slow lilt of "You've Got a Friend in Me" also wouldn't have worked in this setting, and doing a Disney-themed punk rock selection seems like it would be hard to pull off. (Of course, even if they wanted to, I don't think that this project had the kind of funding/support to make that necessary: selling licenses to create assets is one thing, but creating completely new music in the Disney style is probably above and beyond.) I don't blame the game for a lack of access to suitable music, but it did just make the game feel weird at times.

Overall, the gameplay was solid. For thos who enjoyed THPS4, I expect this provides a similar overall experience, possibly with a bit less polish. As someone who had focused more on earlier games in the series, the transition felt more jarring than I expected. The focus on level exploration over trick completion didn't feel the same, and while the theming of Disney Skate was true to its intent, I just couldn't get into it the same way I always have with Tony Hawk games before. A perfectly passable game, but not one I'll want to come back to again in the future.