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TRON Run/R Hands-On Impressions

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I have been a long time Tron fan. I was one of the few people that enjoyed Legacy to some extent, yet found the original movie, the concept that even birthed the franchise in the first place, to be nauseating. Tron so far has had two movies and now two games, but this time Sanzaru Game’s take on bringing Legacy‘s parkour wall running and back flip disc throwing finds itself in Tron Run/R, a linear running game in the same light as say Temple Run…yet this one might bring on a seizure.

 

What’s funny is that Tron is the true, pure definition of a video game series. It is literally about people getting sucked into a computer where little bits of data live out their humanoid lives, throwing digital frisbees and racing each other on motorcycles that excrete light, which ultimately murder you. Think Snake but motorized and it has two heads. Now while Tron is basically a franchise about video games, it just doesn’t seem to be able to do the video game bit very well.

The art style is fantastic but when 2010’s Tron Evolution hit shelves, people discovered that such a franchise can’t be taken lightly when it comes to making a product that is aimed at the form of media it is being made into. In this case, gaming.

In Tron Run/R you play as a faceless program that must run two chapters of sixteen tracks each, all while collecting little digital bits of in-game currency and also navigating past deadly green walls of doom and over even deadlier barricades of death and other dangerous hazards. You may notice a murderous trend here. That is because everything in Tron Run/R is trying to stop you in some way of reaching your goal.

It’s endless running game 101 that also mixes light cycles into the mix to give a somewhat rough Wipeout experience (You know, that awesome space racing game on Playstation) that actually feels way more balanced and user friendly than games like F Zero and Wipeout ever did. If one thing was done right in Tron Run/R so far it’s that the game wants you to do well while also feeling cool and not cheated by forced failure.

Between the two game mode types you also have Endless Stream mode, which as you can assume is just never ending survival and in some ways the core feature of the package. Within this mode you play a never ending combination of somewhat seamless disc running and light cycle riding tracks without the load screens and with death being your only way of it ending. Sadly in this mode, there are no enemies to fight apart from on the light cycle tracks, so it’s basically a more focused obstacle course. But it’s still fun none the less.

Sanzaru have attempted to place micro transactions into Tron Run/R too, which, as mentioned, come in the form of bit points. Thankfully, you never have to actually purchase these as you are constantly collecting them like rings in Sonic the Hedgehog, but their purpose is actually cooler than just having a bag full of yellow marbles. Bits go towards special abilities that, in most cases, make the gamesuper easy. By spending bits, you can have a portable gun turret for automatically killing enemies, doubling score multipliers, a personal shield, and so forth. It is a nice addition that doesn’t feel forced and along with the fact that real world money isn’t needed to obtain them at all, you can sail through the game at its base price.

Finally is Tron Run/R’s aesthetic, which, as the opening sequence touts, is completely built up in Epic’s new Unreal 4 engine. Now while this is nice on paper, the game looks nothing like a next gen title, which is a shame. Particles and character models all look like previous generation creations, while the framerate also truly suffers in places, especially endless mode, so get used to dying a lot due to the games very poor performance at times.

It is still an enjoyable game and I have sunk many hours into it. There is also an optional season pass that provides multiple characters, costumes and an additional 36+ tracks to soon be released. This may not be the Tron game we all expected but in a way, its a direction I find quite fitting for it.

Tron Run/R is currently available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

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Co-op Gaming Shines at EGX Rezzed With We Were Here Together, Phogs!, and Cake Bash

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Co-op gaming

Over the years, jolly co-op gaming has been in decline, especially from AAA developers. Several recent games have been standouts, such as A Way Out, Strange Brigade, and the Far Cry series, though the latest pioneers of co-op gaming will likely come from the indie community.

While exploring EGX Rezzed, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of mutual enjoyment as gamers came together to play a plethora of team-building games. Among these games were some of my personal highlights including We Were Here Together, Cake Bash, and Phogs!

We Were Here Together

We Were Here Together is the latest co-op adventure puzzle game by independent studio Total Mayhem Games.

The title continues on from two previously released projects, We Were Here and We Were Here Too, with the former available on Steam for free. Set amidst a frozen landscape, the first two games centred on exploring a mysterious castle while solving puzzles as part of a two-person team. Players were separated throughout the playthrough until the final moments, which featured a touching scene where the puzzling pals would eventually meet to conquer the remaining conundrums.

We Were Here Together immediately shakes things up by starting the game with both players working together in the same environment. The EGX demo starts off outside of the castle grounds in an expedition outpost where two explorers suddenly receive a distress call from somewhere in the frozen wastes. Players must work together to decipher an incoming transmission and correctly pinpoint the distress beacon.

