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A Game That Starts Off Fast but Ends Up Lacking
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam was one of a number of launch titles for the Wii when the console was released back in November 2006. Despite some functional motion controls and fast gameplay, there are too many hindrances to the overall experience, and it’s hard to recommend the game to racing game fans, skating game fans, and just about any gamer who wants a title with some good lasting value.
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Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam is a departure from other games under the Tony Hawk license in that it is primarily a downhill racing game in the same vein as the popular SSX franchise. Unlike that series, however, Downhill Jam suffers from a few bad track design choices and gameplay elements that really just get in the way instead of enhancing the overall experience.
There are five different event types. Race is self-explanatory. Your goal is to reach the goal at the bottom of each course before your opponents. Slalom sees you aiming for round blue gates before you reach the goal. Every gate awards you with extra time, and the object of this event is to have the highest time possible by the time you reach the goal. Trick simplifies the Tony Hawk trick system, and the object of this event is to accrue as many points possible by performing tricks. Steal the Head is like king of the hill, and players must try to hold onto the head for the longest amount of time by either being in first place or taking the head away from the player who has it. Last, there’s Elimirace. In this event, the player who is in last place gets eliminated as time passes until there is a winner.
One of the main problems with Downhill Jam’s events is that they all get old fast. The whole thing just ends up getting repetitive, and this is the biggest factor working against the game. Once you’ve played for a few hours, you’ve pretty much seen and done everything you could possibly see and do in the game. There are only eight stages in the game, but they’re pretty large in size, and they’re split up into different sections for the various modes. Still, some additional levels wouldn’t have hurt the game.
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Graphics and Sound
The graphics in Downhill Jam aren’t attractive in any way. They convey a sense of speed but not much else. Textures are blurry, character models are blocky and lack detail, and everything looks like a low-end sixth-generation video game. The Wii is no graphical powerhouse, but it can certainly handle more impressive graphics than this.
In terms of sound, Downhill Jam is a mixed bag. Most people will both love and hate the game’s soundtrack which spans various genres such as metal, punk, indie, hip hop, and post-hardcore. You’ll hear tracks from acts such as Sahara Hotnights, Thursday, The Descendants, Public Enemy, and countless others. You have the option of setting your own custom soundtrack, which is cool. The problem with this, though, is that you can’t sample the tracks before setting up your playlist. So if you’re curious about a specific song, you’ll just have to wait until it comes out during play to give it a listen.
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It’s hard to imagine anyone playing Downhill Jam for any lengthy period of time. The game is simply too repetitive for its own good, and it suffers greatly as a result of that. Downhill Challenge, the game’s single-player component, features a lot of events, but due to the repetitious nature of Downhill Jam, you’ll soon start to feel that the mode is dragging on for too long. You can unlock better skateboards and videos through Downhill Challenge, but it’s hard to see the incentive for a game that loses its fun factor so soon. In addition to the main game, there is also a multiplayer mode for up to four players. This mode includes all five events, and while it certainly is fun to play with others, even human opponents can’t keep this from becoming a dull ordeal as time goes by.
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Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam on the Wii starts off fast, frantic, and fun. It doesn’t take long, however, for the game’s gameplay elements or lack thereof to affect the experience. The ease with which you can perform tricks is pretty cool, and the stage design is decent enough, but the five different events all get repetitive faster than you’d expect. Some will enjoy Downhill Jam’s fast pace, but those who do will eventually tire of the game’s monotonous gameplay.