Does anyone remember the Virtual Boy?
Riding high on a wave of fanboy success, bolstered by an incredible Japanese economy and a seemingly limitless future; Nintendo went one step too far.
Marred by usability issues, a lack of viable games and poor design in general, the shoddy device flopped – forever relegated to the land of have-it-all collectors and Top Ten Worst lists. Despite the failure, Nintendo managed to sell nearly 800,000 Virtual Boys. That was in 1995. 14 years later, video game publishers are still trying to crack the elusive ‘outside the square’ market, spurred further by the monstrous success of the DS and Wii.
In a bizarre turn of affairs, Tony Hawk’s Motion for the DS reincarnates the regrettable past pioneered by the Virtual Boy. It’s a gimmick, and it’s awful.
Motion is a triple dip title, giving you access to snowboarding, skating and a tacked on mini-game called ‘Hue’ (more on that later). The Tony Hawk name means skating, causing the snowboarding aspect of this game to feel little out of place. Motion offers you a total of 4 playable areas, two snow and two street which is an utterly paltry number for a full priced game. The areas you skate/glide on are minuscule even when you factor in the half-pipe mode bundled with each map.
So, it’s a slightly confused, limited scope handheld console game. No big deal, we can handle that. In fact, some people may prefer a title like that, allowing them to master the gameplay easily when on the road, just enough fun for the casual gamer. Sure, I can understand that. Regrettably, Activision have taken any chance of that happening and through the use of their marketing ogres stomped all chance of fun from the game. I’ll say it here and now – the motion pack used to control Tony Hawk’s Motion is horrid.
Fans of previous Tony Hawk games will be used to swooping through well designed levels based on real world situations, gaining fantastic speed and turning sharply into rises and rails to complete amazing tricks. The games are known for their speed, agility and the exhilarating fun gained from pulling off huge combos. Sounds good, right? Tony Hawk’s Motion has none of this. In Motion you are forced to manoeuvre your skater by twisting and tilting the DS from side to side. Which has you tilting the console to the point where you can no longer see the screen clearly (or at all). Which means you bail. A lot.
In previous Hawk titles you gain speed by holding the ollie button, releasing it at top speed to pop into a trick. In Motion you gain speed by holding the grind button, which happens to be the left shoulder button. So instead of gaining speed, turning to a rail and ollying up for a grind, you twist the DS out of your field of view, wobble towards an edge only to automatically grind onto it and fall off. When I first played it I thought something had gone horribly wrong. Only after repeated attempts did I realise it was on purpose.
Different game modes provide a little extra longevity into such a small title, with standard point chasing modes, quests to find green dots across the map, a grinding focused mode and free skate. Nothing revolutionary, and due to the awkward control system completing the more delicate quests in the game can be hair-pullingly frustrating. Free skate and points mode have their edge taken off by the slow and cumbersome floating camera.
Along with the ridiculously bad controls and camera angles, the rest of the game feels poorly constructed. The archetypical THPS menus are present; they feel fast but are harder to read and feel low budget. The in game music is nothing special; it’s mostly instrumental and occasionally the tracks are so slow and low-down you begin to wonder why you bothered playing in the first place. As I mentioned earlier, Motion comes with a mini-game called Hue. Hue is essentially a tech demo which uses the Motion Pack to guide your character across drab landscapes, spreading paint. It has all the appeal and charm of a bucket of rotten fish.
I tried hard to think of some genuinely positive comments to make about Tony Hawk’s Motion, but came back empty. This crass marketing exercise is designed to milk more money from the Tony Hawk cow and should be avoided at all costs.