- Uses the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
game engine to perfection
- Stellar visual presentation with the signature Disney/Pixar
- Gives younger gamers a fun title to play without a high
- Not much of a challenge for
gamers over the age of 10
- Repetitively short Radio Disney soundtrack; not bad tunes but
not enough of them
- For a game targeted at younger gamers, heavy dosage of subtly
and not-so-subtly placed advertising branding seems a little too
intrusive and nefarious in nature
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Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure
Score: 8.2 / 10
Kingdom Hearts for the PlayStation 2 proved
that you could combine the Disney cast of animated stars with a
well-established game series that you wouldn’t ever expect to see Disney
characters in and successfully create a solid and enjoyable video game.
So it shouldn’t be any surprise that what SquareSoft pulled off with
Kingdom Hearts Toys For Bob duplicates by fusing Disney characters with
Neversoft’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 engine and coming up with the
kid-friendly Disney’s Extreme Skating Adventure (DESA).
I point out kid-friendly, because unlike the more mature demographic of
Kingdom Hearts players, DESA is really a game that’s targeted to the
under-10 crowd who
still listens to Radio Disney and watches
the Disney Channel, where all of the characters in DESA practically make
Also, despite the usage of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 engine, which
helped create the toughest and most challenging THPS game yet, DESA is
extremely easy to play. This is obviously done purposely so that young
players will be able to enjoy playing without much frustration, but it
limits the audience that could possibly be interested in a solid
skateboarding game, Disney characters or not.
Even though DESA is too easy for anybody older than 10, Toys For Bob
does an amazing job nonetheless creating a very fun skating game for its
intended audience with the unexpected element of animated Disney
characters shredding and skating all over familiar locales from Toy
Story 2, Tarzan, and The Lion King animated films.
Yes, that’s Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Tarzan and Jane (in their
much-younger form, to appeal to the young game players), Simba, Rafiki,
Pumbaa & Timon, and a host of other characters from the above-mentioned
three Disney movies doing like Tony Hawk. Although they aren’t playable
as skaters, there are more than a few cameos from supporting cast
members throughout the game, such as Toy Story 2’s Hamm (no cheese).
What makes DESA so fun is the great skating action throughout the
various levels with a bunch of animated Disney stars. It’s totally
unexpected to see Buzz Lightyear grinding and flying around Pizza Planet
on a galactic skateboard. But with the use of the THPS4 game engine,
even Disney characters are 60-frames-per-second sweet skate veterans.
DESA’s both biggest problem and biggest appeal is its challenge level.
For older gamers, you won’t have a difficult time at all breezing
through the game, because the presence of the THPS4 engine is somewhat
lessened by the toned-down difficulty. Most gamers who have played a
THPS game will be able to get through the entire game in a few days. But
the appeal is for younger gamers who may not have been able to
successfully play THPS games because of their lack of gaming skills.
Now, with DESA, they are able skate like a pro, albeit with a Disney
character, not a professional skater.
That may somewhat explain the inclusion of the handful of “real” skaters
that are in the game. Not shy to take advantage of any type of positive
publicity, Toys For Bob and Disney actually had a contest to find real
pre-teen skaters to include as playable characters in the game, giving
the young DESA players someone to relate to as a real-life role model.
What’s a little bit disconcerting and scary is the sheer amount of
advertising persuasion doused throughout DESA, particularly in Olliewood,
where created characters or the “real-life” young skaters skate. Nokia
and McDonald’s are just two of the most blatant branding attempts
heavily pasted all over Olliewood.
Usually I don’t mind seeing name-branding in a game, because it can give
a title some realistic “cred” that it wouldn’t have without it. But I
have mixed feelings as a parent seeing my kids being smacked right over
the head with corporate labeling while playing a game. It just has that
“saturate you with advertising until you buy from us” message that can
be downright scary or almost nefarious in nature.
Gameplay in DESA is just as great as THPS4, which should be expected,
even with the Disney influence throughout. Instead of Tony Hawk ripping
up the asphalt, it’s young Tarzan shredding the human camp. Just like
THPS4, there are level-specific goals to meet, like spelling S-K-A-T-E
or getting high scores. Once these goals are met, more skaters and
levels can be unlocked. Each character has unique goals, and there are
plenty of unlockables to discover.
Level design displays a lot of creativity. Buzz Lightyear and the Toy
Story 2 crew can be found skating the confines of Andy’s Room and Pizza
Planet. Tarzan and Jane swing into a jungle tree house and Clayton’s
ship. Each of the game’s levels is huge with plenty of terrain to
Character design retains a good level of Disney touches, with a colorful
splash of Disney animation. But although they are well animated, they
leave room for improvement considering their pedigree in the cartoon
Good tunes that you can hear everyday on the local Radio Disney station
are wafting all over the soundtrack, but there is not enough variety.
Listening to the same tunes from Lil’ Romeo and Smashmouth over and over
can get to be annoying quickly for the older parent player. The game
does have the Xbox soundtrack feature available for a homebrewed music
Surprisingly there isn’t a lot of character dialogue that you could have
expected from a game with so much Disney elements in it. Each character
does say various individualized phrases while skating or even more when
a character bails. But most of what dialogue is spoken is
disappointingly heard few and far between in a game that could have been
a lot more fun with more funny phrases to hear.
A big plus for parents who have more than one child in the DESA’s target
demographic is the multiplayer modes, which only allows two people at
once to play, but in my household at least, helped keep the peace
between two girls just wanting to have skating fun at the same time.
Another feature that kids will enjoy is the create-a-skater feature that
gives them the opportunity to “star” in the game themselves.
If you have youngsters in the household who were relegated to only being
able to watch while you played THPS4, DESA is the perfect opportunity to
give them the controls of some similar skating video game fun with some
of the popular Disney universe stars. DESA won’t have much shelf life
for anybody over the age of 10, but provides a good game for some parent
versus young children gaming that there are sadly very few chances to
play in today’s gaming world.
Most titles are either targeted directly at young players or a more
mature audience. It’s rare to find a great game that parents can
actually play against their children. DESA and its less taxing
difficulty level actually gives children a chance to defeat their
parents in a video game.
Again, if you’re an older gamer without any children or young siblings,
DESA will not be much lasting fun for you, no matter how much you enjoy
skateboarding games. But DESA should be given serious consideration by
all parents looking for a good game for younger children whether for
themselves or some good family competition, especially if you are a
parent that can overlook the nefarious advertising.
- Lee Cieniawa
(October 11, 2003)