Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Review of Tron Evolution: Battle Grids



Last December, I commented about how Wii finally granted one of my geek wishes by producing a Tron game that is similar in both theme and game play to the Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort games. Yet for as giddy as I was at that time, I still hadn't played the game so I had no idea how closely the game matched my expectations. So, after picking up a copy of Tron Evolutions: Battle Grids a few days ago, I decided to share my thoughts regarding Wii's tie-in to the Tron universe. While it's not the most immersive, plot-heavy Tron tie-in ever made, it's certainly worth the time if you're a Tron fan. Read on ...

From what I can tell, the Tron Evolution games appear to be yet another example of how the different styles of game play provided by the various game consoles have reshaped the concept of licensed game distribution. In this case, instead of creating one game and porting it to all of the consoles, four different Tron Evolution games were made: one for the DS, one for the PSP, one for Xbox 360 and PS3, and one for the Wii. According to the timeline presented by Disney Interactive Studios, each of these games serves as a part of the prequel story for Tron Legacy; I'm assuming that the upcoming animated Tron TV series will further bridge the gap between Tron and Tron Legacy.

While the Tron Evolution game for Xbox 360 and PS3 appears to have been designed as a single player, mission-based game first and a multiplayer, competition-based game second, Tron Evolution: Battle Grids takes the opposite approach. From the flexible control scheme to the various multiplayer options, Battle Grids is first and foremost a multiplayer "party" game, where up to four local players can play simultaneously. Unlike the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, Battle Grids does not allow for online multiplayer competition, only local.


Battle Grids revolves around the following Grid Games: Grid Tanks, Hyper Ball, Light Cycles, Light Discs, and Light Runners. Hyper Ball was originally seen in the first Tron movie--it’s the first game Flynn plays after he is beamed into the computer world--while the Light Runners are based on the four-wheeled vehicles seen in Tron Legacy. (Given the kind of Grid Games that are featured, I couldn't help but to think of the Tron arcade games from the 80s. Battle Grids even features areas where you “derez” grid bugs with a Light Disc, just like in the first arcade game.) There are no Grid Games involving the Recognizers; for that, you'll have to pick up the Tron Evolution games for the Nintendo DS and the PSP.

Each Grid Game features different variations, which means that there are many different ways to play the five Grid Games provided. You can also customize your own character, which you can play as in both the single in multiplayer modes, and choose from an array of various characters as competitors (including Tron and Quorra, who are voiced respectively by Bruce Boxleitner and Olivia Wilde).


In the single player story mode, all of the action involves the Grid Games. Each area in the story mode takes you to a different place within the Grid, where you interact with various Programs and ISOs to complete different sub-missions. The sub-missions are either some kind of game skill training or challenge to competition; each completed sub-mission unlocks new equipment, environments and AI characters to use in the multiplayer mode of the game. In other words, to get the most out of the multiplayer mode of Battle Grids, you need to complete the single player mode.

While that may sound dismissive, the story mode does provide you with a glimpse of what life was like in the Grid before Clu’s rise to power and his extermination of the ISOs. Your character in the story mode is an ISO who is training to become a Grid Champion, and the underlying theme throughout the story is that the ISOs competition with the Programs as equals in the Grid Games is essential part if the ISOs social status within the Grid.

The control scheme in Battle Grids varies from Grid Game to Grid Game. The Light Cycle and Light Runner games have controls similar to Mario Kart Wii, while the Gird Tank game has controls similar to the Tanks! minigame found in Wii Play. Of the games, Hyper Ball has the most challenging control scheme. Even though the game involves catching and throwing a ball in a manner similar to tennis, figuring out how to catch the ball and throw it in a way that scores points and wins competitions requires more practice than the other Grid Games.


What's remarkable about Battle Grids is the amount of flexibility it provides when it comes to game controls. The programmers clearly wanted as many people as possible to play Battle Grids in both its single and multiplayer modes. Thus, each of the Grid Games can be played with or without the nunchuk controller, and with or without Wii MotionPlus. Perhaps Battle Grids might have been more impressive if the game required the MotionPlus accessory; however, given Nintendo's own uneven support of MotionPlus, I can't blame the makers of Battle Grids for erring on the side of caution and making their game accessible to all Wii users, regardless of how many controllers and accessories they own.

Overall, I think a player's feelings about Battle Grids will largely hinge upon how he/she feels about the game's controls and its dynamic between the story and multiplayer modes. If a player thinks that the controls are too frustrating and the story mode is too boring to merit completion, then the multiplayer games will probably wear thin fast. If a player finds the story mode to be a simple yet intriguing exploration of the Tron world and is willing to work with the controls, then playing through Battle Grids will be an entertaining experience that will add greatly to the multiplayer mode of the game. In my opinion, Tron Evolution: Battle Grids is the perfect party game for Tron fans of all ages.


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