"TRON 2.0: Killer App" (GBA)
Publisher: Buena Vista Interactive
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Game Web Site: TronKillerApp.com
ESRB Rating: E
As fantastic as the colourful computer world of TRON
is, it's built upon actual computing terminology, even when the terms aren't realistically represented. TRON
isn't a metaphor, it's "real" in the fictional sense: TRON
's characters are not like
computer programs, they are
computer programs. Given this truism, it's astounding that in TRON 2.0: The Killer App for the Game Boy Advance
, Tron (the program) isn't "extracted from the archives" to perform his duties: Instead, Tron is brought out of 20 years of "stasis," a throwaway sci-fi reference with no particular relationship to real computing. This semantic faux pas sets the tone, in many ways, for the rest of the game.
TRON 2.0: The Killer App
, which is based very loosely on the PC (2003) [reviewed here
] and Xbox (2004) games of the same name, encompasses several different game play formats, including cloned versions of the original TRON
(1982) and Discs of TRON
(1983) arcade games. The main game consists of an isometric platform-style mode wherein the disc-hurling Tron (or the female light cycle program Mercury, depending on which character you choose at the beginning) must travel through the mazelike ENCOM computer system, to scour it of a cunning virus released by an "evil" and mysterious user.
The computer environments attempt to emulate those which were set forth in the original TRON
movie, but on the Game Boy Advance's miniscule screen, the effect is less than impressive. Additionally, the isometric viewpoint used in primary game play demands that nothing obscure the view of the player. Full-sized console games often accomplish this by fading out foreground elements, but the technique might have been too intense for the GBA's little processor, and as a result, objects in the foreground are simply short and stubby--levels are littered with these weird little railings, which can't be jumped over.
The isometric grid in TRON 2.0: The Killer App
seems counter-intuitive given the Game Boy Advance control system. The D-pad is most easily operated by pushing in the four compass directions (N,S,E,W), however the levels in TRON
are laid out with the main routes being at 45-degree angles (NE, SW, etc.). This presents an unnecessary and frustrating challenge in wrestling with hardware control accuracy while trying to navigate sudden-death catwalks, moving platforms, and other level elements that demand precision interaction. A good game makes the controls melt away.
's main view changes to first-person perspective when Tron uses vehicles (such as tanks and Recognizers), and top-down when Tron engages the three mini-games: Firewall, Security, and Defragment. I wasn't able to play long enough to explore the Defragment game, but both the Firewall and Security mini-games were excellent puzzle/action games that had a pleasing retro-arcade vibe. The execution of the mini-games was so good that I wondered why the main game hadn't been designed with more of a retro feel. TRON
would have been much better (and truer to the game's history) as either a top-down retro-style game or a side-scrolling platformer.
The besieged ENCOM system of TRON 2.0: The Killer App
is populated with friendly, hostile, and neutral programs. Tron has the ability to disinfect friendlies, destroy hostiles, "hack" security and defrag files. The main game combines platform-style play with RPG-style conversations and inventory-management. Tron can collect "chips" with which his basic abilities can be enhanced. While the idea of adjusting statistics is fine, the presentation is another gaffe. A computer program is software—a chip is hardware. Why the developers couldn't have called these "plugins," "modules," or "widgets" is beyond me. In any event, Tron will collect many chips in his travels. After several hours of play, I accumulated nearly 30 (100 are available), some of which were hidden or served as rewards. The chips can be traded with others via the Game Boy link cable.
While TRON 2.0: The Killer App
has a lot of features, game modes, and impressive voice-overs (like the Xbox and PC versions, both Bruce Boxleitner and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos perform voice acting for Tron and Mercury), the main game lacks punch. It seems to have been put together by rookie designers either too young to remember the original TRON
movie, too jaded to pay homage to the franchise, or uninterested in anything but meeting their deadline. TRON 2.0
's best features are its mini-games, which can be replayed endlessly and enjoyably. The inclusion of the original TRON
arcade games is a nice touch, too, but unless you're a rabid TRON
fan or can't get enough puzzle-action mini-games, stay away from this GBA title.