A thing that games like Aggressive Inline should always include is a Tutorial Mode for the beginners, and Z-Axis developed a series of well-realized lessons to make you learn the basics of the game. It's something that can be useful also to experts of this genre of games, mainly to have a taste of the game physics and reactivity of controls avoiding useless frustration.
The controls are easy to learn. The left stick is used to accelerate/brake and steer, while the right stick controls the camera to look at the surrounding area. X is the Jump button, L1 and R1 are used to spin 180 degress while in air or to do a sharp turn on the ground, R2 is the cess-slide button, which lets you skate backwards (also known as "Fakie").
Of course, tricks are the core of the controls. Aggressive Inline features a so-called Juice Meter, that fills up each time you perform a decent trick, and falls if you make something wrong; when the meter is empty, it's game over. Anyhow, at the beginning of each level, the bar is half way full, and there are also a few special Juice Boxes scattered over the level that increase your Juice Meter level. When the Juice Meter is full, you have access to all the secret tricks and the speed boost, which can be helpful to reach certain areas of the levels.
Square is the main trick button: while in the air, combining Square with a direction on the Left Analog stick or on the d-pad makes your character perform grab, flip or spin tricks. There are literally dozens of tricks that can be created using different sequences with the directional controls and the Square button. Grabs are really easy to perform, since you just have to combine one directional control with the Square button, while flip and spin tricks necessarily requires you to reach a good speed before jumping in the air. Pressing the X and the down direction you can easily perform wallrides; gently releasing the X button your character will land. If you are used to this genre of games, you should know that performing long chains of tricks is the only way to score a lot of points. When landing after a chain of air flips,spins, and grabs you just have to tap the up-down buttons on the d-pad to perform manuals which let you add new tricks to your chain. Triangle is used for grinding, one of the moves that you'll be performing more often in Aggressive Inline; grinding it's easy, since the skaters seem able to grind on nearly any object in the environments, and it's also the easiest way to perform valuable combos. You have to combine Triangle with a directional button to perform the various Grind Tricks; pressing another directional button when in an existing grind you will switch to another grind, thus creating a rewarding chain of grind tricks.
If the controls are standard for the genre, the level design is what uniquely characterize Aggressive Inline against Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. If you thought the levels in THPS3 were big, expect to see what the developers at Z-Axis have created for their game. There are 7 levels, and they are all huge, imaginative, filled with platforms and secret areas that you have to discover and reach in some way. The first arena, the "Movie Lot", starts in the city streets where you can practice a bit thanks to easy to reach platforms and edges good for grinding. Then, you can move to a cool movie set where a horror movie is in the making. Skate through fake gravestones, dead trees, break objects, perform some cool wallrides. The following levels become increasingly more difficult, but also more interesting in structure and design. From an "Industrial Plant" to an "Airfield", from a "Boardwalk" with a big ferris wheel to the "Museum" where you can ride through skeletons of dinosaurs on shiny floors, the developers have been able to create a good mix of magnficient visual creativity and locations that grant great variety to the gameplay. Sometimes it's just impressive to see that such crazy and unrealistic structures are simply perfect to perform a monstrous chain of tricks, revealing the big efforts put into the level design. Interacting with the environments is pretty straightforward, since all is handled by the Circle button, which varies its function according to the on-screen situation. So you can use it to vault over rails, to grab and spin around poles, to talk with people to receive challenges, and best of all to grab onto a moving vehicle, a move that fans of Back To The Future (like me) will be doing continuously in Aggressive Inline.
The Career Mode is well-designed, and with a few interesting features that distringuish this title from the crowd of trick-based Extreme Sports games. First of all, there is no time limit, and that' s a good choice of the developers, because in this way you can fully explore and enjoy the enormous levels. In order to unlock the next level, your skater has to earn a defined amount of points which can be obtained completing the current level's challenges.
Many challanges are ordinary, like "get 20,000 points in the level performing tricks", but they can also sound more original, like "grind 2 traffic lights" or "grind the statue wings", and they can even be crazy or spectacular, like "fetch three parrots for the chef"or "grind over the Pterodactyl". There are usually more than 30 challenges in each level, and even if you don't have to beat all of them to gain access to the next level, they provide a good replay value.
Z-Axis also implemented a very good RPG-like character advancement system. Performing tricks and actions like jumping or skating backwards, you can gain skill points that increase your character's stats in one of the seven available categories - Jump, Grind, Spin, Speed, Manual, Wall Ride, Fakie. Basically, the more you practice a move, the more points you get in that ability, and the more your character becomes skilled. Practice a lot and you'll be able to perform cool moves more easily, and controlling your powered-up character will become an even more exciting experience.
Aggressive Inline has all the features and the originality that a great game of this genre should have. Anyhow, it has few limits that's easy to notice from the very beginning. If Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is synonymous of a nearly flawless balancement of gameplay, Aggressive Inline doesn't convey the same ultra-polished, smooth gaming experience. First of all, certain levels have occasional, but annoying, bugs and clipping problems that cause you to fall through the floor into a blue screen or to pass right through a car. The camera is not perfect too. It manages to do a nice job for good part of the game, but occasionally it's unable to frame appropriately the action, up to the point where you just can' t see where your skater is going. This can be fixed adjusting the visual with the right stick, but if you are performing a chain of tricks, it can be very annoying.
The Multiplayer Modes and the Park Editor are not exactly flawless. It seems like these were the things that were left at the end of the development process. The five two-playersr games - Most Points, Best Tricks, Egg Hunt (retrieve many hidden items in the level), Twenty One (find cards on the level and try to get close to 21), Animal Rescue (rescue cute animals!) - are more than enough to keep you busy but unluckily the graphic engine seems to have some problem rendering smoothly the game in split-screen. The Park Editor is actually an apprfeciable add-on, because you can save your park on the memory card and play it with a friend, but it's evidently limited in its functions and it can also originate levels filled with annoying graphic glitches, like textures disappearing from a wall or clipping issues.
Overall, Aggressive Inline offers a solid gaming experience, gifted with an excellent level design and many truly nice ideas, but it lacks the "grace" and the polished feel of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.