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The last three reviews were fairly positive, but don't count on this being a "Coda recommends old games" thread. Today, I'll be reviewing two games at the same time because of how closely they're related.

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Game: Tron
Developer: Bally Midway
Platform: Arcade
Year: 1982

Game: Discs of Tron
Developer: Bally Midway
Platform: Arcade
Year: 1983

I'm going to review these together because Discs of Tron was originally intended to be part of Tron, but the programming wasn't done in time for release, so it got spun off into its own game. That was probably for the best.

Tron and Journey have a lot in common: They're both early arcade games by Bally Midway featuring popular licenses that ended up being compilations of minigames that barely hold together. After completing all of the minigames, the game loops around. And by virtue of their common heritage, they have similar quality and style of graphics, sound, and play control.

But that's about as far as the resemblance goes, in my opinion.

Tron was wildly popular in 1982. The arcade game actually made more money than the movie, and the movie was a smash hit in its own right. Journey was a wildly popular band, but its members didn't think they needed a video game, and the game's reception at the time was lukewarm.

It's comprised of four sub-games. You don't know which one you're going to play before entering the level, although if you lose then going back into the same level will be the same game. The game has a joystick, a knob, and a button. Some games use all three at once.

The game mode that's easily the best is the light cycle game. It's a classic, and while it didn't spawn the genre it certainly defined it. It plays as you would expect a light cycle game to play. There's nothing wrong with it. It uses the joystick for movement and the button for an accelerator.

One game mode has you piloting a tank, trying to take out the enemy tanks in a maze. It's slow-paced and the collision handling is very strict so navigating the maze efficiently takes practice. If you're imagining Atari's Combat... well, don't; Combat was better. The only advantage it has over Combat is that you can control the turret independently of the tank itself, so you can move in a different direction than you're aiming.

The other two game modes have you on foot, carrying a blaster. In one, you're trying to punch through the MCP's shield to get through to the light cone on the other side. In the other, you've got to escape to the warp in the middle while fending off a swarm of enemies. There's nothing especially wrong with the play control (aside from the size of the hitboxes not matching the size of the sprites), but it's sort of awkward to move with the stick, aim with the knob, and shoot with the button. You get used to it, for sure, but the world should be thankful that twin stick shooters decided to go with a second stick instead of a knob.

There's no fanfare between iterations. Once you've cleared all four game modes, you go back to the map and it's all filled in again, waiting for you to pick one. I have no idea what the ending is. I'm not good enough at it to get through to level 12 and I can't find any videos of what happens after clearing it.

I wouldn't say that Tron is a terrible game. But it's... kinda... boring. It's slow-paced, it's got inconsistent difficulty, it's repetitive, and if there's a part you like then you're going to just have to wait between opportunities to play it. If it were faster to get into the levels (and if the tank mode wasn't such a slog) it might have been more engaging. I don't think it stood the test of time. (Journey didn't stand the test of time either, but its superior pacing, simpler controls, and better music make it -- at least in my opinion -- more enjoyable in short bursts.)

And then there's Discs of Tron. If this had been included in the 1982 release, it would have slowed down the pacing even more than it already was, and it wouldn't have had the opportunity to receive the extra polish that it got from the extra development time and standalone release. As it stands, it wasn't anywhere near as popular as the first game.

And Discs of Tron is hard.

You have to avoid falling off of the platforms on your side of the field while using the knob to aim thrown discs at one or more computer-controlled opponents. You can push the knob down to aim lower and pull the knob out to aim higher. (I actually didn't know about this, but I saw the enemies aiming up and down.) You can bounce the discs off of the walls, and they bounce back to you so you can throw them again. You can jump between the platforms, but if you time the jump wrong (or if you just fail to jump) you fall off and die. If a shot gets bounced off of the ceiling, then it can hit a platform, which makes it shrink.

Your opponent(s) meanwhile throw discs at you, as well as generating sparks that either fly straight or try to home in on you. And of course, they can jump between platforms, too, so it's sort of like playing inverse Pong to score a point. On later levels, barriers appear in the middle of the field to make it even harder to aim, forcing you to bounce off the outer walls, and the platforms move around, forcing you to maneuver more.

Fall off the platform? You die. Get hit with a disc? You die. Get hit with a spark? You die.

I really can't recommend playing Discs of Tron. Tron itself might be interesting to try out, but you're not missing out on anything if you skip it.
Mega Man: The Light of Will (Mega Man / Green Lantern crossover: In the lead-up to the events of Mega Man 2, Dr. Wily has discovered emotional light technology. How will his creations change how humankind thinks about artificial intelligence? Sadly abandoned. Sufficient Velocity x-post)

Games by Coda (updated 11/24/2019 - New game: Jigsawmino)
Art by Coda (updated 4/20/2020 - untitled original music)
Old Posted 08-19-2019, 11:55 AM Reply With Quote