Today we’re talking about Evolution Skateboarding for the PS2 and Gamecube. It came out in Fall of 2002, 2 weeks before Pro Skater 4. It was released to pretty terrible reviews. Most people thought it was cheap knockoff of the Tony Hawk series, but I don’t think that gives it enough credit. This doesn’t really compete with the Pro Skater series directly, and it has some of its own ideas.
Evolution Skateboarding is a kind of uncommon, not very well known game, although there’s a good chance you’ve heard of it before. If you remember the skateboarding part in Metal Gear Solid 2, which you can watch me play right here, it’s actually based off of this game. It’s almost a demo for it, they just don’t really make that clear.
Although it’s kind of a standalone game, it is actually the pseudo sequel to X Games Skateboarding. This one is more realistic and serious, in a way – you actually compete in the X Games. But this one is a little more over-the-top. There are actually boss battles in the game where you have to grind on tanks and stuff. I’ll show you all of that in a bit.
So let’s just talk about how this game feels for a minute. The controls are basically the same as Tony Hawk, except you kickflip by just hitting square without a direction. You spin with R2 and L2. There are some double tap moves, but you usually don’t have enough time to try them. That’s the biggest problem with the game. Everything is just so slow. Trying to do anything other than a kickflip or shove it will almost guarantee that you bail.
But to be fair, they did do some innovating here, by adding in stuff like McTwists, Rodeos and backflips without using special. And even the way specials work is different. When you fill up the bar, you stack another special trick in your reserve, and they add up. It’s a little different and it works well for vert. But not really in the arcade mode.
So the controls are a bit slow, and so is the turning. You can’t stop and kickturn around very easily, which can get frustrating.
The game plays pretty much like Tony Hawk 2 – meaning you’ve got manuals, but not reverts. You can’t land vert tricks in a manual, so that just ends your combo. But you aren’t going to be doing Tony Hawk 2 level combos in this game – it’s just too clunky. You manual by hitting up or down and triangle, like you’re doing a grind on the ground. But if you let go of triangle, so you can hit x and ollie and do the next trick, your timing has to be perfect. You really have to hit both buttons at the same time, which is really awkward. Most of the time you’ll lose your combo.
Keeping your speed is really annoying. Almost impossible at times. Right here, I’m trying to impress this photographer with a big combo. Usually you can do a trick on vert, then land on the coping in a grind. That’s a good way to get started. But if you push up to the quarter pipe, you probably won’t even get enough air to do a tre flip. Even if you do a few setup airs, there’s really no way to be sure that you’ll get any air. It’s a tough thing to see in the video, I’m sure, but it just feels really sluggish. And sometimes you have a ton of speed, but there isn’t really a clear reason how. And it doesn’t help that the button timing is really precise, and crappy. You’ll roll up to something, hit ollie, and then just not go anywhere. It happens all the time. I never really got used to this the whole time I played.
The way the stats work is also pretty weird. Your skater doesn’t actually earn stat points at all throughout the game, but you can modify your board. I don’t mind how they did this actually. It’s kind of cool, because it’s reversible. You can tweak your board for a certain challenge if you need to.
You can change the size of your deck, which helps in some ways. You can make your bearings slower, which is weird. You can change your wheel size and truck tightness. It’s a pretty decent system, but way that they actually work isn’t very good.
Let’s look at the grinds. When you first land, your balance is locked in the center for a while. Usually, this is good enough to get over the obstacle you need to for whatever challenge you’re doing. Your balance stat doesn’t kick in for a while, and then you’ll almost instantly fall off if it’s bad. But if you fall off, you can still land it. You just start to fall off at an angle, so it the rail is short, you’re fine. If it’s tall, you’ll probably bail when you hit the ground.
And as for the other stats, I honestly have trouble telling the difference when they’re high or low. So I just set them in a way that looked good.
Also on this page, you can customize the look of your deck tape! Wow, I’ve never had brown deck tape before. Come on guys, this translation is the worst.
You can actually put stickers and stuff on your board. They did a good job with this stuff, and the graphics are pretty good, so I give it credit there.
Aside from your board, you can also customize your own combos. This is basically like the create a trick feature in Tony Hawk’s Underground. You just pick a few tricks that your character will do, and it’s scored on how long it takes to do. You have 2, and they’re mapped to R1 up, and R1 down.
In general, the sound design of the game is really good. The grinds sound good, the environment sounds fine, but the only thing you’re going to notice is the announcer. This guy is narrating everything you do the whole time you play. I’m sure this is a big negative to pretty much everybody playing the game, but I really don’t mind him. This game would be really boring in general, but he helps get it moving a bit. He’s just so enthusiastic the whole time.
But, of course, we have to talk about the horrible trick naming. Just listen.
OK, so these names have haunted me for years since I first played this game when it was still somewhat new. And later, when I realized that they were also in the X Games one, I was even more confused. This came out, and a year passed, and nobody made them redo this stuff? It just doesn’t make any sense.
So here’s the thing. This game was developed by Konami in Osaka, Japan. So my only real theory here is that these names are actually right, in some way, but were just translated directly from Japanese instead of using the English names that already exist. Like deck tape from earlier. Maybe that’s what they actually call it there. I don’t really know. But considering that they have pros in the game, like Arto Saari, there isn’t really a good excuse for not just asking anybody if it makes sense before they published it.
