As a video game movie tie-in, the arcade game Tron is an anomaly. Here's a video game based on a movie (which, itself, was about video games) that not only fits in naturally with the source material, but it's also actually fun--arguably more fun than the movie it's based on. Now this neon-tinged slice of early-'80s nostalgia has arrived on Xbox Live Arcade, and though it's unfortunately saddled with some minor sound and control issues, Tron is still a distinctive experience.
Tron consists of four different minigames inspired by different scenes from the film. If you beat all four minigames, you advance to harder versions of those same minigames. The light cycles are probably the most iconic of the bunch. Characterized by the cycles' ability to make hard 90-degree turns, and by the solid walls of light that they leave in their wake, the objective here is to use your light trails to box in your competitors and cause them to crash. The MCP cone is a pretty abstract minigame in which you try to shoot your way up through a rotating wall of multicolored panels without letting them touch your little computer dude. By comparison, the battle-tank minigame is the most traditional and plays like a cross between Pac-Man and Combat. Lastly there's the I/O tower, where you have to shoot your way through swarms of self-replicating grid bugs and enter the tower before time runs out.
All of these games look and play much as they did in the arcades, with clean, simple graphics and immediately challenging gameplay. Actually, it'll likely be harder than you remember it being in the arcade. Due to issues with how the arcade's dial controls have been translated to the 360 controller's right analog stick, the controls are often neither as fast nor as precise as they were in the arcade. It can be compensated for, but it's still unfortunate. The sound emulation is also a little sketchy, which is less detrimental but nevertheless distracting.
Tron makes up for some of its technical shortcomings with optional enhanced graphics, as well as some online co-op and versus modes, but these additions don't take out the sting entirely. Regardless, it remains a pretty unique experience, and for just $5, it's hard to be too critical of its faults.