Game Review: Tony Hawk: Shred (Wii, 360, PS3)

Last year, Tony Hawk: Ride took the video game world by storm. The game, based around a skateboard controller, polarized the gaming community as some loved the higher level of interactivity and others didn’t like the new direction the franchise had taken. I missed out on last year’s controversy, but was recently able to play around with the sequel, Tony Hawk: Shred. I don’t know what jaded, hardcore video gamers might have to say, but Tony Hawk: Shred is an excellent addition to any family’s gaming repertoire. I reviewed the game on the Wii console and its multiple casual play modes to skateboard or snowboard fit right in with the whole Wii gaming ethos. It is the “Rock Band” of skateboarding, immersing players in the fun and excitement of boarding without any of the effort and risk of the real thing.

The game centers around a peripheral shaped like a skateboard. It has motion sensors so it knows when it is tilted or rocked from side to side. It also has light sensors on its front, back, and sides which are used to perform additional tricks such as grabs. Best used on a carpeted surface (stick-on straps are provided if you have a hard floor), players stand on the board and tilt it in various directions to steer and perform tricks. The game has a very nice learning curve, and its default mode is a casual mode where it isn’t even necessary to steer; simply “ollie” (like the front of the board upwards) to start a jump and then roll the board around to perform various tricks. This sort of gaming on rails is perfect for a young (or simply beginner) audience. Once you’ve mastered a few tricks and have the hang of things, you can graduate to Casual Plus where you are given branching choices as you play the game. Two additional difficulty levels ramp up things to where you have complete control over steering as well as tricks.

New to the franchise is a snowboarding mode. Several snowboard runs are selectable and while the controls are nearly the same, they provide a slightly different boarding experience and are a welcome addition. Many different single player modes are available and gamers earn stars for good performances and can then unlock new skaters as well as new outfits for their avatars. In going along with a more casual approach, there aren’t piles of unlockables such as new gear and equipment, but unlocking a new avatar does provide some sense of accomplishment.

I have to admit that I was not expecting much of the game when I first brought it out, but it quickly won me over and I ended up playing until I was physically fatigued. While not technically a work-out game, it does require a bit of balance and encourages fitness. Tony Hawk: Shred is a great example of all the good things in the current generation of video games. It gets you up out of your chair, gives you a great experience, can be easily played with friends in a party mode, and even provides a bit of healthy exercise. Do you really need anything more?

Kid Factor:
While the game isn’t exactly cheap (when bundled with the skateboard controller), it is still a game families should investigate. The board itself is pretty sturdy and stands up to the beating that kids can dish out. I know of no greater recommendation than the fact that my two young demo-monkeys (ages 4 and 5) were able to step in and play the game, entirely enjoying themselves since the lowest level game drives itself. The young teens who gave it a whirl, once they got a turn, were also impressed. They came away hoping to add the game to their Christmas wish lists. I suspect that older teens and adults who are too snobby to put up with the fun of casual game play may be somewhat put off, but even hardcore gamers should find some fun in the more advanced difficulty levels. Unlike some games earlier in the Tony Hawk franchise, there doesn’t seem to be too much to be concerned about in this title. The focus is on skateboarding (and snowboarding) with no extra story mode tacked on to provide dubious moral choices (previous Tony Hawk games have encouraged graffiti and other questionable behavior…)

One Response to “Game Review: Tony Hawk: Shred (Wii, 360, PS3)”

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