Tony Hawk’s Shred for Wii by Activision (Review: How Many Ways Can you Say Awful?)

Personal injury law is a consumer issue, usually dealing  with individuals battling corporations. But I’ll stray off that theme a bit today, to review a consumer product I did battle with over the weekend. It’s my blog and I get to do that kind of thing, especially if the product ticks me off because it doesn’t work.

Tony Hawk, for those that don’t know, is a skateboarder. One of the best. And he’s making a killing, it seems, by licensing his name to products as Tony Hawk, Inc.

One of those products is a video game designed for the Wii called Tony Hawk Shred, marketed by a company called Activision. Activision had marketed Guitar Hero, a mega-hit video game with a guitar used as the controller, so maybe the company thinks consumers will buy any game they distribute.

If you are the type to think that way, let me clear it up today with this review: Tony Hawk Shred is not yet ready for prime time. After a few hours of hook-up attempts and product returns, on behalf of a certain child that sleeps down the hall from me, I never did get this thing to work.

This is the idea for the game: A disc goes into the Wii computer, and you use a mock skateboard/snowboard filled with hi-tech doo-dads that’s placed on the floor for the gamer to stand on. The board is motion-sensitive and is supposed to act as a controller, the same way a handheld joystick might. Then, if it actually works properly, it responds to the user as it gets turned, jumped, grabbed and otherwise tricked upon to mimic skateboarding or snowboarding. As I said, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. You can see the commercial for it on YouTube.

Why would I review such a product on this blog?  Because my 8-year-old boy — who loves to skateboard and snowboard — got one from his Nana as a present, and that means Dad hooks it up if it’s beyond the kid’s capability. So I tell said kid to try to do it himself, because he should learn how these things work, and because my video game experience is rooted in Pong, PacMan and Asteroids a few decades back.  I confess that I also dabbled a bit in Solitaire and Minesweeper in the early ’90s when I had my first computer, but let’s face it, I peaked with Pong. No one will confuse me with a joystick cowboy. So the smart money bets on the kid to hook it up if he can.

Tony Hawk, center, showing off the controller board with fans who clearly were not in my basement this past weekend

But he couldn’t. So down to the basement I went. And the problem he seemed to be having is that the controller/board has to first be “calibrated” to the Wii. I don’t  know exactly what that means, but I do know that the Wii computer has to talk to the board/controller computer and that this discussion between the two is a necessary step to start the game.

So after the kid tried and failed, I took a crack at it. And 45 minutes later, I hadn’t done any better. The instructions were simple, and after following, re-following, re-starting, re-booting, changing USB ports, changing batteries, and standing on my head to spit nickels, I finally buckled and called Activision’s technical support.

By a show of hands: How many think I could get a human on the line in less than 20 minutes? Right. Does anyone actually like these electronic answering service systems, other than the companies trying to save money by not hiring enough staff?

But I eventually got the human, finally, and she told me to move everything in the room at least four feet away from the board, so the board’s sensors wouldn’t be effected. And to move any heavy metal objects away. But after re-arranging my basement so the magic board sat there in the center by itself like some museum diamond, and even standing in another room to make sure not a hair moved in the vicinity of the computers while they tried their calibration flirtation, we still didn’t have a calibrated skateboard/snowboard. And we know it didn’t work  because there was Tony Hawk on the TV telling us so.  Over and over and over again.

So Activision’s technical support rep gave me a special number to call for advanced technical support. Ah ha! The magic ticket, I figured.

Only after hanging up, however, did I realize that she had given me the same number I had just dialed. Back into the electronic answering system I went, as the steam blew out from my ears.

Before going on, let me give you a tip if you have the misfortune of calling Activision technical support and being trapped inside its virtually humanless  hotline. If you want an actual, living, breathing person to help you, do not speak any of the following logical commands at the voice prompt: “Help.” “Customer Service.” “Human being.” “Representative.” Nor should you repeatedly pound on the “O” as this won’t get you an operator, though it might get you disconnected so that you have the pleasure of starting all over yet again.

No, the magic words are “Live Agent,” to distinguish it I suppose, from the dead agent robots that the evil mastermind designed to exhaust  your patience and have you hang up, so that Activision and Hawk need not pay more salaried humans. Most people, I suspect, will hang up in frustration after being unable to find a human on the hotline, which I guess is the idea.

