Tron Evolution Review
Tron fans are a patient bunch. After all, they've waited nearly thirty years for a sequel to the original, now-cult-classic movie and anticipation couldn't be higher. Knowing how eager fans are to re-enter the Tron universe, last week Disney Interactive released Tron Evolution, a video game prequel to the events of the upcoming film, Tron Legacy. After playing this movie-based action RPG, I only have one thing to say—let's hope the movie's a helluva lot better than the game.
For the non-Tron-informed...the game takes place inside a computer program called the Grid. The Grid was created by Kevin Flynn, a hippie-talking programmer played by Jeff Bridges (who, looking back, must have been psychically anticipating his later role as “The Dude”). Within the Grid are two kinds of programs—the Basics and the ISOs—who are in general, hostile to one another. At game start, these two groups are trying to patch things up but then there's an attack on an ISO nightclub, which rekindles tensions on both sides, putting the Grid on the brink of all-out war. Confused yet? Well don't be. All you need to know is that you play an Anonymous, helmet-wearing System Monitor (“Anon” for short) who's been tasked by Flynn to find out who's behind the attack.
First and foremost, Tron Evolution is a platformer. So much so that really, it should be renamed “Tron: Jumping, Jumping and More Jumping”. The game goes for a Ninja Gaiden/Prince of Persia type of acrobatic movement that requires not only considerable precision but loads of patience. Your little Anon will vault here and grapple there, attempting to adopt a ninja-like grace but most of the time, thanks to the persnickety controls, he'll more likely be disintegrating into pixelated dust after flying aimlessly into space. When not trying that wall run or vault jump for the twentieth time, you'll spend the rest of your neon-lit life battling humanoid representations of a particularly nasty virus, led by the cloaked, Darth Vaderish villain Abraxas. The story here gets fairly muddled and it's never particularly clear why Abraxas and his minions do what they do, but you'll have plenty of time think about it while you practice your melee attacks and disk throws on them.
Like in the movie, your primary weapon is a glowing ring frisbee disk that you can pummel guys with up close or whack them with from a distance. The disk has to be charged up with energy to really be effective and you'll do a lot of running around, looking for ways to recharge it. While your health is recharged by running along glowing wall panels, your energy is recharged by running over sparking pylons and things that look like lightning-emitting air conditioners. Once charged up, you can perform basic attacks with the X and B buttons and stronger attacks with combinations of the two, throwing in a little LT and RT here and there for good measure. Combat overall is fairly easy and there's not enough of it to make it a nuisance. Good thing too, because you've got a lot of jumping to do!
In addition to the action side of things, Tron Evolution also has a rudimentary RPG system. Basically, you level up (although here they cleverly call it upgrading to higher versions) by killing enemies for XP and then use the memory you gain from leveling to upgrade your disk types and skills. Upgrades give you more health and energy and more impressive looking attacks but honestly, gameplay doesn't seem to change much, regardless of how you upgrade. Where the game does offer a little bit of much-needed change is during the few areas that give you access to tanks and light cycles. You use light cycles to race to various locations but there are no light cycle battles as you might hope for or expect. There are however, tank battles of a sort, and the most fun you're likely to have is using your tank to blow Recognizers out of the sky and rolling over the enemy, crushing ranks of foot soldiers into jelly.
Aside from wreaking tank havoc, the best thing Tron Evolution has going for it is the cool movie-score music from talented electronic music duo Daft Punk. Otherwise, playing the game is a fairly monotonous experience. A big reason for this, aside from too much jumping and ho-hum combat is that everything looks the same. In fact, except for the neon lights in the environment changing from blue to green to red, you'd hardly be able to tell when you'd changed locations. The result is a constant feeling of deja vu as you run and jump through what feels like the same halls and platforms again and again and again. The pacing is similarly tedious. The game has no highs and lows and you'll spend the entire six hours or so jumping for a few minutes and fighting some guys, jumping a few more minutes and fighting some more guys. There are no cool set pieces, no particularly interesting enemies and no standout boss battles.
Considering the blahness of the single player mode, it's somewhat surprising that Tron Evolution also has a multiplayer mode where up to ten players can play neonized, light-cycle-accessorized versions of deathmatch or capture the flag. Like the single player, these experiences are less than gripping. The game's downloadable content is similarly disappointing, amounting to some digital toys and t-shirts as well as a slew of purchaseable skins for use in the lackluster multiplayer—that is, if you have 80 to 240 Xbox points burning a hole in your pocket.