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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Go! Go! Hypergrind (Review)

(Written in late June on a PC with no internet connection. Figured I'd post it here finally.

Back in the late 1990s, skateboarding took off (both figuratively and literally) as a viable source of video game entertainment. Thanks to the long reach of the immaculate Tony Hawk, many (read: most) developers couldn’t resist the other, equally long reach, of almost certain cashflow. Somehow, along with those typical publishers, expected to fall into a certain trend, fell Japanese RPG giant: Atlus.

Go! Go! Hypergrind stands as Atlus’ first and only venture into the skateboard genre. Though the game’s foundation bases itself in skating, the settings and design differs heavily from anything like the typical Tony Hawk archetype. However, in terms of core mechanics, Hypergrind plays very similarly. Jumping, movement, and tricks work nearly the same way. The only real difference between the controls of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and Hypergrind comes with flip tricks, as they are completely nonexistent in Hypergrind.

Along with the standard tricks, Hypergrind includes a variety of “appeals,” which come from various different stage obstacles, including decapitations, being covered in paint, and flattenings from obstacles as typical as construction machines to absurdities, like dinosaurs and alligators. Appeals add a new element to skating, unseen in any other game that I’ve played.

Unlike many skating games, Hypergrind’s story actually matters. Eleven cartoon characters have been chosen to restore interest in hand-drawn animation (accentuated by excellent cel-shaded graphics). The way that this happens apparently revolves around skateboarding or something. Every level operates under a series of competitions, ranging from simply scoring the most points, to a head to head race to gather the most points. Score carries from level to level, so competition is constant and remains suspenseful throughout all eight locations.

While I’m very experienced when it comes to skateboarding games, Hypergrind manages to stand out from the pack. While the quality does not stand up to that of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 or 4, and the stages are basically subpar, the art style and general gameplay mechanics make Hypergrind unique at the very least. Which is more than can be said for Grind Session, Transworld Skateboarding, MTV’s Skateboarding featuring Andy MacDonald, or most of the Tony Hawk games past Underground.

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