Back to the story: My new Live Agent — a perfectly pleasant gentleman who I imagine is forced to put up with this crap all day long for those that can get through —  suggests our particular game might be a warranty issue, which I understood to be a polite way of saying I have a lemon. So I call the store to swap it out and start all over, except of course that they have none in stock. Nor does the store in the next town over, but I do find one in the Bronx, and finally fight my way through the crowds for the swap. The salesman who did the swap told me he’d heard of problems with the Wii version of the game.

Now you know where this is going, right? The second piece of crap was just as bad as the first. The controller, that being the board, refused to calibrate.  We never did get the game working.

The kid with his Tony Hawk shirt, before he got the crappy game as a present

The kid with his skateboard and Tony Hawk shirt, before he got the crappy game as a present

By this point, my kid had developed a new mantra. It goes like this: “I hate Tony Hawk.”  I doubt he’ll wear the Hawk shirt again that you see him sporting in the photo to the right. I thought about telling him that Hawk probably didn’t design either the hardware or software; that he’s  just an athlete that licensed his name. It wouldn’t be a bad lesson for a kid.

But then I thought, why should I defend Hawk? He wanted the money so he created Tony Hawk, Inc. and licensed his name. And besides, he claims to be involved in making the games. If he wants to preserve his name he must make sure the stuff with his name on it actually works. You don’t get to take the good stuff (money from licensing) without risking the bad (lost fans and shredded reputation if the product stinks).

When I brought the game back for a refund the salesman told me that the model released last year (Tony Hawk’s Ride) was also riddled with complaints about the Wii version. This was supposed to be the new and improved model. You’d think they would have worked the bugs out of the system with this one. But the guy told me that people will buy anything with Hawk’s name on it, so maybe management (and Hawk himself) don’t really care?

When I buy a computer, I expect it to work. Which is why I’ve used Macs since around 1995. And when I need to call tech support, Apple taught me to expect a person on the line that will actually help.  Tony Hawk’s Shred for Wii fails miserably with respect to both the game itself and the support if offers.

But wait, there’s more! You know that prompt  you sometimes get asking if you’d like to take the customer satisfaction survey at the end of the call? The one you always answer “no” to? This time I said yes. And as promised, the call came in two minutes after I hung up with tech support. And this was the kicker: After one question the customer survey line simply went dead. The company couldn’t even do that right. Or, perhaps, they really don’t want to know.

But at least I know this blog works.

Update 12/28/10:  A Tony Hawk Christmas (Shred Game, Updated)

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57 Responses Leave a comment

  • mythago 2010.11.29 at 18:19 | Quote

    Do you have a Wii balance board (the thing that comes with Wii Fit)? It can be used to play a lot of body games including, if I remember correctly, a snowboarding game. It also actually works.

  • SiouxsieL 2010.12.3 at 21:04 | Quote

    You were very brave to buy anything with Tony Hawk in the name after “Ride.”

  • Eric Turkewitz 2010.12.3 at 21:43 | Quote

    You were very brave to buy anything with Tony Hawk in the name after “Ride.”

    C’mon, did you see the picture of my kid? A game like this has his name written all over it. He ain’t pleased with Tony now, that’s for sure.

  • vegaskev88 2010.12.24 at 14:59 | Quote

    great….I’m screwed. I just bought this for my son for xmas. We did xmas early and took all the trash out (including the Tony Hawk Shred box) about 30 minutes ago so we’d have more room in our trash cans. I just realized that this stupid thing doesn’t work and now I’m pissed. I can’t take it back to the store, nor can I get it to work. $100 in the trash…on Christmas. And my son (he’s 9) is now broken-hearted because his favorite xmas toy doesn’t work, while his little brother is having a blast with his toys.

    Does ANYONE have any other solutions to this problem? I can’t exchange mine…I need a solution….please…for my son….he’s having a horrible christmas now.

  • vegaskev88 2010.12.24 at 15:00 | Quote

    …please, I’m begging

  • Teresa 2010.12.24 at 22:00 | Quote

    got my son one for Christmas, i’ve been over an hour trying to calabrate the board.. Never did get it to work..

  • Alex Duncan 2010.12.25 at 06:47 | Quote

    Me also, xmas day, wii fit, tony hawks and nothing. If anyone fixes this I want to know…….thanks Tony you’re hardware is shit!

  • Jim Bolton 2010.12.25 at 10:27 | Quote

    This game, like his last, has well publicized calibration and use issues. Do not buy anything with a skateboard controller and the name Tony Hawk attached to it. The Shred was supposed to resolve all the prior issues, it is the same crap!!!

