More than 20 years have passed since the original release of Tron, a movie in which a computer programmer gets sucked into the world of bits and bytes. Since then, Tron has become a touchstone for people who grew up in the early days of video games and home computers. Now, with the release of Tron 2.0, a new first-person shooter from MacPlay, the story of Tron is back – with a modern plot, some new twists, and much of its original charm. Too bad the game feels old.
Tron 2.0 is set in the present day, where Alan Bradley – creator of the original Tron program – is working on a new digitizing technology that a rival company is eager to steal. As a result of corporate sabotage, his headstrong young son Jet – a talented programmer in his own right – is digitized and whisked into the computer realm.
As Jet, you suddenly find yourself in a world where programs look like people. Unfortunately, a lot of them seem to want to derezz you – that’s computer speak for kill. Your claim that you’re a user and not a program is laughable insanity to some and complete heresy to others – it’s as if you were calling yourself a god. When it turns out that a virus is infecting both the programs and the environment, you must put a stop to it – and protect your dad’s AI program, Ma3a, from corruption.
In the story-driven single-player mode, you’ll use your identity disc – a Frisbee-like weapon – to blast foes while earning as many upgrades as you can. Another challenge involves riding lightcycles – motorcycle-like vehicles that trail impenetrable barriers behind them. The game is essentially an updated version of Snake. Your goal is to trap your opponents inside your own barriers while avoiding theirs. Although it’s not a new concept, Tron 2.0 manages to add a few new twists, such as power-ups, speed zones, obstacles, different lightcycle models, and more.
Tron 2.0 includes a multiplayer mode. You can compete in a platform arena game, in which you try to hit other Mac or PC players with your identity disc. Players on the same LAN can compete in a multiplayer version of the Lightcycle game, too.
If you’re a big fan of the original Tron aesthetic – defined by abstract and stark geometric designs offset with brilliantly glowing neon detail – you’ll adore Tron 2.0. The game brings to life the movie’s landscape and includes other nice throwbacks such as the voice of actor Bruce Boxleitner, who played Alan Bradley in the original movie.
For the most part, though, there isn’t really anything new or unique in Tron 2.0. The single-player mode has the same challenges you’ve seen in a million other first-person shooters.
You’ll collect keys (called Permissions) to unlock new areas and search out power-ups (or Subroutines) that imbue you with new abilities.Tron 2.0 does offer an interesting take on managing power-ups. Unlike some first-person shooters, it doesn’t give you unlimited weapons or powers. Instead, you have to manage your memory resources carefully (only loading the subroutines you need for the given task at hand), optimize the code
when you’re given the chance (to help reduce resource use and hopefully cram more subroutines into memory), and upgrade when you find new and better subroutines.
I didn’t run into any problems while playing Tron 2.0. However, I would have appreciated a windowed game mode – an option that is becoming a standard in many new games. As it is, I was stuck watching full-screen resolutions that are lower than my Apple Cinema Display’s native resolution. Another annoyance is that the Mac version arrived about nine months after the Windows release.
Tron 2.0 is basically a reprise of the 1982 movie. Its game play will be familiar ground to first-person-shooter enthusiasts. However, novel graphics and an interesting power-up-management system add nice twists for fans who haven’t already played the Windows version.