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Street Sk8er 2 (PSX) Review

Background Info

Well, the original Street Sk8er on the PlayStation blew some big chunks. Make that huge chunks. So why not make a sequel? Well, that's exactly what Micro Cabin and Electronic Arts have done. Street Sk8er 2 for the PlayStation hopes to get it right this time around. But now that the skateboarding cat is out of the bag, does the sequel skate away from the competition?

If you have been looking for a skating package that lets you dream up your own environments, look no further, as it's here. If you want to skate in huge city courses, you have the opportunity as well. Heck, there are even tons of maneuvers to be performed on the boards. It's just too bad it all ends so soon.

Presentation/Graphics : 86
Having seen the early version of Street Sk8er 2, the folks over at Micro Cabin have definitely put some time into tweaking the graphics. The skater models are pretty much the same, with a fair amount of detail. For example, the clothing is detailed, right down to folds and pleats in pants and shirts. For shirtless skaters, muscles are clearly visible, and some skaters feature tattoos.

Courses have a good amount of detail. Taking place in San Francisco, Moscow, London, Washington DC, and Miami, each course borrows features from the host city. For example, the San Francisco course is simply wonderful. Portions of the course take you through a Chinatown area. You'll pass buildings with Chinese letters on the windows or banners, and in spots you will notice architecture with a Chinese influence. And of course San Francisco would be incomplete without hills, and the hills are alive with the sound of skateboards. The Moscow course has a park with a tank in it, while the Washington DC course includes the Smithsonian Air and Space museum as one of the skating areas.

Wood ramps look realistic, and in all locales with pavement, the pale gray of concrete is right on. Signs which border areas of some courses are highly detailed and have bright colors. You'll recognize some name brand sponsors out there due to the fine detail. Indoor courses retain the same degree of detail as the outdoor courses. Wood crates serve as breakable obstacles and look like the real thing.

The skaters' animation sequences are fluid as skaters transition from one trick to the next. Even on the ground skaters kick their legs across the ground to increase their speed. About the only fault in the animation is found with collisions. When heading right into a wall, you'd expect to be pancaked. Instead, your speed drops and your skater continues on his merry way.

Unfortunately, the camera which follows your skater is not always in the best position. The camera views the action from above and behind the skater, and in some situations it moves to a side view. For the majority of every course the camera works flawlessly. However, if you are close to walls, and especially corners, the camera can tend to get confused. The worst camera shot occurs in the subway of the Moscow course. There are two spots with an escalator. Should you avoid the escalator and take the ramp on either side, you have to navigate your way through a narrow stretch with nothing but a side view. While the sides of the escalator are transparent to aid you, the view is awkward and usually causes you to hit the sides over and over. In turn, your speed drops. A second camera view exists, and it is the same as the default except when you perform tricks, at which point it turns into more of an action cam.

Presentation/Audio : 89
Sounds associated with skateboarding are all there. You'll hear the wheels rolling across the surfaces and ball bearings chatter as they rotate. As a bonus, sound of the skateboard changes depending on whether you're on concrete or wood. Grinds have, well, a grinding sound. The in-game commentary is almost non-existent and usually consists of short phrases.

If you love the alt-rock genre of music, you'll be happy with the soundtrack. The selection is fairly diverse, ranging from Ministry to Del the Funky Homosapien. Street Sk8er 2 features a dozen tracks, so it takes some time for tracks to repeat. If you prefer a track, the game gives you the ability to select it prior to skating.

Interface/Options : 90
Getting from the opening menu to the venues is a quick process in Street Sk8er 2. The main screen gives you the choice of changing the game options or selecting one of the game modes. Options include camera views, soundtracks, volume, memory card access, and controller modification. All stuff you'd expect from a game these days. The game is frugal when it comes to the memory card, requiring only a block of memory.

There are five modes of play in Street Sk8er. However, unless you've got a buddy with you, the number of modes drops to three. The main mode of play, the Competition mode, lets you skate against the clock on a variety of courses. The Free Skate is an untimed event good for ferreting out nooks and crannies along the course or just catching some air. The Multiplayer mode is a head-to-head competition taking place simultaneously or one skater after the other. The Pool Duel requires you to break boxes held by your opponent to increase your score. The Create a Park mode lets you design a course with over 20 different items.

The manual does an excellent job of explaining every detail in the game. Included are pointless statistics on each fictitious skater. Of note, however, is the inclusion of a few short descriptions on how to perform some tricks. Rather than simply giving a controller diagram with a couple of words, EA took the time to explain some of the common tricks. It ain't rocket science, but it is appreciated.