  • Otis 2010.12.25 at 11:14 | Quote

    How many people are feeling this pain this morning?

    No more Tony Hawk merchandise ever.

  • Debi Elliot 2010.12.25 at 12:22 | Quote

    Well my grandson just got this for Christmas and we havent been able to get it to calibrate either….UGH! Fortunately I can still dig the receipt put of the trash.

  • Laura 2010.12.25 at 13:00 | Quote

    same here – 9 year old son is disappointed with me – can’t get it to calibrate – not optimistic about getting it to work after reading all of the above – at least we still have the trash from Christmas morning – does Amazon take returns with torn boxes??

  • Jeremy 2010.12.25 at 13:11 | Quote

    Hello fellow XMAS parents. I got it to calibrate and like many of you had the same problem. I didn’t rearrange the room I did elevate the board off the floor with a foot stool, not sure if that helped. HOWEVER, I did read the board has problems with NEW batteries… SO, either empy out your tv remotes or burn the life down on the batteries that came with it. Don’t worry about lighting or the furniture like others have tried. Give it a little space, get out of the room and swap for gently used batteries. Merry xmas and Goodluck!

  • traci 2010.12.25 at 13:42 | Quote

    ugh! I’m in the same boat. Stuck with this crap game that will not calibrate. and of course the store won’t take it back because it is opened. SOB!

  • will 2010.12.25 at 13:47 | Quote

    this game is crap i bought the tony hawk shred for my nephew and this thing is an 80$ paper weight i have been trying all day with this this now my nephew is heart broken and im about to throw tony hawk out the window

  • Laura 2010.12.25 at 14:43 | Quote

    electrical engineer PhD husband who can fix ANYTHING could not resolve the calibration problem…sending it back to Amazon.

  • Jim 2010.12.25 at 14:46 | Quote

    Jeremy saved Christmas – we spent a couple of hours fussing over the dang thing. Then we got on line and found this site with Jeremy’s suggestions about older batteries! WORKED! We are in business! Good luck and Merry Christmas!

  • Ro 2010.12.25 at 16:09 | Quote

    What a piece of $#!T. Spent all morning trying to get this thing calibrated. Still have the box though and this thing is going back tomorrow.

  • Harvey 2010.12.25 at 16:45 | Quote

    Finally got mine to calibrate by moving the board closer to the wii console and turning the console sideways so the dongle had direct sight with the board.

  • Ilde buyers 2010.12.25 at 17:03 | Quote

    WE had the same problem and google it. I found a person that said to point the little connect ( comes with your skate) box that connects to the wii and make sure that no cable are between it and the skate. Turn all the ligths in the room (the only ligth will be the one from your tv) that did the trick for us. I hope you”ll be able to enjoy it .

  • p 2010.12.25 at 20:50 | Quote

    We had the same problem with the calibration. After finding some used batteries we got it to work. Seems to be the trick.

  • Mitch s 2010.12.25 at 21:06 | Quote

    It worked when I used older batteries, moved the wii so the wireless thing was closer to the board and nothing in between them, and turned off the lights. Just keep trying and you will get it. It’s fun when u get it started

  • Gary Kinney 2010.12.26 at 10:44 | Quote

    Eric – How about a class action lawsuit? Is that possible? It is more than just the money and a refund. We all gladly parted with the money to give our child a special gift only to have them disappointed on thier birthday, Christmas, etc. There has to be some way to make them pay attention and stop putting garbage on the shelves.

    Look at the reviews on Amazon, etc. I bet there are thousands who are facing the same issue. I bought mine as a pre-release from Amazon for $99. They are now selling it for $59 and my 30-day refund window and I will likely not get a full refund.

  • Jim 2010.12.26 at 12:15 | Quote

    I put in old batteries and moved the board 1 foot from the sensor and it worked. This after hours of trying x-mas day and then a couple hours today. I was very close to returning the game.

  • Chuck 2010.12.26 at 14:42 | Quote

    Got it to work with Energizer Rechargeable batteries.

  • Bary 2010.12.26 at 15:39 | Quote

    What a PITA! Got it to work after finding this site. Used old batteries, turned the lights off, and stopped cursing at it! Now I need to go put the furniture back and put all metal back in the room. What will happen when the old batteries run out? Where can I buy “used” batteries?! Merry Christmas Tony Hawk.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2010.12.26 at 17:25 | Quote

    Eric – How about a class action lawsuit?

