Tony Hawk's American Sk8land

You might think Tony Hawk is getting on a bit. Surely years of sliding onto his elbows and slicing open his shins have taken their toll on skateboarding's global icon? But no. As popular as ever, Hawk may have retired from competitions, but he still skates everyday. And judging from his DS debut, Tony Hawk's American Sk8land, there's still plenty of excitement packed into Tony Hawk's 9-5.

The first thing that strikes you on firing up Tony Hawk's American Sk8land is its amazing visual style. It mixes bright cartoony graphics with a graffiti edge, and these combine well with the large environments that look and feel great to play. The audio is fantastic too, with a slew of licensed tracks from bands like Green Day accompanying the appropriately skateboard-related sound effects. There's even some voice acting from Hawk himself to help set the scene, and you can record snippets yourself – a nice touch.

First up though you'll have to construct your own skate-punk to represent you in the game. Then it's time to hit the comic book-style intro, where you hook up with an aspiring artist named Mindy and, of course, the Hawkster himself. It turns out that one of Tony's old haunts has fallen into disrepair, so you and the gang decide to scrape some cash together to turn it into the best skate park ever.

This involves trucking around the levels, chatting with the locals and taking missions from them. These can be anything from performing a particular trick to stringing together a whole bunch of moves in a single combo, all within a time limit. It may sound like there's not much variety, but when a simple rail-slide is presented in the context of knocking objects off a ledge, posing for a photograph, or giving the residents of a building a scare, for example, the missions are kept fresh and fun throughout.

When you complete each mission, you'll get some cash to add new features to the park. You'll probably find some missions are ridiculously easy while others are pretty challenging, but it's not necessary to complete every single one to progress, so you can pick and choose the ones that are most fun.

Once you're done with the fairly short story mode, there are other modes to be getting on with. The Classic mode drops you in the city and gives you a time limit to score a certain number of points. Do that and you'll progress to the next level, requiring more points than before. Not only does this combine one of the game's most enjoyable aspects – rolling around the environments and pulling off tricks – it also gives you the opportunity to explore areas you may have missed during your missions.

The trick system itself is easy to get the hang of, but there's plenty of variation, as the key combinations react differently depending on whether you're on flat ground, in the air, or sliding a rail. One odd element though is the 'freak out' move, which you can attempt if you come a cropper mid-trick. This lets you retain some of your accumulated combo points by frantically jabbing at some pulsing bars on the touchscreen. Unfortunately, that's pretty difficult, as you don't have time to switch to your stylus, and fingers tend to be too big. Worse, a similar mechanism happens once you max out your combo bars. It's designed so you can pull off some really high-scoring special tricks, but suffers from the same problem. As high scores are important to progressing through the game, this can be frustrating.

The other major mode is multiplayer. Supporting only two players over both local and Wi-Fi Connection options, if you're unlucky you can spend a whole session without seeing the other player. That's one disadvantage of the large environments. On a more positive note, the Wi-Fi Connection functionality enables you to download new missions to play in single player mode, as well as upload your best scores to an online scoreboard for all to see. And in conjunction with the game's website, you can upload and download custom board art, all of which should make for a great sense of community. It seems there's plenty of life in the old Hawk yet.

Tony Hawk's American Sk8land is on sale now.

Tony Hawk's American Sk8land

With great graphics and audio plus an online mode Tony Hawk's American Sk8land is a treat – and a must-have title for skater fans