The location itself is the answer to a series of puzzles, requiring both people to work together. A great example of teamwork is one player adjusting an outside satellite while the other stays inside to alter the radio’s frequency until a voice can be heard. This is where the creative ingenuity from the developers comes into play as solutions are different for each playthrough. The puzzles themselves remain the same, but, by using the same example as before, the voice may only be heard on a different frequency. Similar situations where the outcome changes include changing co-ordinates and figuring out which key may fit a particular door.

Roughly one-third of the game will be set in a shared environment while latter parts will take place back inside the castle in a traditional, separated format. Two paths are laid out later for the players to choose between, providing avenues for replayability. The changing solutions also add to the replay value as it prevents veteran gamers from going back and telling their new partner the answers.

The moments where players are physically apart highlight one of the unique features of the game: the radios. Both characters are equipped with walkie-talkies so players can communicate with each other. Radios are a brilliant immersion tool as the mechanic works exactly as a two-way radio should, with the wielder having to hold down a button to speak and release to hear the other. The radio mechanic is optional, though, as players can simply use a third-party chat. However, the added difficulty and roleplaying add an extra element to an already rather tricky title.

We Were Here Together is a fun shared experience that proves a challenge for even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. The release date and price of the project are unknown at present, but the game will be available on Steam.

Cake Bash

During EGX Rezzed 2019, the Coatsink team had a glorious display full of plush animals, colourful scenery, and even a rather large and comfortable dog bed.

I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phogs! and play a few rounds of Cake Bash with PR and Events Manager Jack Sanderson. Both games proved to be a real treat to participants, with Cake Bash serving a much-needed helping of raucous fun in a series of mini-games.

Not unlike many beloved party games—such as Mario PartyCake Bash is an up-to-four-player competitive game featuring several rounds of friendship-ending challenges. The design of the title instantly stands out with an adorable and vivid visual style that brings a certain charm to the characters and settings.

Before each round, players choose a character from a selection of delicious desserts as their combatant. During the demo, only two game modes were available, the first of which required players to gather falling pieces of fruit and throw them inside a giant meringue. A single point is awarded for successfully tossing a piece of fruit into the bowl. However, a rare golden fruit, worth ten points, will appear every so often. Competitors must be wary of descending fiery boulders that can briefly daze any dessert. These boulders can also be picked up and lobbed at rivals. Not only can enemies launch these rocks at one another, but they can also punch and beat each other to force someone to drop their fruit.

The second mode available was a race to gather the most jellies to become the tastiest treat. Player avatars run around an arena, gathering multi-coloured jelly beans to cover their chosen dessert, and the sweet with the most treats at the end wins. While the first game mode mainly had the individual focusing on their own points, this round directly pits people against each other as limited jellies can be found, and players can steal them by whacking opponents.

While the game looks stunning, gamers will have to wait until 2020 to get their hands on Cake Bash. The late release has allowed for an increase in scope and additional modes for players to sink their teeth into.

Phogs!

The other title playable at the event was an equally adorable project called Phogs! The game can be played solo or with a friend, as the player controls one or both halves of a two-headed dog. The two heads can be moved independently and are able to stretch, bark, and bite.

Phogs! is set in a dream-like environment where the ground is made up of soft duvet sets and pillows, while the skies are filled with tranquil clouds gently floating in the distance. The level designs are built in a way that eases the player into the various mechanics, offering something new or demonstrating different ways to solve puzzles. Early enigmas would require both sides of the dog to work in unison to pull an object or levers simultaneously. Later levels would add a glowing orb that can be used to remove dark shadowy walls or illuminate pathways to walk across. Even the orbs are based around the idea of working as a team as one side of the dog bites onto the light ball with the other opening their mouth to act as a torch.

The charming personality of the game really shines in the various character designs and their functions within the levels. One of the final missions of the demo featured a sleeping giant that dreamed of bridges in floating thought bubbles. Players could then use the camera perspective to align the dream bridge with a section of a missing platform to cross. Other cutesy critters include wailing alarm clocks that can disturb the giants, preventing them from dreaming up a way to progress. The clocks can be led to nearby beds where they will quickly start to drift off and stop ringing.

Despite the levels being fairly linear, additional tasks can be completed to gain collectable dog biscuits. These tasks often require the dog to present characters with a particular item, for example, bringing a storybook to an owl.

The whole experience with Coatsink was a delight, both games offering a mix of controller-clenching competition and jolly cooperation. Like Cake Bash, Phogs! will also be arriving in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.


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