Xbox Live Demo Roundup 2

Another week, another batch of new and slightly stale demos to read about….

    Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground

– It probably isn’t coincidence that this one lands the week that SKATE comes out. It looks like in typical fashion, gamers are drawing the line in the sand before releases even occur. The SKATE demo was so good that people are getting hours of entertainment from it, which bodes quite well for the full retail product. Because of this, some already declare Tony dead. THPS loyalists say they are unimpressed by SKATE’s controls and are more comfortable with their failsafe. Personally, I think anyone who doesn’t like the SKATE approach is either simply bad at it, or can’t really appreciate the essence of the sport as much as they can million point combos. But being an long time THPS’er I had to give this one a shot.

It sure looks nicer than the PS2 iterations. Beyond that however its the same damn game I played in American Wasteland. It seems this time around you can choose between three styles (rigger, hardcore or pro) and this defines how you progress through the game. I’m a bit tired of this “rise up through the skating ranks” schtick. Or rather, I like the idea when SKATE does it, as I truly am adjusting to the controls and will progress in skill along with my skater. By now Tony fans know what the hell they’re doing, and it seems strange that as the series gets older, it gives less and less chance for players to jump in and get real serious with the single player. It also seems to have forgotten what skating culture is like. I seriously doubt the scrappy, dirty rigger skater is going to go to his father’s place to get parts, unless he’s really a hipster in disguise. SKATE was a little awkward, but the attitudes and personalities of the other skaters (especially during the competition phase) seem more genuine.

I skated around this level for half of the alloted ten minutes without doing any of the objectives, and that’s all I needed to know I had enough. I liked the look of the level, but I figured out what happened to the THPS games. The key to the first two games was a simple, elegant control scheme that let you do the impossible, but not too impossible. The more they added, the more cluttered it got. The longer you could chain a combo, the less important the contents of the combo got. It doesn’t matter that repeating a trick degrades its point value when pulling off any 30 flatland tricks gives you a 30x multiplier. THPS1 and 2 required you to know what you wanted to do in a line, and made you think on your toes in a vert run. They are far, far more similar to actual skating (and more similar to what SKATE is going for). Since then the sequels have lost their focus. Its hard to take in a level when you’re barreling through it at what seems to be 40mph. Actually, I’m not even sure if I should be worried about the level as much as the stuff I can trick off of. This shift in priorities kills it for me, and the only reason to keep playing these is if you are good enough to outdo your opponents 6 million point combo for bragging rights.

Beautiful Katamari – I was going to write a long rant about how really, if you think about, the original Katamari was a one time deal, and it was easy to see that all of its charm would vanish with a sequel. But this is Namco we’re talking about. One sequel isn’t enough. Try three!

But seriously, there was absolutely no soul to this demo. The King sounds like a poor imitation of his original zaniness. The level itself felt like old Katamari levels plastered together. The graphics lose their charm when you know the Xbox 360 can do far, far better. It just feels like the fun is sapped out of this and the rolling becomes work.

However, I realize that for some 360 owners this will be their first Katamari game, in which case none of this matters. If you are one of them, please ignore my grumpiness because you’ll surely have fun.

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