By Ben Bertoli
Remember the part of The Lion King where Scar challenges Simba to grind all the elephant skulls in the elephant graveyard while collecting zebra haunches? Truly unforgettable.
“But wait!” you shout, tenderly caressing your VHS copy, “That wasn’t in The Lion King!”
Fair enough. But it should have been, as Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure proves time and time again.
Skate Adventure, which launched for the PS2, GameCube and original Xbox, is an odd game for a variety of reasons. There have been plenty of bizarre sports games over the years and too many Disney tie-in titles to count, but Skate Adventure stands out above them all because when all is said and done it’s actually a decent skateboarding game. This is mainly because it’s running on the actual Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 engine crafted by the fine folks at (the now defunct) Neversoft. Add in Activation, Disney Interactive and a pre-Skylanders developer Toys for Bob and you’ve just assembled some kind of fantasy extreme sports dream team.
Aside from Tony Hawk’s finely tuned controls, Skate Adventure is also a joy to play because it’s Disney at its fake extreme best (see worst). Back in the early 2000s, the big wigs at Disney Interactive decided they wanted to jump on the extreme sports train while it still had some steam. And what better way to do that then to create their own title that stared their most famous characters and also… actual kids?!
That’s right. There are real human children in this game, skating alongside lions and toy space men. Activision went all American Idol and put out a casting call for every kid America who could stay on top of a skateboard for more than ten seconds while it rolled down a gentle slope. This “Extreme Skate Crew” (which I’d like etched into on my gravestone, please) consisted of ten lucky youngsters, two of which were eventually voted as the “Super Stars”. These wunderkinds were featured as the main two representatives of the real child nation, and appeared on the game’s official character selection screen.
Just watch the intro to the game. It’s all there.
Wait, can we see that Buzz Lightyear trick again?
As mentioned above, Disney felt this would be a good vehicle for not only talented children, but also for some of their most popular franchises. What’s somewhat strange is the movies they chose to represent. Only three made it in - Toy Story, Tarzan and The Lion King. At the time of the game’s launch in 2003 Toy Story 2 and Tarzan were both roughly four years old and The Lion King was a nearly ten. Disney had put out movies like Monster Inc., The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo and Stitch much more recently, but they weren’t picked to appear in the game.
Look, I can see the Toy Story characters being a good choice. It’s silly, but the modern setting works. Tarzan also sort of makes sense, as they reimagined him as some skater dude in the treetops. The Lion King, however… that’s a confusing one.
You brought this on yourself, you silly quadruped.
Here’s the thing about lions - they have four legs. Mind blowing, I know. This makes skateboarding sort of awkward, especially from a landing prospective. Actual skateboarders attempt to land angled to their side, because of how the board’s wheels need hit the ground in order to keep momentum going.
A lion skateboarding just doesn’t work as well as say Tony Hawk (who is a human) or Rafiki (who is a baboon). You’ll also notice Simba is skating on a magical floating shield... and there are also characters shredding up the jungle who are elephants and warthogs. So. My gripes about realistic lion skateboarding technique may be a moot point.
But back to all the “extreme” details. Along with realistic-ish skateboard physics, Skate Adventure also produced a surprising amount of hilariously titled special tricks that could only be pulled off by specific characters.
Here are a few examples of tricks that made the cut. I’m not even going to describe what they consist of, it’s better to just use your imagination.
I say, smashing good kickflip.
- With All Due Respect
- Here In My Hat I Feel The Safest Of All
- Hakuna Matata Dance Party
- Buzz Lightyear To Ground Control
- Quickest Boots in the West
- A Vulnerable Position for Timon
Can you imagine someone screaming those into an X Games mic? I’d certainly pay to hear it.
Speaking of hearing things, let’s talk about the last “so bad, it’s good” aspect of Skate Adventure - the soundtrack. The game has a bizarre mix of rebellious teen rock, cheery pop, and underwhelming rap tracks to make you cringe. Remember Lil Romeo? Master P’s son? Had his own Nickelodeon show? Anyway, not only did he make the sound track, he’s actually in the game as a playable character. Let’s take a listen to his hit track that made it into the Skate Adventure.
Boy, that takes me back. Here, have some more Skate Adventure goodness.
It’s not a great song, but it’s sure to be stuck in your head for the foreseeable future.
On paper a game like Skate Adventure should have never been anything aside from a crudely executed cash grab, but darn if it doesn’t all work out to be a game actually worth playing. Even though it’s not very extreme, Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure still offers plenty to do and laugh about. And it’s miles better than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, that’s for sure.