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Skating’s great, but you can’t beat the Hall of Meat.

The original "Skate" revolutionized the skateboarding genre by offering a new control scheme. Instead of simply pushing buttons to do ollies, kick flips and other tricks, you needed to work the jobsticks in a vague simulation of balancing on a skateboard.

"Skate 2" — the T-rated sequel from Electronic Arts — refines those controls, adds a few options and adds a truly engaging party mode.

The story line begins with your release from prison five years after a "disaster-too-gnarly-to-be-named." You find that many of your old haunts have been shut down and a Big Brother sort of security force is clamping down on others.

A few easy training levels introduce the controls, different tricks, mini-missions and challenges.

Basically, the left stick controls your body and the right stick controls the board. While the controls seem to work a little more smoothly than in the first game, it’s still easy to get a kick flip and pop-shuvit mixed up because there’s only a hair’s breadth difference in the motion of the joystick.

The biggest change is the ability to get off your board to walk up stairs. You also can move objects around to create new trick opportunities. However, the coolest addition is the ability to control your body after a bad move sends you flying. A spectacular bail scores big points for the Hall of Meat.

In addition to the story mode, you can free skate or join up to three friends in a party mode. In the multi-player mode, you can challenge your friends to a trick showdown or vie to see who can take the most damage in the Hall of Meat.

While I had a lot of fun pulling off sick tricks in New San Vanelona, I have to admit that I spent much more time bailing, crashing and crunching in the multi-player Hall of Meat competition.

The graphics are excellent, with superb character renders and detailed settings. My only gripe concerned the relative lack of depth in the character-creation system.

Overall, "Skate 2" is very satisfying. In fact, the only game in the same league is its cousin "Skate It," which takes the "Skate" basics into the Wii universe and incorporates the pressure-sensitive balance board to give a true skateboarding simulation.

Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 2On the Web:

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