Tony Hawk's Project 8

Tony Hawk must be about 72 by now, but still his skateboarding games keep coming. I mean, surely the only way he can travel down slopes nowadays is on a Shopmobility scooter. Grinding is now the sound his false hip makes on a damp day. And a 180-degree kickflip? It's what he did that time the stairlift malfunctioned. Nasty business.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating. But whatever his real-life age, The Hawk is a bona-fide veteran of the games scene, with a string of popular titles bearing his name down the years – including at least one exceedingly dodgy mobile game.

Infospace has snagged the rights to the mobile Hawk licence though, and this new game puts the grizzled old skater into new psychedelic clothing. It could be as embarrassing as your dad donning a New Rave outfit and banging on about the Klaxons. Thankfully, it's not.

See, Tony Hawk's Project 8 puts the legend slap bang in the middle of what looks like a skateboarding version of the iPod TV adverts. So your skater is just a silhouette (albeit with no white earphones in sight), speeding down colourful hills pulling off tricks with gay abandon.

Ah yes, the tricks. That's the other big difference with this iteration of Tony Hawk. You don't have to memorise endless key sequences to pull off grinds and kickflips and spins. They happen automatically as you speed downhill. What you have to do is hit up, down, left and right (well, '2', '8', '4' and '6') at the right times, to keep your skater going.

That's right, it's a one-thumb game, with the nearest comparisons being the recent Spider-man Webslinger game from Hands On, or the slightly bonkers Freddie Flintoff Blast'em Cricket.

As you go downhill, arrows appear at the bottom of the screen signifying the directions. When they reach the green box in the bottom left-hand corner, you have to press that direction. And they come in strings of three or more, at varying speeds.

Get it roughly right, and you'll pull off a trick each time. However, getting the timing better or bang on rewards you with a little 'Cool!' or 'Awesome!' message, and extra points. Mess it up, and you'll just get 'OK' or even worse, will wipe out. Or whatever the current skateboardy term is for falling on your arse.

Meanwhile, every so often your skater will hop up onto a rail for some grinding action, which involves balancing a pointer in the middle of a bar by pressing the left and right keys – with the same sliding points scale depending on how well you do it.

We have to say, Tony Hawk's Project 8 looks bluddy marvellous. The graphics might be fairly simple and 2D, but the stylised look is genuinely luscious, and the animation of the main skater is a joy to behold.

One problem is that you won't really be able to appreciate it, as most of the time your attention is focused on the arrows or grinding bar. But there's an option to watch a replay of every level, and for once in a mobile game, you'll want to use it. Trust us.

There are 16 basic levels to attempt, although at the start of the game, only four are available. Placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd unlocks another, and unless your sense of timing is completely awry, it's not too hard to open them all up. That said, when you've finished the 16th level, you're then asked to go back and try and place 1st in every single level, which adds depth.

Our main quibble is over the fact that the levels feel pretty samey – they're all basically downhill slopes with the odd jump and rail. They don't really feel different, and the colour scheme doesn't change noticeably between them. Beating your best times and scores is the lure for replayability, rather than any great sense of discovery as you progress through.

Still, this is certainly the most fun Tony Hawk game we've ever played on mobile. Purists might snort into their beanie hats at its casual nature, but Tony Hawk's Project 8 looks ace, and is barrels of fun while it lasts.

Tony Hawk's Project 8

A great-looking twist on the traditional Tony Hawk formula, this one-thumb skateboarding sim is never a grind
Stuart Dredge
Stuart Dredge
Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)