Taking Tony Hawk For Another Ride

I came. I saw. I fell off the skateboard. Once. Gently.

Not being known to be exceptionally skilled at video games, I play them anyway. But having limited athletic skill and no ability to roller-skate, I've never tried to skateboard more than a foot.

Who better to try out the new Tony Hawk game played with a skateboard peripheral last night at an Activision event in Manhattan?

Eagerly in the evening yesterday, I stood on a prototype Tony Hawk Ride skateboard, one that runs on 2 AA batteries and has had its 300-pound weight limit tested successfully by a guy at E3 who one of the game reps on hand guessed, must have weight 350. Two of me would have barely busted the limit.

I tried the same stuff Crecente tried during his E3 Tony Hawk Ride preview and had a similar reaction. Jumps — ollies — were easy to learn and execute with an abrupt back-foot tilt of the board and then a quick leveling off. That smacks the board's underside back onto the ground, under your weight, so plan to have mercy on the people downstairs by playing this on a carpet. Like Crecente, I had more trouble executing mid-air tricks, which are activated by moves of your feet, bends of your ankles or hand-gestures (grabs, if you want) toward sensors on the board. At its most basic, one can twist that board for tricks. I just wiggled my ankles in what must amount to button-mashing in Ride. Tricks happened. Well, the first time I tried, tricks didn't happen. I lost my balance and had to step off.

Josh Tsui, president of Ride's development studio, Robomodo, told me that he plays on a hard surface without any trouble. The board holds up. The floor holds up. He pulled off lots of tricks, but he made me feel like I was standing too close. Not his fault. This game requires the personal space of a Wii Tennis match. Tsui told me that was one reason Robomodo scrapped a prototyped two-board multiplayer mode: Too many cases of bodies in near collision. Multiplayer in Ride is done hotseat style, up to six gamers getting summoned for their try on the board.

One note about the game's difficulty. When I played the skate-park level available at yesterday's demo, I first played it on "casual." This kept my rider funneled down a linear path. I controlled his momentum, minimal steering and tricks, but I could not freely roam the level. I could, at at least one fork, chose from a trio of options about where I wanted to go next in the skate park. When the difficulty was raised to "confident," I could free-roam the level.

Tony Hawk Ride is slated for release this fall on the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii. And the final board will run on 4 AA batteries. I stood on it. It's a better, firmer build.