When Disney puts together a movie they go all out with the merchandising. As seen with TRON Legacy, Disney is doing limited edition shoes, sunglasses, toys, and probably a lot more. Somewhere in there I’ve even seen a custom motorcycle company doing a street legal version of the new movie’s lightcycle! One thing is for certain, the videogame TRON: Evolution is a modest attempt to cash in on a very successful movie sequel to the 1982 classic.
Now I want to be very clear when I say that the details of the TRON franchise are beyond me. All I remember from the original film is that the character Tron is a badass program created to restore order to a virtual world developed by a company named ENCOM. Tron’s creator, Kevin Flynn, gets zapped into the ENCOM mainframe and both Flynn and Tron must defeat a system called the MCP (or Master Control Program). Of course, all that anyone remembers is the glowing skin tight body suits that all of the “programs” wear and how the different colors designated whether you were a “good” program or “bad” program. In the original movie, the MCP and his henchmen were all red. This made it easy to tell good from evil.
In TRON: Evolution, you’ve to battle not one but two types of enemy programs. As the storyline goes, you are to bridge the gap between the original movie and the sequel. The plot throughout the game is decent enough and is played out through some polished animation and graphics that is worthy of the Disney label. The digital recreation of Jeff Bridges is pretty good. Still, the story details are kind of confusing. In a sense, the game makes you into a voiceless and personality-void system monitor similar to Tron. You are “created,” I suppose, to assist Kevin Flynn take out some kind of infection named the Abraxis. These yellow zombie-like programs are apparently some kind of virus that is threatening the Grid (or the digital world that this all takes place in). Somewhere in there, Kevin Flynn’s virtual clone, named Clu, betrays him and decides to take over or kill off a number of digital wonders named Isos (white) that apparently are evolved programs that just appeared and were not created by Flynn. Clu’s betrayal is realized when he kills Tron and attempts to kill Flynn and execute his grand plot to kill all Isos. Apparently these Isos are special and independent. Flynn wants to keep them and Clu does not. So, the battle rages on in the Grid with your athletic system monitor battling the Abraxis (yellow) and Clu’s betrayal (orange).
Seems like a lot, right? Well, thankfully the game plays very simply. For most of the game, you dash around as your blue system monitor in a style that very closely mimics Prince of Persia gameplay. Your monitor acrobatically leaps off of structures, runs on walls, and flips about getting from area to area looking to battle different color programs with his light disc. As you view the landscape, you’ll see that most everything is dark an black with various colored highlights, lamps, “health bands,” and such that at times act as the progression arrows for you to advance through the stage. Simply look for the blue colored furniture or lines and you’ll get the hang of determining exactly where to run to, leap from, or grab hold. Of course, you’ll find yourself missing the target or leaping off into the wrong direction quite often due to the camera angle or just simply the speed of your character running everywhere in order to pull off his acrobatics. Thankfully, if you jump off a cliff and miss the target, the game quickly resets and “reloads” to the last save point which is typically very close to where you recently died. Lines of fake computer code zip across the screen as a kind of makeshift loading screen as you are reset to the last save position. This infinite lives format kind of decreases the difficulty of this game a lot since you could miss the same jump 20 times in a row and there is no real penalty to failing aside from this save point reset.
When it comes to the mechanics of the light disc combat, the difficulty is almost nil. With very little aiming needed, you simply spend most of the game holding RT (to run and leap off objects) and press the other various buttons for different light disc combos. The more varied the combos and impressive the kill, the more experience your character receives. As you go up levels, you also acquire MegaBytes of space to “upgrade” your character’s performance in the Grid. The upgrades improve the life capacity and special attack energy capacity of your character in the game. They also improves the effectiveness of the various light disc types that you acquire throughout the game. These are the heavy disc, the life draining disc, the explosive disc (my favorite), and the stasis (or slow motion) disc.
Most of the enemies can be taken out by one light disc type but on occasion a mini boss is introduced to the combat. When this happens, a little cutscene occurs and an “opponent scanner” tells you the weakness of the opponent. Most times this is described by a particular light disc type that they are vulnerable against, but at other times this is described by a particular move like an explosive ground attack or a melee attack. This forces you to actually use all of the different discs and a majority of the moveset rather than relying on a couple of different moves to breeze through the game.
This frisbee fun is spruced up by a few vehicle stages. In the lightcycle stages you find yourself typically racing against the environment dodging explosions or falling rocks and disintegrating bridges. These levels are rarely the lightcycle battles that we remember from the films (this battle style is reserved for the multiplayer mode). Here, the desire is usually to go as fast as possible with no regard for anything around you, but there times when slowing down is necessary to avoid certain obstacles.
There are also tank battles where you drive around and blast away at people, tanks, and 2-legged flyers (recognizers). These stages are simplistic blast-fests that break up the action a bit.
While you are cruising through the single player and multiplayer modes the Grid, is seamlessly integrated into the action. At any time during the story, you are able to “download” your player into the area style grid and battle other players. Once your battle is complete, any experience earned there will be available to upgrade your character and you zip right back into the spot you left in the story mode.
The online multiplayer mode is loads fun. Zipping around in lightcycles and slinging light discs at the same time can be exhilarating. You use the thumbstick to steer the lightcycle and the right trigger to accelerate as the basic controls, but the more experienced user will sling light disc bombs while zipping around on the bike or use the right and left bumpers to make instant 90 degree directional changes that are iconic to the TRON lightcycle battles. You’ll occasionally hop into a tank to blast away at the faster lightcycles. Of course, your opponents can still take you out quite easily by slinging their light discs at you or trapping you within the lightcycle walls that trail the travel path of every lightcycle.
The large and multi-tiered levels designed for the Grid will provide many hours of fun and derezzing (kills). Still, the reward system for playing this mode is a bit shallow when compared to most other games. No additional weapons are featured and no real customization of the appearance of your monitor occurs as you advance levels. Sure, you can continue the software upgrades to maximize performance of your monitor with the ability to use a couple of different “loadouts,” but the lack of weapon customization and variety, special ability choices, kill streak bonuses, or character models really leaves a bland feel to the whole multiplayer experience.
Another thing that seems to be a bit sub-par in this game is the sound. The music used in this game comes off a bit more like ambient electronica music that typically soothes rather than excites. This counteracts the possible excitement of the game at times. Also, are racing and vehicle scenes where stuff is crashing all about and explosions are everywhere, but the sound effects seem to either be muffled or almost non existent. Visually it is exciting but the sound just doesn’t seem to always match the moment.
Nitpicking aside, TRON: Evolution is an easy, fun, stylistic game with probably no more than 10-12 hours of gameplay (and that might even be a bit generous). Multiplayer will probably get old quick but hardcore TRON fans will most assuredly be pleased at being able to blast foes with a light disc and race lightcycles.
TRON: Evolution is rated T (Teen) by ESRB for Fantasy Violence and Mild Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on the PS3, Nintendo DS, Wii, PC, and PSP.