Tron 2.0: Killer App

October 18, 2004

Monolith’s Tron 2.0 on the PC served as a wake-up call to gamers–it was excellent and proved that licensed games don’t always have to be cheap grabs for cash. Unfortunately, Digital Eclipse’s Tron 2.0: Killer App for the Game Boy Advance doesn’t even seem to try to follow in its predecessor’s footsteps.

An evil hacker has infiltrated the ENCOM computer system, and the legendary program Tron–assisted by the lightcycle program Mercury–must stop him. Each character has his or her own set of levels, but there are no gameplay differences between the two. Perhaps due to both characters being available from the start, both Tron and Mercury’s stories start off at a very low difficulty, making playing through the game as the other character very unsatisfying.

The majority of the game is an isometric platformer with repetitive projectile combat. Nearby enemies are automatically locked onto and jumping, strafing and firing all at once is never difficult to do. However, the main problem is that the player only ever encounters three different types of enemy with any regularity, and the combat is just too easy. Most enemies can be defeated through mindless button mashing, and since each one drops a health-restoring item taking a hit or two is never much of a problem. When the player finally does die the character simply respawns at the point of death with a full health bar, minus one life.

That is, assuming the player has any lives left over after the plentiful instant-death tiles. Jumping puzzles are rarely fun in isometric platformers, and Tron is no exception. Even worse is that the tiles designed simply to damage the player look extremely similar to these death tiles, and they are often even right next to each other. On a portable gaming platform that is inexcusable–less-than-ideal lighting situations can render the game unplayable, even on an SP.

Scattered throughout the colorful world of the ENCOM system are various mandatory minigames. The most common, hacking, resembles the old game Pipe Dreams. Random tiles must be used to connect two points on the game grid within a given time limit. The game is good in theory, but in practice is severely flawed and at times made me simply turn off the game in disgust. When a tile is connected to the start point, there is a chance of receiving bonus time–but place one anywhere else and the player may randomly receive a time addition, time subtraction or the source of my anger: an alarm tile which requires starting the puzzle over. The fact that the game then also randomly places alarm tiles in front of the only path, making the puzzle effectively impossible to win, is simply insulting. Also offensive are the poorly conceived 3D Tank and Recognizer modes. The games look and play worse than Lawnmower Man for the Super Nintendo, yet are forced upon the player after every couple levels. The fairly amusing lightcycle races do not make up for the other minigames.

One of the game’s biggest selling points is the inclusion of the classic arcade games Tron and Discs of Tron. This is the first time the games have seen the light of day since their original releases and they are still surprisingly fun today. Unfortunately even though the gameplay is intact, the ports are very poorly done. The graphics were not redesigned for the smaller screen and are often difficult to make out. Worst of all is the horrendous slowdown encountered whenever there are multiple discs on the screen at once in Discs of Tron. The arcade games alone simply cannot make this a justifiable purchase.

Tron 2.0: Killer App is a lackluster game with too many frustrations for such little fun. The short length and lack of real replay value make it not worth picking up. If you’re looking for a fun game in the Tron universe, pick up the PC or Xbox versions.

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.