    Speaking only for myself, I got a full refund. Anyone that couldn’t get this crappy game to work should bring it back to the store where they bought it.

  • Stacy 2010.12.26 at 17:47 | Quote

    Thank you Jeremy….Old batteries did the trick…our 10 year old will be very happy. We even returned the firt one this morning and tried the new one and that didn’t work either so then I looked at this site and found Jeremy!!!! THANKS

  • Jeremy 2010.12.26 at 19:44 | Quote

    Originally Posted By StacyThank you Jeremy….Old batteries did the trick…our 10 year old will be very happy. We even returned the firt one this morning and tried the new one and that didn’t work either so then I looked at this site and found Jeremy!!!! THANKS

    You guys are welcome, I tried to put the info out as much as possible, not sure why people didn’t read more. Sounds like most people are sue happy here, BTW, if you guys noticed, those batteries an generic company. That’s like GM getting sued for failed BF Goodrich tires. Regardless… Just gotta remember to burn some batteries down for when they die! = )

  • Debi 2010.12.26 at 20:44 | Quote

    Ok I tried the gently used battery trick and it worked. Didn’t have to move anything out of the way either…..my grandson is on his way over…he is sooo happy…Thanks for the info

  • Jeff Newman 2010.12.28 at 20:25 | Quote

    Here is what worked for us. The sensor bar about 18 inches off the floor. The skate board pointed about 60 degrees to the sensor bar. Not straight at it like the instructions say. The board is about 2 feet from the sensor. We used new Energizers. I messed with it on/off for 3 hours on Christmas day. Was going to wait until Monday to call Activision. My son tried it on the 26th, and he did what I described above, and it worked the first time.
    Once it works, it is a fun game. Just a PITA to calibrate the first time.

  • Eric Turkewitz 2010.12.29 at 00:14 | Quote

    I’ve posted an update on this game and Hawk’s defective dongle:

    A Tony Hawk Christmas (Shred Game, Updated)

  • mnb 2010.12.31 at 17:54 | Quote

    The game works, just turn the wii around and it will work.

  • Tom Francis 2011.1.6 at 17:37 | Quote

    Continually got to point in directions set-up where the board would not calibrate. Tried everything. Returned to Best Buy for a new one. Guess what!! An entirely different set of directions. Would not calibrate again! Son was in tears -only 8 years old and a huge Tony Hawk fan- two nights in a row. Finally a third wii parent suggested a rubber mat turned upside down with board on top. It worked!! Only after wasting hours of time. Directions never mentioned a mat only hardwood floors with felt straps or a rug..Tony Hawk sold his name but obviously did not have to set the game up himself.

  • tina 2011.1.10 at 21:52 | Quote

    well mine works great and its so much fun

  • Kerry 2011.1.14 at 18:38 | Quote

    We, too had to crush our son’s Christmas dream and return this game. He also got tons of Hawk clothes for Xmas, now is so disappointed he doesn’t want them either! Gamestop gave me problems about returning it. We tried moving everything in the room, covering the TV with a blanket, new batteries, moving the wii sensor, placing the skateboard on the floor and on top of a box, taking down the Xmas tree, etc. Nothing worked! My son was so upset! This is ridiculous that consumers would be expected to go through so much effort to make a product work. We don’t all have Tony Hawk’s money, where we can have a room with nothing but a wii and a skateboard in it! We’re off to find something different for my son that will actually work!

  • dude 2011.1.22 at 18:21 | Quote

    Same here, piece of crap

  • new shredder 2011.2.4 at 22:18 | Quote

    after much research it seems to be that fully charged batteries are the issue… my theory is that it’s too sensitive and can’t calibrate because it’s picking up on motion that it shouldn’t… i put some old batteries in it and it worked the first time after several tries with new batteries.

  • kandy 2011.4.23 at 20:14 | Quote

    cracking up reading this article. My 7 yr old sone just bought this game with some money he earned….on sale for 19.99….my 20 yr old tried to help him set it up for almost an hour, and then my gaming nerd husband (I say that with great love and affection)decides the boys just don’t know what they are doing…”I can do it, no problem”. Guess what…he had the same callibrating problem! he is searching all the remote controls right now for used batteries! Hope that does the trick :)

  • Dave 2011.5.29 at 23:22 | Quote

    Thank you guys! After having the calibration issues everybody faced, I read this block, installed old batteries, put it 1 ft above the floor, and got it close to the screen, sensor and console, it worked just fine! We have had a great time playing it with my kids!

