Tony Hawk Downhill Jam

DS

Review by Matt Paprocki

Activision

Racing

Graphics: 4

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 6

Overall: 5

 

Downhill Jam had numerous benefits being on the Wii. Sharp graphics, unique gameplay, and superb controls made it a standout at the console’s launch. The DS adaptation is unable to bring any of those features along with it, making this a pale imitation of its console counterpart.

downhilljam1ds.jpg (137274 bytes)The concept is the same, breaking away from the rapidly degrading franchise with a new focus on racing down nicely planned city streets. Its cartoonish nature remains intact, with a cel-shaded look that unfortunately the DS simply can’t handle. Various types of races are presented, including trick runs, one-on-one competitions, or loaded streets with three opposing skaters.

Gameplay is fast, and taking corners at top speed is the cornerstone of any strategy. Downhill Jam has no problem offering countless ways to make the ride easier. Grinding becomes an outlet for lesser skilled players, as the characters seem to magnetically grind to any raised surface. Shortcuts are tough to pick out due to the title's low resolution, though it doesn’t take long to find them through sheer accident.

The trick system is relatively generic on the DS. Face buttons handle the basics such as grinding, grabs, and ollies. Special maneuvers require a tap of the touch screen once a meter has been filled. There’s no reason these couldn’t have been assigned to a button, and it’s a sad case of using the screen just to use it.

Jam loses a staggering amount of fun however with traditional controls. Not only does it feel somewhat sluggish, it also becomes too close to a typical Tony Hawk effort when the fun-to-use Wii controls are absent. It’s hard to separate Downhill Jam from prior DS Tony Hawk affairs when you’re performing the same tricks using the same button combinations. The developers even added the rather odd option of using a view lifted from the Game Boy Advance versions, further adding to the feeling that you’ve been here before.

As with Sk8land before it, Downhill Jam offers online play via the clunky Nintendo Wi-Fi service. The simple service allows for versus play in a limited number of modes for up to four players. There’s an in-depth option to create your own logo, clothes, and boards with the option to upload them to Activision’s website, by far the standout option when online.

Downhill Jam is a fair DS effort. The critically underrated Wii version is the proper way to experience the game, though if you’re looking for something slightly more traditional, this may suit you better. You’ll still have to make it past the clunky graphics that hinder gameplay to fully embrace it however.

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Last updated: Monday, April 09, 2007 11:01 PM