Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review - Tron (Arcade, 1982)

This review is part of a series focused on games I spent time with during my most recent trip to Funspot. To view the complete list so far, click the Funspot tag at the end of this post!

Bally/Midway's arcade adaptation of Tron was released in 1982 as a tie in for the film, released the same year. Tron includes four short mini games, each of which must be cleared before players can move on to a new difficulty level. Each game is unique in design but lasts only a few seconds, making Tron feel like some sort of slower precursor to Nintendo's Wario Ware series. It would be followed a year later by Discs of Tron, a completely separate game focusing on only one type of gameplay.

The four mini games that make up Tron all relate to the film in one way or another, some more directly than others. The best, and most closely connected with the film, is a Light Cycle game in which players control one of the famous glowing cycles as it leaves behind a trail of impermeable energy intended to trap and destroy rival riders. This mini game is actually a lot of fun, but because of the way the whole game is set up, rounds are over before you can really get into a groove.

The other games include a shooter where you guide your hero up through a rainbow filled tower, shooting your way through a colorful wall to reach its AI core. There's not really much of a challenge to this stage, aside from not letting yourself walk into a wall and die. You control your guy with the joystick and aim his bullets with a dial. This same control scheme is also used in a third mini game in which you blast your way through spiders to reach an enclosed circle. This part of the game plays like a nicer looking but less fun version of Robotron.

The fourth mini game is a tank battle game. I actually had trouble with this one, while finding the other three games very easy. Aiming your shots to ricochet off of walls to hit the enemy feels clunky and you simply don't have enough time to really get comfortable with it. This game suffers from the same problems as the Light Cycle game, in that it's certainly not bad but the shortness of rounds really hurts it. This one requires the most skill by far.

Light Cycle and the tank battle are the two best games here, while the two dude-based shooters are pretty weak. They're not awful, but they're not thrilling. While I haven't played Discs of Tron yet, Midway was probably smart to just focus on one gameplay type for that one.

My favorite part of this game is actually the physical machine. It's a regular standup arcade unit, but with a long blacklight between the screen and controls that give the whole thing a great, weird glow that perfectly fits the style of the movie. The controls themselves are garish and large, with a joystick more suited to a flight sim than a simple arcade shooter. It feels great to play on, even if the game itself isn't stellar. It's a very, very 80's looking machine, and I have to appreciate that. This machine is one of the kind whose feel can't really be reproduced in a home port or emulated version, and for that alone it's worth checking out. If you just want to play the games, there was a port released on Xbox 360 in 2008.

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