About a year ago, Electronic Arts released the first skateboarding game to come along in a long time. It was one of the lamest PlayStation games to come out that year, but it must have sold well enough for other companies to sit up and take notice. Now we've seen games like Thrasher: Skate and Destroy and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, two good skateboarding games that show that the genre definitely has a lot to offer. Now, EA is getting back into the game with a sequel, Street Sk8er 2. The game takes a lot of its influences from games like Tony Hawk, and as a result it isn't a failure, as its predecessor was.
Much of the game is essentially a race against time. You need to get from point A to point B in X number of seconds, occasionally hitting some checkpoints that add time to your clock. The catch is that you must finish the course under a certain time while earning a certain number of points. So you must strike a balance between speed and tricks to ensure that you reach the finish line with enough points to proceed to the next level. The level design is pretty nice, containing lots of ramps and various things you can ollie over, grind on, and, if you're not careful, smack your face against. The levels also feature multiple paths and shortcuts, as well as windows, barrels, and other breakable objects. You can pick from a few different skaters, each of whom has a different set of tricks. But executing high-scoring trick combos isn't exactly difficult, as your skater sort of "homes in" on the lip of the ramp you've jumped from, making it a challenge to actually wreck when skating in pipes. The secret to tricks is to simply hold down L1 or R1 as you're going airborne from the edge of the pipe - this causes you to spin. Then, you simply jam on as many different directions and buttons as possible and let go of the L1 or R1 button before you land. The game automatically straightens you out, making it almost too easy. If you can't even handle this, there's an auto-trick mode that makes things even easier.
Aside from the main competition mode, there's also a free-skate mode, which lets you simply skate around the areas you've previously visited in the main mode. You can also create your own skate park out of prefabricated parts, including ramps, pipes, and rails. The game also has a multiplayer pool duel, supporting both a split-screen mode and link cable (!) support.
Graphically, Street Sk8er 2 looks significantly better than the original game, but not nearly as fluid or as sharp as Tony Hawk. The moves don't transition particularly well into one another, making big trick combos look extremely jerky. The levels are extremely large and look pretty good. The soundtrack is filled with songs from artists like Del the Funky Homosapien, Shootyz Groove, and Ministry. The game's sound effects are also quite nice and fairly realistic.
Street Sk8er 2 is one of those games that would have been much better received if another, better game didn't exist. In this case, that game is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Still, Street Sk8er 2 is a huge improvement over the original, and skaters looking for something to do while waiting for Tony Hawk 2 to ship would do well to check out EA's second offering.