As I’ve said before, I’m probably not the most qualified person to write about extreme sports, but I’m quite aware that there was a definite hierarchy of coolness to them. Skateboarders are at the top, followed by BMX bikers, followed by inline skaters. For a while, though, there was a fourth caste that most assuredly sat at the very bottom: scooter guys. Those of us old enough to remember the late ’90s and early 2000s (which, sadly, is an ever-shrinking group) probably remember the Razor scooter, a tiny, two-wheeled piece of metal with handlebars that managed to combine aspects of a bike with bits of a skateboard and somehow retained none of the cool factor of either. And sure enough, somebody was wise enough to try to cash in on the Razor scooter “craze” while it lasted, and so was birthed today’s game, Razor Freestyle Scooter for Nintendo 64.
When you pop Razor Freestyle Scooter in for the first time, you’ll undoubtedly notice that it is extremely reminiscent of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, especially the control scheme, where your moves are mostly controlled by the C Buttons. Unfortunately, it’s a lot like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater if just about everything that made that franchise great was slashed and butchered entirely. THPS featured a litany of maneuvers, airtight controls, an enjoyable Career Mode, and an overarching sense of freedom to skate the world, not to mention excellent soundtracks that serenaded your shredding. This game on the other hand, WOOOOOOOF.
For starters, the Career Mode, called Circuit Mode here, is an abject failure. You have several objectives per level at first, two of which require you to reach certain scores, one that requires you to reach a certain point total in a single combo, one where you have to collect scooter wheels that have been strewn about the level, another where you have to grind an increasing distance, and finally, racking up ten time extensions (done by filling up a meter similar to THPS’s Special meter). Now, granted, that’s neither new, nor does it sound particularly disappointing in and of itself, but where things go off the rails is that fulfilling those tasks just seems, well, not very fun. In Tony Hawk games, if you needed to beat a certain score, you could do so with awesome big air combos or by mastering long chains of grinds, manuals, and gaps. Here, your best chance to clear scores and get time extensions is just to find the nearest halfpipe and spam moves as much as you can.
Well, let me back up. Here, you CAN theoretically string together a long street-style chain to reach the necessary totals, but that’s damn near impossible because the controls are so wonky and so indifferent to what you’re attempting to actually do that beating the single-combo scores is a matter of whether or not the game feels like cooperating with you at any given time. For example, when you’re doing a grind, you have a balance meter showing you how far you’re leaning to one side or the other, and also, if you run out of momentum, you’ll just jump down anyway. The problem is, you won’t ever really get a feel for when you’ve run out of momentum. In the Tony Hawk games, if you were slowing down on grinds, you’d notice because your skater would lurch from side to side a lot harder, and even then, that would be your cue to get ready to jump into the next link in your combo chain. Here, you just…kinda fall off. Sometimes you’ll be grinding around a corner and jump off midway through for some reason. Often, you’ll go to press the jump button to transition from one grind to another and it’s a 50-50 proposition as to whether pushing Down C will make you jump or if you have to push and then release it. Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, right?
It gets worse. Basic concepts like jumping at the edge of a halfpipe for maximum air are finicky, you might get it right, but other times, the game won’t register it until you’ve already left, and sometimes it’ll register too early and you’ll jump face-first into the deck. The manual system is borked; instead of a simple “up-then-down” system, manuals are initiated by tapping up or down twice and then Top C, which means if you’re used to holding the grind button as you’re riding up to a grindable edge, like I am, you’ll oftentimes start a manual, and here, if you bump into ANYTHING while in a manual, you’re going to eat it. You can’t use manuals to string together combos, because they’re not able to be balanced or controlled; you’ll just do a wheelie for a few seconds and stop. There’s ZERO consistency in landing angles, you’ll land sideways sometimes and scoot on like you nailed it, and sometimes you’ll land a lot closer to straight and beef it. You have special moves, but you don’t even have to fill up a Special meter, you can literally do them right away, assuming you figure out the button combos.
Even if you manage to suffer through the controls, the game itself is incredibly bare-assed. The first three levels are your standard backdrops, there’s a skatepark, a school, and a clock tower for some variety. They’re all really small and there’s not a lot of room for improvisation, and it almost feels like there’s supposed to be one proper path through them, which really kills the sense of immersion. Now, as you complete objectives, you’ll unlock the last six levels, ALL SIX of which are “Sky Fortress” levels with only one objective (collecting wheels), and if you beat them, you unlock new characters. Now, these levels are pretty featureless, with a tiny smattering of quarterpipes, ramps, and maybe a rail to grind on. And in an ultimate Eff You to the paying customer, three of the Sky Fortress levels ARE THE EXACT SAME GODDAMN MAP WITH PLATFORMS THAT CAN FALL OFF THE EARTH IF YOU RIDE ON THEM. That means that literally ONE-THIRD of the ENTIRE GAME is the same boring, tiny, mostly flat map that you can fall off of, recycled over and over with a tiny tweak separating them.
If you beat a Sky Fortress level, you’ll unlock a character, as I said, but there’s nothing really worthwhile about that because they’re all the same. There are no differences in attributes (because there are no attributes at all), and the game itself features no hidden decks, no upgrades, no new scooters, no Create-a-Rider, no way to alter movesets, and no customization options outside of what colors your handlebars and wheels will be. The only upside to slogging through to get 100% completion is you can unlock a robot who can do all the special moves, and believe me, that payoff isn’t worth the hassle.
What I’m even more puzzled about, aside from the wretched controls and the astonishing lack of depth in this game, is the general creative direction for it. The overall art style and general motif lead me to believe this was a game meant maybe for younger children (hell, there’s even a picture of a kid riding a scooter stamped on the box), but that doesn’t quite fit considering one of the unlockable characters is TITO FREAKING ORTIZ of UFC fame and another character is a girl with what appears to be a tramp stamp. And if they did want to make a game for kids, why not go all out and feature gravity-defying tricks and huge air and more outlandish stages than a skatepark and a school? Why not feature powerups that make fire shoot out of your deck when grinding for bonus points, something, ANYTHING to separate this from being a stripped-down version of a Tony Hawk game? Even the soundtrack doesn’t fit, as it features what I assume are generic skate punk tracks with no lyrics and the most bland, generic, endless riffs over and over? I don’t know if the soundtrack was even produced in-house or actually were real songs chopped down to fit on a cartridge, because after finally beating this game, I had zero intention of sitting through the credits to check, and even if they are real songs, I wouldn’t even be inspired to track down the full versions like I would in other games.
I REALLY try hard not to give games a 1/2 star score. I really do, because as our mission statement says, that’s supposed be reserved only for games that suck beyond all redemption, but for the life of me, I could not find a silver lining no matter which side of the cloud I wanted to look at. I can’t give them credit for trying to pioneer a new game engine, because they pretty much ripped off the Tony Hawk engine whole cloth. I can’t say they were handicapped by the technology of the time, because this came out a full YEAR after the majesty of Tony Hawk 2 was given to us mortals. I can’t say “well, it’s a game that was made for children”, because outside of the art style, that doesn’t seem right either. I can’t say you’re getting any real value for your dollar, because I whipped through this in a few hours, and that’s counting restarts and botched attempts, and there is NO replay value to speak of here. All that said, I feel Razor Freestyle Scooter deserves to be cast down to 1/2 Star Hell, I cannot recommend it to anyone for any reason, not even so much because there’s a better version of this concept out there, but what’s here is just plain not fun and not worth hunting down at all.
Well, at least I can’t complain that Nintendo cut an awesome soundtrack to pieces here.
Horrible controls, no customization, and an overall experience that’s so shallow that you’d expect more in a free-to-play-mobile game.