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Pro Skater for PlayStation turns even the klutziest into athletes
Program features wild soundtrack and great graphics

Skateboarding -- the very word strikes fear into pedestrians, parents and anybody who doesn't enjoy zipping around on what is basically a wooden slat with roller-skate wheels attached.

However, some younger members of our society have turned skateboarding into an art -- and Tony Hawk may be the leading proponent.Activation and Inversive teamed up to create an excellent game focusing on skateboarding -- and they went to the right person to give them advice.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for PlayStation provides an excellent introduction to the sport, whether you like skateboarding or not.

The keys to the game are the amazing tricks you can perform -- and the wild and woolly skate parks that provide the venue for your junks.

In addition to Hawk, the game features such noted pros as Lucky Laser, Bob Branchiest and Elysia Steamer. Each is rated in four categories -- allies, speed, air and balance. Allies, by the way, are jumps.

If you and your skateboard are alone, there are a number of excellent single-player games. Start with free skate, basically a practice area where you can perfect your moves before they count.

Then move on to single session, which gives you two minutes to reach a new scoring mark. In both modes, by the way, you only get to play in one park and have only two boards to choose from. There are nine other parks and a bunch of improved boards, which become available when you move on to career mode.

There, you compete against other skateboarders with your chosen champion. You start out at the only park open and advance by achieving goals that appear on the screen. Meet the requirements and you get videotapes of outstanding performances, which you can use to unlock the other venues.

The only real way to meet scoring requirements is to learn to tie tricks together. Two tricks get you the score of each times two, three trick nets you the total times three, and so on. Single tricks just won't get it.

Two-player modes include Graffiti, a split-screen contest to see who can perform more tricks. Trick Attack gives you two minutes to achieve a better score. There's also HORSE, played much like the basketball game of the same name. Perform a great trick and then watch as your buddy falls on his face trying to match it.

Your fingers will be busy. Your skater moves by himself; you control the direction and the tricks performed with the D.-pad. Pushing up and the "square" button gives you a 360 Shove It. Pushing right and the "circle" button gets you an Andy Nosebag. For a great grind, use the "triangle" button. Allies appear with the "x."

Graphics get a total A. The parks are spectacular, deviously designed and beautifully rendered with excellent detail and texture. Sound is a B+; the wild music, performed by such punk bands as the Dead Kennedys, Even Rude and Suicidal Tendencies, fits the mood of the game perfectly.

Control is another A. It's tight and smooth, and performing the tricks is simply a matter of practice. Don't blame the controls if you spend more time sliding on your behind than grabbing air.

It's not clear why this game got a T rating. Aside from a few drops of blood on particularly nasty falls, I found nothing I wouldn't want a 7-year-old to see.

Tony Hawk gets a total A. Although skateboarding seems to be designed only for those under 20 and made of rubber, this game will entertain even the least athletic. It's fun to look at, great to listen to and a total blast to play.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is rated T, for ages 13 and up.