I played the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for hours on end when it came out in 1999, usually passing the controller between friends. That game introduced a brand new concept (a skating game) with such focus and tight controls that it seemed insane that no one had come up with it before. It was riveting. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD seeks to bring that old feeling back for the uninitiated and old pros alike.
THPS HD starts by letting you choose from a small collection of pro skaters with associated stats related to skills and abilities. Throughout the game you are able to earn money that can go towards purchasing increased stats and newer skateboards. While the boards are strictly cosmetic, the stats will increase your ability to jump higher, grind longer, and balance better. You earn money through building scores by performing tricks and completing level-based objectives.
By scanning your surroundings you will learn to find better lines to pull off longer trick combos and increase your combo multiplier. Discovering grind rails that lead to quarter pipes that in turn lead to higher ground is usually the best way to do this, but it's a trial-and-error affair. Your first runs through any stage are usually sightseeing and testing where you can land the most tricks effectively. You're tasked with several objectives per stage that range from getting high scores to finding hidden collectibles. This helps you explore the area and drives the need to pull off bigger and longer trick combos.
In the nearly 13 years since its release, THPS' game-play has aged well. The tricks have a good feel and the stages are diverse and well populated with obstacles. What has not aged well is the mechanism for pushing you through the content. Having a two-minute time limit to play through stages often means that you'll be replaying a level 10 or 20 times in order to unlock everything and move forward. This is fine for the first few hours, but quickly becomes tedious. There are more game modes that have you competing with people online, which are a nice distraction, but were not worth the effort.
It's hard to fault Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD for this gorgeous reconstruction, even though it lays bare the faulty foundation. In staying faithful to the original game, developer Robomodo has pulled off a tricky landing. My experience with this game honestly felt just like the first time I played, but the difference is that my older, wiser eyes can see now see the tiny flaws; after all this time, old tricks for keeping players hooked now come off as uninspired padding. By not deviating from the original game's formula, Robomodo has essentially created an ode to the best game in a great series; for better or worse, that's all you get.