Tony Hawk's Project 8
| Tony Hawk's Project 8

While we don't want to make light of a recognised psychological condition, we can guarantee Tony Hawk's Project 8 is going to keep those with a compulsive nature hooked for a very long time.

For anyone unfamiliar with the format, the general idea is to 'nail' skateboarding tricks, flips and grinds in ever more elaborate combinations in order to increase your score, complete tasks and unlock dodgy facial hair.

So far, so ordinary: anyone au fait with Tony Hawk games will think. But what's notable about the franchise, and this title in particular, is that each level provides a playground full of mini-goals, ranging from the simple to the extravagant. Whether it's collecting five letters forming the word 'SKATE' or nailing a grind sequence along telegraph poles, the game's combination of honed controls, acrobatic animation and intricate level design ensures you'll keep at each individual task, over and over again, until it's conquered.

Believe us, no matter how hard or insurmountable some of these goals initially seem, obsession soon takes over. Indeed, the game's superbly implemented quick-start feature ensures you return to the beginning of each mini-goal after any deviation or unfortunate accident. And while that may sound like some excruciating mania, let us reassure you that it's actually a lot of fun.

But you're probably wondering what Tony Hawk has to do with all of this. Admittedly, the skate world's former poster boy (well, man) retired from competition some years ago but, neatly, the game's premise uses this to its advantage, with Tony searching for the top eight amateur skaters in the world. Hence the subtitle.

So at the start you're just another punk with a board, an extraordinary sense of balance and a pair of black baggy cargo shorts. Actually, scratch that last bit because one of the game's standout features is the ability to customise your skater to the nth degree, including hairstyle, clothing and accessories. It brings another level of involvement and draws you into a world that might otherwise seem cliquey.

Naturally, you begin low down the ranks – 200th to be precise – but completing goals soon gets you noticed by sponsors, other pro skaters and Hawk himself. Though you can freely skate around levels, missions are triggered by talking to the many characters wandering the streets. Hawk purists will be pleased to learn the 'classic' goals are still present (including collecting the aforementioned 'SKATE' as well as the 'COMBO' letters, together with finding hidden objects) but mostly this iteration is all about completing short challenges to either Amateur, Pro or Sick standard.

A typical mission might ask you to grind a support holding up a chandelier, complete a series of flip tricks in a neighbour's empty swimming pool or fetch golf balls within a time limit. The goals are never dull, vary greatly and show an extraordinary level of imagination throughout. Of particular note are those that transform the environment, with statues toppling, buildings splitting asunder and new areas opening up with pleasing regularity.

Initially, the depth can seem bewildering for newcomers. While some of the moves, such as ollies, madonnas, spine transfers and lip tricks, may sound like an orgy in Madame Tussauds, there's a handy tutorial to ease you through the basics. Soon you'll be tackling advanced stuff like natas spins (rotating on an object), skitching (catching a ride behind a vehicle) and manuals (balancing on two wheels).

This progress will be most noticeable in your score. At first your combos will be in the 1,000 point region but after an hour or so you'll be hitting 30,000 with your fingers blurring across the PSP's buttons like a concert pianist tackling Rachmaninov.

Which sounds daunting but that's where the clever Nail-a-Trick feature comes in, which takes tricking to a new dimension. Pressing up on the analogue nub enters the Focus mode and sends the game into slo-mo, enabling you to move your skater's feet independently. Imagine a John Woo movie, only with the actors attacking each other on skateboards.

Another well integrated feature is a videophone, which displays tips from pro skaters accompanied by excellent movie clips of them tricking in the real world. Like much of the game, this content is unlocked as you complete goals and gradually move up through the ranks.

Project 8 is so well thought out and vast in its scope that criticisms feel nit-picky. We could single out the way the music gets repetitive quickly, the fact that going from one area to another is broken up by loading, or maybe even the visuals that border on the grey and bland, but in truth this is still a king's banquet in terms of options, features, environments and multiplayer modes.

There's even 13 excellent multiplayer games – including Capture the Flag, Score Challenge and Obstacle Course – that add yet another compulsive ingredient to the experience.

In short, if you enjoy games that encourage repeated play, high-score attacking and bonus unlocking galore, then Project 8 will become an obsession. But for all the right reasons.

Tony Hawk's Project 8

With oceanic depth, honed controls and absorbing missions, this is the epitome of bad, meaning good
Mark Walbank
Mark Walbank
Ex-Edge writer and retro game enthusiast, Mark has been playing games since he received a Grandstand home entertainment system back in 1977. Still deeply absorbed by moving pixels (though nothing 'too fast'), he now lives in Scotland and practices the art of mentalism.