But that’s just the trick names. Even if they were right, there would still be problems with the animation. In general, I think the animation is really good. The grinds all look and feel really solid. Stuff is tweaked out right, and I just like the style of it.
But the flips tricks are pretty much all wrong. Even the 360 flip. It’s basically right on paper, meaning that it does a 360 and it flips, but it’s really flat and kind of looks awkward and wrong.
Then there are the popheel and the hardflip. This is the ‘pop heel’. It looks kind of like a vertical inward heel, I guess? But overflipped. Really weird.
The hardflip, if you look really close, seems to be a shove it underflip. Question for you – is it possible that they completely stumbled on this trick because they animated the hardflip from a couple of pictures, and they never saw one? Or did they purposefully animate a shove it underflip, think it was too obscure of a trick, and rename it to something more basic? I have no idea, and the world may never know.
So the game looks and feels pretty good, but it could use some polish.
Let’s get into the different game modes. First is the arcade mode, which is just the regular career. This is exactly like Tony Hawk 1, 2 and 3. There’s a list of things to do, and you do them. Sometimes it’s really easy stuff, like getting a certain amount of grind distance. You have to collect stuff like toolboxes and other things.And there’s always a ‘unique’, mystery challenge, like freeing prisoners and kids. There’s even this weird Castlevania level where you’re saving people who are trapped in this torture chamber or something.
You might think there’s some kind of story that ties this stuff together… but there’s not. It’s just a series of completely random things that happen in for no reason.
There are also checkpoint challenges, where you have to collect these things in order throughout the level.
And that brings us to the boss battles. Like I said, there’s no story of any kind, so these just happen for no reason.
The first time, you’re up against this wild semi truck that’s driving around and crashing into stuff. How does a guy on a skateboard stop a big truck? By… throwing the board through the windshield? By pushing obstacles in the way that it crashes into? No.
You have to grind off these grind rails that are attached for no reason. Grind them all off, and it crashes – probably not at all because of what you did.
The other boss – there are only 2 – is a tank. It’s attacking the city, just because that’s what tanks do. This time, you’re grinding the treads, and also the main gun. It poops out grenades at you sometimes, and fires missiles when you get far away. They don’t hurt you, of course. You don’t have a health meter at all. It just slows you down so you might miss your time limit if you aren’t careful.
Once you blow up all the parts of the tank, it’s over! You saved… something… or, defeated the evil…. Something or other. Maybe you were stopping Eric Sparrow. That’s probably it.
This is the end of the game. When you win, it just kicks you out to the main menu.
There are probably things you unlock if you beat it with the whole cast here, like Rick McCrank and all those other guys, but I really didn’t feel like trying it. This game is hard. The control is kind of awkward and tough, so getting the score challenges and photography is hard… It’s difficult, but not in a fun, challenging way, but in a annoying, frustrating kind of way.
So I just decided to check out the other modes. This is Trial mode. In X-Games Skateboarding, this was the X-Games competition. But in this one, it’s just an unbranded contest. The vert part looks just like the Chopper Drop secret level in Pro Skater 2. Come on. That’s just lazy. And the thing is, this event is hard. I had just beaten the game, and I was getting 7th place in this. The vert is just weird. The timing of the ollies is way off. It’s just like the regular mode, but it just has more consequences here. You hit the ollie button, and hit your special trick… and then find that you got almost no air and you instantly bail. I could probably fight and eventually get a medal in this, but there’s just no point.
The park mode is kind of cool, because it’s a completely unique level. They didn’t just reuse something, which is what I was expecting. I had a decent time with this event, and even managed to get third after a few tries. It didn’t give me anything.
Lastly is challenge mode. There’s a tutorial too, but this is basically just a more advanced tutorial where it challenges you to do tricks. I did the first few, then I got to this one. You have to score 50,000 points. In this game, that’s a lot. Your only real bet is to get up into this half pipe here. And you have to bail on this transfer, then grind over this. If you ever air too far, you’ll fall and you’ll have to repeat the whole process. It sucks. I didn’t even bother.
So that’s Evolution Skateboarding. It’s not total garbage. I wouldn’t have given it a 4, like IGN did back when it came out, but it’s definitely not great. It’s weird too – a lot of the times, with these one-off games like Grind Session, I always wonder what it would have been like if they made a sequel, and ironed out some of the issues with it. In this case, it IS the sequel, and it’s still got all of the problems as the original. It just comes across as lazy. When I first played it, I liked that it was more realistic than anything else that was out – you could only do a few tricks in a combo, the levels were mostly realistic and everything. But it’s just not that good. If you were interested in this game and want to check it out for yourself – I think there’s a small chance you’ll like it. If you’re patient enough to get used to the controls, you probably won’t reget the $1.99 you spent. But, really, this is for collectors only. If you want to own every skateboarding game for your shelf like I’m doing, you’ll have to get it, but I wouldn’t bother putting it in your PS2. There are better ways to spend 2 bucks in skateboarding. You could buy True Skate, you could get some skate wax, you could get it in dimes and make the world’s shortest grind rail, you could flush it down the toilet… Up to you.