Whether or not it counts as a new portable Tony Hawk game doesn’t matter because this remake rules.
Tony Hawk’s history with portables is dotted with an array of great games. The Game Boy Advance launch title Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 made isometric skateboarding work well, and the Nintendo DS game Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land was arguably one of the best online games on the system. But since the late 2000s, Tony Hawk video games have skipped out on Nintendo systems entirely. That changes with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, a remake of the first two entries in the series developed by Vicarious Visions—the same developer behind those great GBA and DS games. While this remake is not purely a portable skateboarding game (the Switch is, after all, a hybrid console), it is a fitting next step in Tony Hawk’s Nintendo history as this is both a virtuoso masterpiece of a video game and also a solid Switch port that excels as a portable game.
The technical chops of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 on Switch are the most important part of the equation, though, and thankfully, the game runs well. The visuals are at a lower resolution and the framerate is locked to 30 frames per second, but everything is smooth. The gameplay is uninhibited by the downgrade. I bounced between the shiny Xbox Series X version and the Switch version and while the visual disparity is nakedly obvious, the game was indistinguishable otherwise aside from longer load times on Switch. Even in the case of the load times, they are more par for the course on the Switch than poor. Unless you desire to bounce between levels constantly, the loads are never burdensome.
Online multiplayer is also available, featuring both random and friend multiplayer. You need a Switch Online account, but my experiences with it have been positive. The online does a cool thing where you largely just all hang out in a level with different timed scores and combo challenges popping every minute or so. You might see another online player lag while you play, but I had no hitches in my own play while online. In addition to the simultaneous online, you can also compete in Single Session high scores and objective-clearing Speed Runs, all with online leaderboards.
Outside of the Switch port, the remake combines and refines a pair of classic games in the best way possible. The 15 levels from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 are lovingly recreated, with a few clever updates, most notably the school being empty due to COVID and the mall being derelict and abandoned. All the old objectives are back, so you’ll be able to collect S-K-A-T-E, go for the hidden tapes, and all the other familiar fare. Objectives are added to the original game’s levels as well and there are even more secrets nestled throughout the levels. Even as someone who played these games to death back in the day and played a lot of this specific release last year on Xbox, I still found myself delighted exploring these different levels, rediscovering secrets, and landing long combos.
If you’re brand new to Tony Hawk games or just rusty, a number of deep tutorials can bring you up to speed. When these games first came out, they did not have both the manual and revert moves, which are useful for linking together combos, but now both games have them from the start. If you’re a purist, you can turn them off. Also, you can even turn off bails and tweak the difficulty in a variety of different ways, which makes the game more playable and accessible to anyone who wants to check it out. It’s hard for me to totally judge how approachable Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is for a newcomer, but my three-year-old had a good time with it when I turned off bails.
The Switch release benefits from post-launch updates from the 2020 release on Xbox and PlayStation. Originally, online multiplayer had no friend support, but that is not the case here. Also, you can now take each playable skater through their own career mode. Before, every skater shared the same goals and objectives—aside from each one having unique stat upgrade points to find in each level. It made upgrading skaters a slog, because the only objective you’d have after beating the game was to just find two or three stat points per level. The original full-game persistence is still accessible if you want it, but the game is much better with another option. It’s way more fun playing through the two games with every skater now.
One of the best additions to the remakes are the external challenges and leveling up. You have a ton of additional challenges and objectives to complete outside of the individual stages, ranging from landing specific special tricks to jumping over certain gaps. Each skater also has their own individual challenges as well. The rewards for completing these range from new in-game skateboards and outfits to unlockable characters. Nothing you unlock is all that game-changing, but it’s nice to have an added reason to mess around with these levels beyond the in-level objectives. The leveling up adds another carrot to chase while you work through the game, doing a good job to deepen replayability.
None of the new additions hurt the overall feel and vibe that made the Tony Hawk games so memorable ages ago. This feels like the original two games gloriously reborn on Nintendo platforms, but this time you can actually hear the lyrics to “Police Truck” by the Dead Kennedys (since the questionable lyrics were removed on the Nintendo 64 release). The soundtrack has basically every memorable song from the first two games as well as a good collection of songs that fit right into the skateboarding aesthetic cultivated by the originals. “Firecracker” by Strung Out is a really good addition, but I also have a weakness for the punk/rock/metal fusion of that band mixed with Jason Cruz’s melodic vocals.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 on Switch isn’t going to hold a candle visually to the 4K renditions on other consoles, but considering the original Tony Hawk games on PlayStation still mostly hold up, the visuals aren’t the driving force here. The key aspect is that Tony Hawk plays phenomenally well on Switch. You might not be able to see every hair follicle on Chad Muska’s head, but you’ll be able to do the Muska Nose Manual and land a sick combo without any issue. That’s what is important in a Tony Hawk game. Whether this game is seen as the next great portable skateboarding game or a less visually pretty home console game, the most cogent point is that it plays incredibly and with so much to do across both of the remade games, this is one of the best skateboarding games ever made.