A wreck-creational activity.
There comes a point in every young man’s life – usually around the early teen years – when an incomprehensible desire will awaken. A strange inkling for a wooden board with wheels will form an unlikely, respectful relationship between the effects of gravity, the human skeletal system, and solid concrete.
Glory awaits the eccentric daredevil teens who never grow up, mesmerising individuals with their super natural ability of creating an unholy union between board and man.
The young man will dedicate his time to the seemingly simple act of manipulating an inanimate object through a variety of awkward, unnatural actions involving his ungainly feet – limbs which were more accustomed to aiding movement or kicking a football. The stark, difficult reality is quickly revealed through the medium of physical bodily harm, with each painful, failed attempt brutally punished.
Glory awaits the eccentric daredevil teens who never grow up, mesmerising individuals with their super natural ability of creating an unholy union between board and man. But for the most of us, an unwanted mastery in the art of the bail is our only reward. The enviable trickery that the pro skaters perform with effortless ease forever remained a frustrating mystery to our bruised egos and severely bruised bodies.
Alas, as father time dictates, we begin to lose the exuberance of youth and the fearless, though foolish, confidence that accompanies it. The dreams of ripping up the local park’s half-pipe or performing a death-defying grind down a railing begin to fade, as we slowly succumb to the realisation that we’re just not good enough and getting hurt isn’t all that fun. Luckily enough, thanks to the wave of pro skater video games, our dreams were allowed to prosper through the safe, injury-free activity of gaming. The polygon participants would personify our passion for the sport, gratefully receiving the bone-breaking falls that our inevitable failures would provide.
In 1999, two brilliant skateboarding titles were available for the skater community, though the contrasts between the two were significant. Gamers had a choice between the extremely popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or the less glamorous Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy. Both titles essentially contained the same premise. Skate around a level and perform a variety of tricks.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was an over-the-top representation of the sport, with a purposeful focus on the impossible. Players’ could string hundreds of tricks together, obtain huge air times and skate freely with a disregard to the limitations of realism. Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy on the other hand was a hardcore, simulation-like representation of skateboarding.
Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy was notoriously difficult, just like the sport itself. The sim-like approach resulted in a terrifyingly steep learning curve, one which undoubtedly deterred many impatient gamers into the arms of Mr. Hawk’s more accessible ‘pick up and play’ style. The awkward control layout did little to negate the problem, though after surviving the initial, excruciating first hour of failing trick after trick, gradually, the game’s brilliance became apparent.
Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy was a technical showcase which focused on the basic essence of skateboarding. Flips, tricks and grinds took centre stage, with efficiency and the difficulty of particular tricks uniquely rewarded. The environment was a cruel mistress, one that took time to learn and properly exploit. Jumps had to be carefully aligned and landings timed to perfection, otherwise, you could expect to end up in a world of pain. For the hardcore player only, an expert mode was also available which increased the already substantial difficulty.
Granted a selection of six fictional skaters, each with their own distinct statistics, players attempted to live the skating dream. Starting from the depths of the unknown, players had to skate through 13 levels that spanned the globe, each refreshingly unique in the challenges they posed. With only two minutes to build the required score, efficiency, speed and calculated risks were key to beating each stage. Sponsorship deals, clothing and new decks would be unlocked as the player progressed, with the ultimate goal to appear on the front cover of the Thrasher magazine.
Towards the end of the run, a policeman would spawn, shifting the perspective to a first person view through the pursuing policeman’s eyes. The player had to quickly exit the stage before they were caught by the taser-wielding cop. This strange design decision added a novel and extra challenge to proceedings, as if the policeman caught your skater, the run would be void.
Face, Meet Concrete
Sporting hilarious ragdoll physics, bailing was a gruesome, entertaining spectacle.
Sporting hilarious ragdoll physics, bailing was a gruesome, entertaining spectacle. Watching as your skater lands on his head, or gets hit by a passing train (yes, you read that correctly) was a sadistic, yet continually amusing sight. Cleverly, and perhaps in-keeping with the simulation aspect, if your skater suffered broken bones or broke their board, the player would have to restart their run, consequently losing their hard earned score. To reduce the impact of a typically dangerous fall, players could bail whilst tucking their character (think human cannonball meets concrete) using a combination of buttons to minimise the impending damage.
Hip Hop Heaven
Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy was a paradise of perfectly picked hip hop tracks. Acting as an unlikely educator for some of the greatest tracks ever conceived, Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy’s soundtrack was pure audio bliss. A Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC, The Sugarhill Gang, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash and many more made every session an absolute pleasure to play.
Wise to the fact that skaters are generally sociable folk, Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy had a compelling set of multiplayer modes. Players had the option to compete in a total of 7 available modes, with each player taking it in turn to show off their skill sets.
Popular modes included H.O.R.S.E (one player performed a trick which the other must match. If they fail to do so they are assigned a letter), Long Grind (whoever performs the longest grind in a level wins) and Sessions (a competitive version of the single player two minute session format). However, without question the most satisfying and ingenious mode was the Sick Fix game type. Sick Fix took advantage of the game’s ragdoll physics, as players took turns in inflicting the most possible damage by any means possible; the highest score would win the game. Witnessing the perfect, score-amplifying bail as your skater crunches to the ground was an extremely pleasing moment (tip: the train was always a great way to inflict massive damage).
The Real Pro Skater
Unfortunately, Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy’s brilliance was eclipsed by the monumental success of the Tony Hawk’s series. Many gamers missed out on the true skater’s game, scared by the complexity of the game’s controls or by the admittedly simplistic visuals. However, for those who had the opportunity to master the game, Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy was a revelation.
Few sports games can truly provide fond memories for their individuality like Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy, a game which inspired the successful, more simulation focused Skate series. Z-axis admirably stuck to their goal of creating a realistic representation of skateboarding, and thanks to their dedication, many early retired skaters such as myself were able to flip a kickflip with the best of them.
With news that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is receiving an HD remastering, it seems that Thrasher Presents Skate and Destroy will have to remain in the hearts and minds of the few and the fortunate. We can be thankful that we knew who the true skater king really was.