I’m not sure if anyone really asked for it Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. I know I wasn’t. The series’ reputation had never been so low after Activision shattered the series, first through overexposure and finally through the disastrous comeback attempt that was THPS 5. In fact, almost the exact same idea had been tried not so long ago Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, representing the levels of 1 and 2 into a clumsy, unsatisfying whole.
Turns out it’s not a bad idea if you do it right. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is an incredible remake that does pretty much everything right and more. It may sound strange to call it the best game of 2020, but nothing else this year has made me happier. It was certainly the best surprise.
THPS 1 + 2 features all the stages of the original games, with a unified structure that allows you to jump through each progression. Developer Vicarious Visions has recreated each environment with meticulous attention to detail, sometimes in ways that evoke even more nostalgia; the shopping center level, for example, is completely boarded up and abandoned, as if it had closed afterwards THPS has been released and you are visiting again today.
The feeling of an alternate timeline THPS is bolstered by the cast of skaters, including visibly aged pros who featured in the original alongside younger current stars. I found this unexpectedly poignant. It serves as a tribute to the legacy of the original pros, while lending the series’ cultural relevance with a fresh, more diverse selection. You will get a sense of how the popularity of rollerblading has grown over the decades since the original games were released and how the skaters themselves grew up.
The same can be said of the soundtrack, which adds dozens of new artists while keeping almost every track from the originals. THPS has always had great music, but the earlier HD remake only kept a handful of songs; Activision deserves credit for doing the licensing work here. Loved hearing new additions like Skepta and Pkew Pkew Pkew, but it wouldn’t be THPS 1 + 2 without Rage Against the Machine and Millencolin.
Of course, the most important thing is how the game actually plays. Almost miraculously, it plays great. I’m not exactly sure what Vicarious Visions did with the skating model, but THPS 1 + 2 somehow feels as perfectly authentic as the originals and as modern as you would like. A big mechanical change comes from my personal favorite in the series, THPS 3: the revert mechanic that lets you perform manual tricks and combine huge combos across the stage. This was a transformative shift in how THPS was played, and revisiting beloved old levels with the ability in your back pocket feels almost like cheating. But it is not cheating: it is THPS.
Against all expectations, THPS 1 + 2 is a beautiful thing. From the creative direction to the nuts and bolts of the engine, it’s one of the most lovingly produced remakes I’ve ever seen – the rare repackage that not only captures the spirit of the original release, but resonates emotionally in itself decades later .
I often feel like a kid again when my favorite games are re-released, but THPS 1 + 2 hits differently. It puts the originals firmly into context as they update for today, reminding me that I’m not the same person I was when they first came out. Tony Hawk has changed, just like ice skating, and so have video games, and so have I.