When Disney released the motion picture Tron in 1982, the special effects seamlessly transported audiences from the real world into the digital world of computers. Originally released the year after the movie, Discs of Tron focused on the ever-so-brief data-disk deathmatches found in the movie. Discs of Tron did one thing, but it did it very well for 1983. You are the movie's titular character facing off against Sark, the master control program's digitally embodied majordomo.
Unfortunately, this Xbox Live Arcade port of a 25-year-old game doesn't hold up as well as the movie. You jump from platform to curiously suspended platform, hurling deadly data disks at your opponent. Some illuminated lines on the sides of the screen show which vertical plane upon which your discs fly. Until you get to the multilevels section of the single-player game (a feat requiring both practice and skill), you will never make use of the ascending or descending throwing functions. While this setting never occurs in the movie, it is central to the gameplay.
When Sark defeats you, he will invoke one-liners from the movie that come across as garbled nonsense most times. But those obfuscated ribbings represent the majority of the audio you will hear in the game. Some light trappings from the movie's audio show up, but in barely recognizable forms.
The graphics update offers interesting background depth. The computer cityscape, complete with pulsating input/output towers, gives life to what was formerly the inside of a black box. Despite the fact that the character sprites are lightly filtered on enhanced settings, they look identical to the original version. It is unlikely you will want to return to the original graphics because they look horribly dated and only accentuate the predominantly 2D gameplay.
The recently rereleased Tron arcade game provides variety in four different gameplay types. The one-note gameplay in Discs of Tron--despite being historically accurate to the arcade cabinet--makes this game very shallow in comparison to its similarly emulated cousin. Even at a price of 400 Microsoft points, Discs of Tron seems disappointing while still delivering similar features as the other retro-arcade games currently available for download.
The biggest disappointment in this game comes from not having a true deathmatch versus mode. Backbone's multiplayer support offers four online modes in which to play: versus, speed versus, versus deadly discs, and co-op. Deadly discs shows great potential. You can hit power-ups and power-downs off the back wall with your disc to then throw off your online opponent's game or improve your own. Power-downs include stealing a life, paralyzing your opponent, or limiting your versus opponent to one shot at a time. While it is an interesting mode, finding someone to play with online is a bit of a chore because even at release, no one seems to be online. Unless you have a friend willing to spend the 400 points, chances are you will never be able to experience the subtlety of the online action. If Backbone had expanded this single-player-focused game to accommodate local support for mano-a-mano showdowns, it would have given this classic the code it needed to operate in a free system.
The achievements in this game could be considered the most punishing currently unlockable in Xbox Live Arcade games. One of the achievements is to score 60,000 points without losing a life. While it's worth a significant 45 points, you'd have to be a real user to unlock that achievement! The rest of the achievements are not as punishing, but they will require more than a few hours of play to unlock.
Thanks to the shallow gameplay and the lack of differentiating features, Discs of Tron fails to make a case for trips down memory lane justifying even a budget price tag. Only the most die-hard of Tron fans will derive any lasting enjoyment out of this port.