We’re more than four years into the life of the Nintendo Switch, and yet in some ways the handheld device remains an enigma. Namely: when there’s a port of a big game, you never quite know what to expect. Sometimes you get a welcome surprise like Doom Eternal, other times a mess like Apex Legends. Which why I was only cautiously excited about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 — an excellent-yet-awkwardly named remaster of the first two games in the series — making its way to the Switch. This is a game where movement and flow is paramount; if frame rate hitches get in the way of a good run, it’s not really worth playing.
Thankfully, from what I’ve played, THPS is a surprisingly solid port. It’s not the ideal way to play, but it definitely works.
First, the obvious: the game doesn’t look great. This is especially true if you’re coming off of the recent next-gen updates for the game, which made an already excellent-looking skating title look even better. On the Switch, meanwhile, the game has a flat, simple look, particularly when it comes to the textures, which can be blurry or muddled. On next-gen consoles the skaters look incredibly close to their real-world counterparts; on the Switch they’re more like PS3 characters. It doesn’t look bad, necessarily, but definitely dated.
This is actually good news. If the developers had focused on the visuals, the performance would almost certainly suffer. It’s a tradeoff that has to be made with these ports, and the team at developer Vicarious Visions has made the right choice. I’d much rather a bland-looking THPS game that plays well than the opposite. And that’s exactly what the Switch version is. During the few hours I spent with it, I didn’t experience any significant slowdown or frame rate drops. Obviously it’s not a technical showcase — it runs at a solid 30fps — but I was shocked at just how well the game ran.
As always, whether that tradeoff is worth it really depends on your personal preference. Technical showpieces are great, but so is being able to play something as slick as THPS wherever you want. (The franchise actually has a checkered history on portable devices, with a handful of excellent isometric THPS titles on the Game Boy Advance that are now lost to time.) Combine the Switch’s portability with the brilliant THPS soundtrack and a good pair of headphones, and you have a very zen experience. Which is exactly what you need to hit some of those high scores. Really, the only thing that interrupted my flow was drifting Joy-Con controllers, which I can’t blame on the game.
It’s safe to put THPS in the “good” column of Switch ports. Visually it’s a noticeable downgrade, but that’s to be expected. If you want the most technically capable version of this remaster, you certainly won’t find it here. But that’s fine: the whole point is being able to play a slick, modern version of these games on the go. And in that, at least, the Switch version of THPS delivers.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 launches on the Switch on June 25th.
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