“You can’t tell me this isn’t what the original game looked like,” I murmured for probably the 50th time as I took one of the most iconic skateboarders of all time on a massive combo through the original School level. Our brains have a funny way of filling in the gaps, especially when it comes to nostalgia, and Vicarious Visions has a proven reputation for bringing our nostalgia to life already with Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. I bobbed my head and tapped my toe to the beat of a new song that perfectly blended with that Tony Hawk’s vibe. I got too greedy and bailed on a 100,000+ point combo, but I grinned and tapped Retry Level. 20 years may have passed and my skills may be a little rustier than I’d like, but Tony Hawk’s was back in a way I never thought it would be.
For a while there, it truly felt like the era of arcade-style big-air extreme sports games was over. Specifically, Tony Hawk’s seemed doomed never to return to glory, with 2015’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 a mess of a game that was assumed to have all but killed the franchise. For me, games like Skate and Skater XL get a little too technical and wade into the realm of being skate sims. While they each have their place, I just wanted million-point combos, ridiculously long grinds, and disgustingly massive air over absurd gaps. Even more so, I yearned for the old days of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater with the 2-minute timers and series of goals to complete in each level.
Looking at a 1:1 comparison between the originals and Vicarious Visions’ remake, it’s nearly unrecognizable—a complete visual overhaul in a good way—but allowing myself to drop down the ramp into the first Warehouse level, I was right back in 1999 again. The layouts of the levels remain identical, even if they’ve got a lot more detail now. The increase in graphical detail did require some slight mental adjustment of what I could grind on and trick off of, but Vicarious Visions did an amazing job visually communicating everything in the game world. There’s an added visual complexity, but it never obscures gameplay. I tricked over the half-pipe, bursting through the glass and snagging the secret tape. I grabbed all the S-K-A-T-E letters scattered around. Decades-old muscle memory returned to my fingers and I quickly completed the score and combo challenges. And then my two minutes was up. There were more goals, so I played again.
And again. That’s the beauty of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is that it’s so much fun to play. Whether nailing massive combos and high scores or just hitting a few kickers and grinds, it simply feels good to skate around these levels. The gameplay feels just right, and the revert—first added to the series in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3—does wonders for stringing vert tricks into larger combos. Longtime fans of the series should feel right at home here, and while I can’t make a direct comparison with the original games’ controls, any changes or tweaks Vicarious Visions may have made were in service of making it play just like I remember.
That’s the most important aspect of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2. It’s not developed to bring back the original games. It’s developed to bring back our memories of the original games. Nostalgia plays games with how we remember the classics, and Vicarious Visions has delivered them to us in a package that plays to the best memories from 20 years ago. “You can’t tell me this isn’t what the original game looked and played like,” I murmured again.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 Review – Combo Package
What could have been a simple remake of the first two games was turned into a great combo package, tying everything together with an overarching theme and set of challenges. Additional goals were added to the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 levels to bring them up to parity with 2 (and subsequent games). Yet these were so seamlessly integrated I had to double check just to be sure they weren’t actually there originally. In fact, almost the only separation between the two original games is listing out the levels under the respective games they came from. Visually, Vicarious Visions doesn’t distinguish between the two which makes this feel like a complete and single game experience.
And that’s perhaps the highlight of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2—besides of course being an entire remake of two of the best games of all time. Every change and enhancement that Vicarious Visions made was in pursuit of not only retaining nostalgia, but helping it flourish 20 years later. No change was made just for the sake of adding something new or doing something differently. It’s all in the interest of the fickleness that is nostalgic memory, both recreating a classic but making it feel right at home as a brand new game in 2020. It’s a fine balance that Vicarious Visions has a reputation for.
Some of the visual updates were also literally made to age the game with those of us who played decades ago. The classic skaters appear at their current ages. The Mall level is abandoned and run down. There’s a cheeky subtle reference in the THPS 1 School level to the 2020 pandemic. The Hangar level pays tribute to Neversoft and the entire series history. I grew up with the Tony Hawk’s games, and now it feels like the Tony Hawk’s games have grown up with me. I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of watching videos from the originals to compare, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 is on another level. It’s hard to truly understand just how much Vicarious Visions did until you start looking at direct comparisons.
With more than 700 challenges to complete and a whole library of unlockable boards, outfits, and other cosmetics to collect, there’s enough to keep even the most hardcore players coming back well beyond getting 100% on every level. And there are no microtransactions in sight. If you want that cool thing, you have to earn it. Classic multiplayer games are back, now with both local and online. Play some HORSE or Trick Attack. Tag areas in Graffiti. You can even create your own skate parks and share them with other players. Online leaderboards also open up a whole new side of indirect competition with friends and other skaters around the world.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 Review – Skate Punk
And I’d be remiss to talk about Tony Hawk’s without mentioning the music. Everyone remembers the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtracks. Some people discovered new favorite bands while skating around those classic levels. Most of the original soundtrack is back, with 37 new songs joining the mix. Talk about a curated playlist. Vicarious Visions nailed the feeling that made the original games’ soundtracks so iconic, and the new tracks fit right in with the old.
Wave of nostalgia aside, this is also an incredible experience for newcomers. You’d never guess that they were built on the foundations of 20-year-old games. There’s a solid tutorial that even I went through for a good refresher, guided by none other than Tony Hawk himself. There’s enough new here, with a fresh coat of paint on everything, that it shouldn’t feel like you’re showing up late to the party. Of course, as a long time Tony Hawk’s fan, it’s hard for me to determine that for myself, but the accessibility of Tony Hawk’s games has always felt welcoming. In fact, certain accessibility options can even act as training wheels should you need them. Mods can make the game a bit easier for players who are disabled or are just learning the ropes, opening the skate park for everyone.
The biggest downside of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 is that I can’t help but pine for levels from 3 and 4 getting the same love. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was my favorite game in the series, and while I have very fond memories of 1 and 2, I would love to revisit levels like Suburbia and Airport too. The revert makes a world of difference in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 though, one of the primary reasons I loved 3 so much. Perhaps one day we’ll see a 3 and 4 collection do the same thing Vicarious Visions did for 1 and 2.
Vicarious Visions’ reputation for developing nostalgia continues. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 not only lives up to the beloved classic games, but it lives up to my memory of the beloved classic games; an important distinction. It walks the fine line of recreating the classics for a modern era, while never feeling either dated or burdened with new and unnecessary changes. The small quality of life tweaks are all in service of building on the games you remember and getting players comfortable on the board 20 years later. Age hasn’t slowed these skaters down. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 looks and plays better than ever, and lands a perfect combo.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 review copy provided by publisher. Version 1.04 reviewed on standard launch PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.