Hands (and feet) on with Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

The world's greatest skater ever is back on DS and this time he's racing as well as tricking

Hands (and feet) on with Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam
| Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

There are few things more enjoyable than throwing down your board, trying a 180, and then falling off, at least if you're in a Tony Hawk's game – no grazes on your knees. For almost ten years, his name on the box has been as close as you get in the gaming world to a guarantee of goodness.

Even so, when it came to getting our hands on the latest DS title to bear the birdman's mark – Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam – it was a case of being amazed all over again.

As well as displaying supercool stencilled graphics, this is a 3D game that runs more smoothly than anything we've yet seen on DS, and the controls are beautifully intuitive too.

What's more, the combination of skater vibes within a racing setting promises a neat twist on the skateboarding experience.

Thanks to the racing element, all the tracks in the game start you off at the top of a hill. In the level we played, it was down, down, down all the way into San Francisco, including a trip along the world-famous Lombard Street, the steep, ultra-curvy road used in loads of films and TV shows. Another promised level is Machu Picchu – the Lost City of the Incas, built into a mountainside in Peru.

As for the action, the focus of the game is on racking up high levels of tricked-out scores, with bonus points given for pulling big air and complex moves. As well as aping real world environments, each level also features loads of secret tracks, as well as ramps and other skate-friendly furniture, so you can really max out.

This being a race though, you'll also have to keep your speed up. It's a similar sort of approach to that found in snowboard racer SSX.

In single-player mode you fight it out with computer-controlled characters, but the game will also work via Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection, for up to four players. And as well as racing, there will be trick and slalom modes.

Finally, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam has one more trick up its baggy sleeve – it's expected to be the first game to let you chat in-game across the network (also known as voice over IP).

We assume it will only be possible to talk to people on your friends' list, in keeping with Nintendo policy, but still it's an advance – the only other game to let you do this was Metroid Prime: Hunters, and then you could only chat before and after games.

Our brief playtest has left us really looking forward to this one. Expect to get your hands on Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam by the end of the year.