It's been a rough rail slide for the "Tony Hawk" series for the last 15 years, with a succession of releases ranging from mediocre to awful slowing to a trickle.
It was fair to assume that "Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2" would be more of the same, but the wholesale remake -- which far surpasses the spirited but bland 2012 "Pro Skater HD" -- may be just what the series needs to kickflip its way back to relevance.
Originally released in 1999 and 2000, the wacky, arcade-style trick sims rode the rise of Mountain Dew-fueled extreme sports as they crested. Even players who hardly cared about skate culture could feel like superheroes as they chained together absurd sequences of impossible athletic prowess. It was like handing fingerpaint to a kindergartener.
The new game delivers the same freeing feel, and comes at the right time because there simply isn't anything out there like old school Tony Hawk anymore.
Credit developer Vicarious Visions for being unafraid to reinvent the wheel, while making sure it still spins.
The gameplay holds up surprisingly well. Vicarious Visions holds true to the original vision and feel, while not holding back on updating the visuals, menus and ease of use to make the game seem organic and new. There is plenty of nostalgia and fan service at play here, but players who come into the game cold might not even recognize that it's a throwback.
While there's no telling whether Activision Blizzard manages to parlay the brilliant reinvention of its series into the steady release of annual updates it once merited, what we have here is something special. Lighting once again has been caught in a bottle, and the Birdman soars once again.
Publisher provided review code.