Tron 2.0: Killer App is the upcoming Game Boy Advance game from Buena Vista Interactive that takes players back to the universe introduced in Disney's Tron, a cult classic film that was tailor-made for the video game era. The sequel, developed by Digital Eclipse, is set a number of years after the original film. Tron, the heroic program who saved the unique society of computer programs introduced in the film has faded into memory, or possibly to the back of the cache where it has become a myth. However, when trouble brews, his user Alan Bradley fires him up and sends him to discover what's going on.
Tron is joined by Mercury, a female light cycle program in the playable character department. You'll be able to play as either character, each of which has his or her own unique storyline that intertwines with the other, as they set out to deal with a virus that threatens their world. We had the chance to try out a work-in-progress version of the game, which offers a mix of newfangled isometric and polygonal adventuring as well as old school 2D-style gameplay that includes some welcome blasts from the past.
You'll find three game modes: story, battle, and minigames. You'll also have an option to view the chips you'll collect to upgrade Tron or Mercury over the course of your adventure. Story mode is where you'll play as Tron or Mercury and set out to stop the virus threatening the existence of all things in the world. Battle mode is a collection of games for you and up to three other friends to duke it out in light cycle, recognizer, and tank games.
However, what will likely become an addiction to many players is the minigame mode, which features five meaty arcade-style games to test your skills. While three of them--firewall, security, and defragment--are based on the minigames you'll encounter in the single-player adventure and will feature some retro gameplay that draws on classic shooters and puzzlers, the last two are where the money is. Digital Eclipse has faithfully re-created 1982's Tron and 1983's Discs of Tron arcade games in Tron 2.0: Killer App. For those unfamiliar with the two classic arcade games, Tron features four subgames based on scenes from the film. You'll race around in a light cycle, drive a tank, fight your way to a teleportation point against waves of foes, and take on the master control program itself in a Breakout-style sequence. Discs of Tron offers a more focused experience and involves exclusives on the deadly game of Frisbee seen in the film where programs fight in gladiatorial-style combat.
The gameplay in the single-player story offers a good mix that evokes the arcade game's varied approach. The core game is an isometric action game that mixes combat and platforming. You'll go through various environments while interacting with assorted programs. The benign programs will offer information and useful items or ask for help, while the less friendly software you encounter will have to be put down with Tron's handy disc or Mercury's energy staff. Both characters will have a similar set of moves. You'll be able to upgrade or gain new abilities by collecting chips. Over the course of your adventure, you'll encounter minigames that you'll play to unlock the path ahead of you. You'll also find three other game types that offer a good change of pace. You'll engage in classic light cycle competitions that play out from an overhead perspective, or pilot tanks and recognizers, the large horseshoe-like mechs seen in the film, in 3D sequences. The mix of play styles helps keep the game's pace brisk. The only rough spot to the proceedings is the standard issues that crop up in all isometric games: problematic camera angles that make some of the jumps you have to perform tricky as well as the occasional difficulty in not knowing where to go. But neither issue is enough of a problem to hurt the overall experience.
The visuals in Tron 2.0 are a good mix of nicely done 2D art and a savvy use of technology. The main game uses a respectable isometric engine that offers you an ample view of your surroundings, which helps highlight the game's art style and ably re-creates the distinct neon-infused look of Tron's world. Animation on the sprites is well done and features a nice batch of flourishes, such as the sparks from gunfire or when characters die. The 3D segments play out in a modest but capable 3D engine that runs fluidly and gives an inadvertent old-school feel to those levels. The arcade ports rock the house with sweet re-creations of the arcade game's graphics that made the most of their handful of colors and crude sprites back in the day.
The audio in the game is surprisingly robust, running the gamut from a grip of digitized speech, classic effects, and musical themes, as well as a modern collection of tunes for the soundtrack. The speech is probably the biggest surprise in the whole package. While we've seen fairly good chunks of voice in recent games like Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Tron 2.0 blasts ahead of the pack with full-on narration for the story sequences in between levels. Actors Bruce Boxleitner and Rebecca Romjin-Stamos are on hand to bring Tron and Mercury to life. You'll also hear a good selection of comfortably familiar sound effects and musical themes in the proper game and in the arcade games that are all faithfully re-created. Finally, the game's soundtrack is a modern array of tunes that are kept to a minimum to fit the game's unique style.
Tron 2.0: Killer App is shaping up to be a GBA game that has a little something for everyone. The isometric adventure feels like a solid experience with impressive visuals, while the minigames serve up an addictive batch of old-school gameplay that's always good to see. If you're a fan of the original game or you are just looking for something new to try on the GBA, you should most definitely keep an eye out for Tron 2.0: Killer App when it ships this October for the Game Boy Advance.