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“Skate 2” adds new tricks to winning formula

Tony Hawk is skateboarding’s Michael Jordan.

But in the gaming industry, Hawk is more like skateboarding’s John Madden. Like Madden, Hawk’s name graced an almost annual skateboarding video game that became one of the best-selling franchises in history.

Along the way, however, Tony Hawk games became about excess like allowing players to grind on wires in the sky.

Electronic Arts decided to push skateboarding games back to the beginning when it released “Skate,” a no-frills genre game that took skateboarding back to an elemental stage, in 2007. Pulling off tricks could be both easy and advanced, performing simple tricks with a flick of the analog stick and adding some buttons to that for tougher variations.

The back-to-basics approach of “Skate” proved to be a great entry point for non-skaters. Through the innovative control system, a skating novice like me could learn these tricks just as one would in real life, albeit at a significantly advanced pace and without the fear of breaking an arm.

“Skate” turned out to be a hit for EA, and like all strong sellers, a sequel was quickly planned.

EA Black Box released “Skate 2” on Jan. 21 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 — a separate sequel, “Skate It,” was released for the Nintendo Wii in November.

“Skate 2” is a lot like “Rock Band 2,” which EA also released. Both had outstanding predecessors that were released against more established franchises. Both also didn’t attempt to make wholesale changes to their originals. They took a formula that worked and built upon it.

The sequel added about twice as many tricks as the original. The player can now get off the board and arrange objects for a more interactive skate park. Perhaps the coolest addition to the game is the “Hall of Meat” feature that rewards the gamer for wipeouts. The physics of the crashes are pretty amazing, and the game allows the skater to bail out in the air and tuck into four different positions for impact. The game awards points for the gruesomeness of the injuries. It’s sort of a macabre feature, but also a very fun one.

But “Skate 2” remains a great game because of its simplicity. Without the extra features, the game is still about skating around the fictional city of San Vanelona and pulling off some big tricks. It doesn’t need all the extras offered by the other skating game on the market, and in fact is better than that because it focuses just on the art of skating.

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