Reviewed: October 11, 2003
Released: September 3, 2003
The opening movie to Activision’s new Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure sums it up perfectly with the lyrics “I don’t wanna grow up…” At its core, Extreme Skate is rooted firmly in the foundation of the Tony Hawk engine, but with all the trappings of Disney characters and a handful of very lucky youngsters who were digitized (and immortalized) in this latest skateboarding adventure it is plain to see that this is a game for the young and the young at heart.
Extreme Skate takes all the best parts of Tony Hawk’s latest engine and tweaks it just enough to make it totally kid-friendly yet challenging enough to provide a respectable challenge for teens and even adults. Extreme Skate Adventure packs in many of the things you would expect from a skateboarding game sporting a major license. You can skate as 12 popular characters from Toy Story 2, Tarzan, and The Lion King, including Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Tarzan, Terk, Simba, and Nala.
Additionally, the 10 winners of Activision's "Extreme Skate Crew" contest, which gave kids across the country the chance to have their names and likenesses appear in Extreme Skate Adventure, are also playable. A create-a-skater option, nine Disney-esque levels (modeled after locations from the aforementioned films), licensed music, and simplified Tony Hawk-like controls, tricks, and challenges round out the package.
Extreme Skate doesn’t go far from the tried and true formula of the original Hawk series. You are basically presented with an assortment of levels, each with multiple goals in the form of gaps, missions, and tricks to unlock. Missions are given to you by assorted Disney characters that go along with the theme/movie of the level you are playing in.
While the core gameplay hasn’t changed the controls have been greatly simplified making the game totally accessible to kids. You can crouch, ollie (jump), flip, and do various grabs and tweaks along with a full set of grinds, manuals, reverts, and combinations of these that are limited only by your skill and imagination. As always, you can combine tricks for combo points and huge bonuses but the longer the combo the bigger the risk of losing it all with a single spill.
The worlds of Extreme Skate Adventure are inspired by several popular Disney movies and a real-world setting called Olliewood. Each of the movie worlds has three unique levels based on locations from the movie and each level has an incredible assortment of challenges integrated right into the environments. Andy’s Room, inspired by Toy Story, is massive and even has an adjoining bathroom with even more challenges. The Pizza Planet level has a large arcade with a separate diner and a kitchen in the back. Exploring these levels in their entirety can take hours.
Each level also comes with four possible characters inspired from the movies. Lion King characters include Simba, Rafiki, Pumbaa, and Nala, and favorites like Buzz Lightyear, Tarzan, Jane, Terk, and others make their skateboarding debut. They even feature custom boards that are also themed to the levels. The presentation is Disney-perfect.
Skaters have various attributes than can be improved by picking up skill icons within the levels, but you have no real ability to configure these stats outside of this system. It’s still a nice upgrade system that rewards you for playing with the same character and thoroughly exploring each of the levels.
While the mission goals are fairly straightforward (they aim you at the objective after the cinematic) the gaps are a bit more cryptic. They are named so as to give you a hint (often a good hint) at their location but other times you are totally clueless and will have to really hunt down a lot of the gaps and grinds in these levels to get that perfect score.
Other than Olliewood, the levels in Extreme Skate Adventure are all based on Disney movies and make the most of their licensed environments. Andy’s room is breathtaking in its complexity. What might be perceived as a messy room is actually a cleverly designed array of complex trick lines allowing you to grind almost entirely around the room if you are quick enough. Plastic racetrack loops and spirals around the furniture allowing you access to new areas, string is stretched across the room for grinding, and magazines are slanted along the walls creating ramps and gap opportunities. Skating into the bathroom offers you a sink, bathtub and even a toilet bowl for you grinding and trick pleasure.
The character animation is flawless. Woody and Jessie move and flop around like a rag doll. When either takes a spill their limbs will twist abnormally and they will pick themselves up and jerk back into their proper configuration. Playing with some of the non-human skaters like Tantor seems a bit unnatural at first. Controlling an elephant on a bamboo raft just a little weird when executing tricks and moves you normally associate with the human form.
The FMV opening movie is more of a music video than anything else. It documents Activision’s search for a group of ten kids chosen from hundreds (perhaps thousands) of applicants. The video is quite creative and mixes in game footage with real video.
Finally, you have the ability to create your own skater and outfit them with a huge assortment of clothing and items you unlock through normal gameplay. This definitely adds to the flexibility of the game assuming you ever get tired of the original Disney cast.
Extreme Skate Adventure contains an excellent, albeit limited licensed soundtrack featuring 13 contemporary tracks that are as kid-friendly as the game. Some of the artists include Lil’ Romeo, Reel Big Fish, Smash Mouth, Simple Plan, and Basement Jaxx, and while you can randomize the song order and edit the playlist, these 13 tracks will grow old long before you ever get out of Andy’s room, let alone finish the game. Thankfully, the Xbox version allows for custom soundtracks so you can plug in your own favorite skate music.
Sound effects are simple yet highly specific to the environments. The hum of the wheels on a variety of surfaces adds to the realism as your board clicks over tiles or hums over wood or grows oddly silent on carpet. Whether you are grinding on wood, vines, or metal you get the appropriate sound. Sound effects and music are spatially separated in a flawless Dolby Digital mix that sounds crystal clear.
The speech is excellent and even though the original cast wasn’t brought in to do the voices, the voice actors that do perform these famous characters do an incredible job of mimicking the original actors and giving these characters a life and charm that equals their movie counterparts.
Despite the simplified controls Extreme Skate still offers some highly challenging levels and missions that will keep even the most skilled gamers busy for countless hours. While the casual gamer will easily get 20-30 hours of fun from this title, those wishing to cross off all 173 objectives, 213 gaps, and unlock all 39 special tricks should be prepared to spend upwards of 50 hours.
Extreme Skate also has some two-player modes so you can compete with your friends or family. These split-screen modes include HORSE, King of the Hill, and a Score Challenge mode. There is also a free skate mode that lets you wander aimlessly around the levels but since this game is heavily geared toward mission-based objectives, there isn’t much point to this. The trick system just isn’t advanced enough to experiment for the sake of experimenting.
Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure is a wonderful game for both kids and adults. The younger kids who are unable to grasp the more complicated aspects of Tony Hawk will love the simplified trick system and adults and teens will find the challenging mission objectives highly entertaining. There’s no denying that this game has a style and charm all its own that is unmistakably Disney and unmistakably fun for the entire family.