Gameplay : 78
The night I finished Street Sk8er 2, my hands were in pain. Skateboarding and snowboarding games tend to make me mash my controllers to execute as many moves as I can in the air. Street Sk8er 2 is no different. If you like to smash the buttons, you'll be pleased as punch. Fortunately, a few hours and blisters later, I was done.

The principle mode in the game is the Competition mode. When you first start Street Sk8er 2, only the easy level is open. To make your way through the game, you first select one of the fictitious skaters in the game. Each skater is rated in five categories: speed, acceleration, cornering, power, and jumping ability. And each skater has pretty pathetic scores in each category.

On the course, the object of the game is two-fold. First, each street course has a time limit and score limit. The goal is not just reach score required to clear the course before the clock expires, but to also cross the finish line. The game requires you to utilize your clock management skills. Racking up a bunch of points with tricks is meaningless if you are still out on the course when the clock expires. When time runs out, that's it. You might as well have not skated at all. Failure to meet both goals means you get to try the course again.

Along the way, courses have one or more checkpoints which reward you with additional time. So with a little luck, you'll meet both objectives. To advance on each street course, it is strongly suggested that you skate through to get familiar with the course layout. Courses have branches and dead ends, and there are few to no signs to guide you. In park areas, unless you are familiar with the surroundings, it is easy to become disoriented.

After completing a street course, you move onto a vert course. These courses are also timed, but they lack the expanse of the street courses. Consisting of bowls, ramps, or a combination thereof, the emphasis is on big air and racking up trick points. Scoring well in some of the vert courses is rewarded with additional time on the next street course. Also, along the way, completing a street course gives you six additional attribute points to improve your skater. As your skater improves, you can jump higher and chain more tricks together. This, in turn, increases your score. And you'll need it. As you progress through the levels, each course requires a higher point total to clear.

Once you've finished the easy level, the medium difficulty level awaits. The play is the same but with new point goals and a little longer season. Complete this and it's the even longer and more difficult hard level. Finishing the final level opens up the Street and Vert modes. Both of these modes are a five-course, single difficulty level series.

Executing tricks is a matter of pressing buttons, and often pressing them frantically until you understand the scoring. Jumping on flat surfaces is done by pressing and releasing the X button. As you hold the X button, a power meter increases. Jumping off ramps, pipes, or off the lids of bowls is similar. Just release the X button as you hit the lip of the jump.

Once in the air, various combinations of the buttons produce different tricks. Each move has an associated point score, and chaining tricks together increases the aggregate score. In theory it sounds great, but in practice it falls apart. As your skater's abilities improve, you can almost neglect your cornering ability and spread your earned attribute points across the other categories. This yields huge jumps and high scores. Because Street Sk8er 2 has a somewhat automated landing system, you only need to finish chaining your moves just before touchdown. And this makes it easy to rack up some high scores. A money move is to release the jump button, hit the L1 or R1 button, and press left or right on the stick. This initiates a spin move. Throw in a quick tap of the L2 before hitting the L1/R1 button and you get a tail grab. With each spin your score goes up. I was routinely making two or more spins on each jump, each with around 2000 points. Seeing as how the higher levels needed around 40000 to 50000 points to clear, you'll quickly realize that skating clean with this move shortens the game. Fortunately, the game restricts you from abusing this technique on the street courses - if you find a pipe on a street course, after two or three passes your point totals drop. But on the vert courses you can abuse the game to your heart's content.

Replay Value : 40
With only one true challenging game mode consisting of five different series or courses, the replay potential of Street Sk8er 2 is limited. Unless you are a skating fanatic or love to design courses, you'll finish the game and be done with it. Having worked through the entire single player mode in a single afternoon, it's hard to suggest this title for anything but a rental. That is unless you like the free skate aspects of the game and the emphasis on roaming.

In addition to the lack of length to the game, there's also the issue of the scoring system. It is too easy to tally up big scores with nothing more than spins and a couple of grabs thrown in. In fact, some of the trickier moves yield fewer points than the blander tricks. And with time a factor in all the courses, why jeopardize progressing through the game just to mash a few more buttons?

Overall : 73
Street Sk8er 2 has excellently designed street courses with a variety of obstacles and jumps. Each course features branches from the main path. What other skating game puts you on the subway tracks (watch out for the third rail by the way) with a train approaching? But even the immensity of the courses can't make up for the limited number of game modes and a point system that rewards unimaginative acrobats.

By: James Smith 4/21/00

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