Nokia’s N-Gage stand is one of the noisiest in the room. It really is. So at about 11 this morning we decided to pop along and ask them politely to shut the hell up. When we got there however, we discovered that they were actually running a Tony Hawk N-Gage tournament, and the current leader was out in front with a paltry 40,000 points. That may sound like a lot to novices, but anybody with more than an afternoon’s experience on the regular console versions could do that in two tricks – let alone two minutes.
So, naturally, we decided to muscle our way in and see how we could do. After watching “Bob” and “Gary” (obviously aliases) battling it out, we introduced ourselves to the announcer and demanded the opportunity to face off against one another. After a bit of fiddling with the equipment (Rob broke his N-Gage just by looking at it), we were set up with little cameras pasting our putrid visages all over the 20-foot projection screen, along with another little feed showing the action on our handhelds.
At the announcer’s say so, we were off. Rob quickly demonstrated to the giggling crowd that he had genuinely never played Tony Hawk before in any form, whereas I set to work translating my console experience to the tiny screen.
The first thing fans of Hawk’s games will notice about N-Gage Birdman is that it runs at a slightly lesser pace than its big screen counterpart. That’s to be expected of course, but it did a good job of disrupting our carefully contemplated combos. Likewise, the controls no longer permit manualling as far as we could see (despite the Nokia representative’s uncertain “yeeeah” when we asked him about them), so we were limited to grinding various rails in the usual manner, either hitting the grind button as we reached the top of a ramp at an angle, or seeking out low walls and purpose-built rails.
A Hawk by any other name...
Graphically Tony Hawk on the N-Gage is a far cry from its fairly poor looking (albeit highly playable) GBA adversary. Instead of an isometric wannabe, what we have is actually a fully fledged 3D version of the game, much as you get with the PS2, Xbox and GameCube. Indeed, although it was obviously cut down to size with fewer animations and less frames, visually it was very obviously Tony Hawk, with the same look and a pretty solid engine.
Although the N-Gage D-pad is fairly small, it was quite easy to direct Tony around, and on the other side of the screen the function buttons were 5 (jump) and 2 (grind) with 4, 6, and 8 for other tricks. With the buttons on an N-Gage laid out like a keyboard numpad, we had little difficulty putting them to use, and although our chubby digits occasionally strayed towards unsanctioned keys, nothing adverse happened.
However the lack of manualling took its toll, making it more or less impossible to build up huge combos in our usual manner, so this writer ended up with a rather lamentable score of just 7,500. Still, that was enough to put pay to Rob, whose pitiful 750 the announcer jokingly lambasted so half the room could hear. Still, it was his first go, and after a nasty contact lens accident last night, he can’t even see, so we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
As we left, having completely forgotten to tell them to be quiet, I was rewarded for my endeavours with one of those open-top sunshade caps with N-Gage logos all over it. Expect to see that disappearing as a Reader Reviews prize within a few weeks, just as soon as I get bored of using it to remind Rob how it went.
All I have to do now is “forget” to meet him at the Soul Calibur II pods and my victory will be unassailable.