  • ambre 2011.6.9 at 12:32 | Quote

    I feel like I could happily kill Tony Hawk right now. I bought the shred game and board for my sons PS3 today and after hours of trying, it is still telling me that the back sensor has been triggered. Every time not to mention Tony keeps on telling me over and over and over again………..grrrrr, I have tried lifting the board off the floor have put used batteries in there too and the still no joy, its really annoying to have my 4 year old watching me try for hrs and hrs, hes really upset :o(

  • Rodney Dickson 2011.6.21 at 04:10 | Quote

    Eric, thank you so much for posting this blog article. After having purchased all of the previous-generation Tony Hawk titles (those which use standard game controllers) I decided to do a little research into the new generation of skateboard-peripheral Tony Hawk games and came across this review. I must admit, it was refreshing to come across the point of view of a non-gamer (and so many other non-gamers) who were so negatively affected by setup issues with the skateboard hardware. Being primarily a fan of the music game genre (those Guitar Hero and Rock Band games) I can relate to how it feels when peripherals work “less than desirably” with a video game. Frankly, the setup issues with this title seem like nothing short of a headache. I think I’ll pass on picking up this title.

    Keep up the good writings.

  • sharon 2011.6.26 at 03:45 | Quote

    got this for my 8 year old son and we cant get it to work
    we have tried everything

  • Keith 2011.7.26 at 16:32 | Quote

    Bought Tony Hawk shred yesterday, took 5 mins to calibrate, no problems with it what so ever.

  • John 2011.8.4 at 10:01 | Quote

    @Kerry
    Why are you people being so mean to this. I bought it a week ago and calibrated it fine. Maybe its cuz yall are newbs (i skate) I had no problem whatsoever so could you please check yall are doing it right before going of and dissing a great game. I would suggest you dont leave anything near the board and anyone else in the room other than the calibrator gets on a bed or couch. THen make sure your foot is completely covering the sensor and that your other isnt near any other sensors(try to get it behind you). Hope this helps

  • dirtytacos 2011.8.13 at 13:45 | Quote

    @John – I had a ton of trouble as well until I realised the board was facing the wrong direction. The manual I have says for the start button to be facing the right side, in order for it to calibrate, I had to turn it around so it was on the left. Stupid manual almost ruined a good game for me.

  • Justin 2011.9.3 at 17:12 | Quote

    I got the game today and it worked fine its fun when u get started i didnt use old batteries either i just moved everthing away

  • Simone 2011.12.23 at 08:34 | Quote

    We finally got it calibrated after over a hour!
    After doing the following:
    - changing batteries
    - turning off all lights
    - elevating board on small wooden step,
    The best thing I think was turning the board around so that the nose was facing away from the TV as John mentioned.
    I hope this helps you, it’s a fun game once calibrated!

  • Li 2011.12.24 at 14:26 | Quote

    Li:
    It was great to read this blog. My daughters gave their 13 year old brother this as a gift today for Xmas Eve. He tried to set it up but after 10 minutes he asked for help. Since he has so many other games he always set up without problems and I am no gamer (I’m a mom!), I thought this meant he REALLY needed help so instead of looking at instructions which I knew would look too foreign to me, I turned to the internet. All the tips worked and he was playing 10 minutes later. He did these things: moved the board close (1 foot away), turned the console on an angle so the dogle was more visible, put his board on a huge laminated poster he doesn’t use (because we have carpet). We cleared the room only 4 feet away from the wii, though there’s already a lot of space around the wii for gaming anyway so it was just a couple of items. The only metal near the wii (besides in the TV and in wii) was the DVD player. We moved it permanently because we rarely use it anyway. After doing all that, he tried again and it worked perfectly. He’s having a great time. He really likes his gift!
    ReplyQuote

  • Jim 2011.12.26 at 20:19 | Quote

    had the same issue as every one else. Spent an hour trying to calibrate the board. Put old used batteries in and it worked……

  • Karen 2011.12.27 at 10:54 | Quote

    Thanks you guys for all your help. We tried all your ideas. Finially! WE GOT IT!! Turned out lights, changed batteries, moved closer to WII, put rubber mat under board. I hope you keep tring till yours works too.

Comments are closed.


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