Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam - hands-on

An updated look at the pro skater's SSX-style racer

Of the eight potential locales that Jam thrusts you down, only San Fran and Edinburgh (the capital of Scotland, duh) were available to test. The first time down Frisco we were taking nose dives into cable cars and peeling the skin from our hands by making huge, sweeping turns through the city's roller coaster roads. After a few runs through, we started spotting awnings, telephone wires and even staircases that were ripe for grinding - hitting them not only helped charge up the boost meter (activated by shaking the remote, natch), but also led us through building-hopping shortcuts that cut ahead of the pack.

One of the cooler moments we saw was hugging a turn through the streets, crashing through the closed windows of an office building, only to break out the other side and see another skater riding the telephone poles right over our heads. There really are that many opportunities to break away.

Finding and exploiting shortcuts is the most important part of winning the races, but other modes, like slalom, trick points and destruction, focus more on your ability to handle the skater through certain goals and act as disguised tutorials. They also spit out event-specific icons and obstacles that won't show up in other race modes. When rolling for the highest trick score, you can jump through hoops that slap the world into slo-mo, letting you crank out an absurd amount of moves before touching the ground. Getting used to tilting the remote for mid-air spins did take some getting used to, though.

To hold your hand through the Wii-education process, Jam introduces segments of each world arena at a time. When you begin the game, you'll have four events at your disposal - take them out and you'll advance on to the next set. You may, for example, begin in the heart of San Fran in the first wave of tasks, then a few events later you're outside the city, racing through the surrounding hills. Eventually, all the segments get pieced together for one mega race through the whole damn thing - but not until you've had plenty of time to find all the shortcuts and biggest trick spots.