2020 was a particularly terrible year all round what with a horrendous global pandemic and a looming public vote to see if a genuinely horrible man would be allowed to keep his grubby mits on the USA’s nuclear codes. But among all the dreariness there were many rays of light for those of us who enjoy a spot of the old video games, from brand new next gen system launches (if you could buy the bloody things) to some absolute gems of software titles. One of those games was the delightful Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1 & 2, releasing in August 2020 on PS4, XBox One and PC to largely critical acclaim – Jonny awarded it a solid 8.5/10 in our own review and it even made it onto our coveted (maybe) Game of the Year list.
A remaster/reimagining of the first two games in the THPS series, THPS1+2 was a breath of fresh air for fans who’d been hankering for some Birdman action since the series took a nosedive late in its life, with developers Vicarious Visions bringing back that perfect THPS feel alongside the classic levels. Now it’s had a port to Nintendo’s Swich console, brining all of the features from the original release and adding that key Switch special sauce – portability!
I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of the game itself. I played it a ton on PS4 last year and everything that Jonny raved about in his original review stands true in this port. All the tricks are here, the levels are just as you remember them, the soundtrack that accompanies the action is a solid kick to the nostalgias and the developers have thrown in a bunch of Quality of Life updates to make the game feel as fresh as it is familiar. So the big question then is, how does the game run on the Switch hardware and do you need a portable version of Tony Hawks Pro Skater in your life.
To answer the first question, we’ll get one blazingly obvious fact out of the way – this game does not hit the crispy resolutions and frame rates you may have seen on the current and last gen systems. The game targets 30fps at 720p on portable and 1080p on docked play and very much hits that target. I noticed a couple of hitches during my play through where the game stuttered, but these were largely few and far between. Perhaps the most obvious downgrade from the big boy consoles is the graphical fidelity with lower resolution textures and models throughout the game. That’s not to say the game looks bad, though; I’ve seen far worse titles on the Switch and some of the more glaring graphical differences are only really apparent when playing on a larger screen. Performance is consistent, however, and the game feels just as responsive as you’ll remember, albeit at that lower frame rate. Still, for those of you who will primarily be playing on a TV, if you have access to more powerful machines this probably isn’t the version you’ll want.
What about the games portable play then? Well, this isn’t the first time there’s been a portable THPS game, with entries appearing on the GameBoy Advance, DS and PSP systems, but this is the first time that a portable entry has released with the same level of fidelity and control as its TV bound brethren. For the most part, portable THPS1+2 on Switch is a dream – it IS Tony Hawks, but on a small screen and there’s a real thrill in being able to ollie around those classic levels without being tethered to a big screen. But there are a couple of annoyances with the Switch version played portable; firstly, having a full fat Tony Hawks on such a small screen makes you realise how much small detail you rely on in the worlds. Perhaps it’s my old eyes but I found it much trickier to spot rails, collectibles and other details on the Switch’s built in 7” screen. Then there’s the controls. The Joy Con’s seem fine at first, but after extended periods of play the buttons (yes, buttons – if you’re playing THPS with analogue sticks, you need to have a word with yourself) simply felt too small for precise movements. I also tried it using the Switch Pro Controller and the fantastic Hori Split Pad Pro (an essential purchase) and the larger buttons offered on those controllers made all the difference.
Those irks aside, though, this is still a proper game of Tony Hawks with all the bells and whistles and multiplayer antics that you can take with you wherever you go. So, as we all start to get out of our caves a little bit more, why not grab your Switch, head down to your local skate park and pop some sick tricks from the safety of a bench.