Tron Evolution: Battle Grids - PAX 2010 hands-on

Admittedly,my last hands-on with Tron Evolution: Battle Gridswas a complete and total fangasm. And after checking out two new modes on the PAX showfloor, sorry, not a whole lot has changed. The PS360 version may have a full fledged prequel narrative, but Battle Grids has taken a bat to my nostalgia by staying just a tad “truer” to the original movie. Not only will the Wii version focus on smaller, self contained events, the whole thing takes place around the mid 80’s. From my perspective, that’s just about the time when all of us got into games and Tron in the first place, so I’m hardly a tough sell. Sometimes I feel like I owe a debt to Tron, so there: Eat my bias!

Above: Weeeeeeeee

I’m not hard to please. Neon grids and light cycles, that’s pretty much all you need to yank me back into the Tron phenomenon. At Comic-Con this year the fan service grabbed hold of me with all the intensity and blistering speed of a 90 degree light cycle turn (A Wii exclusive BTW!) This time I managed to pull myself away from the crotch rocket combat just long enough to demo two entirely different modes.

The first was Runner Arena, a Demolition Derby of sorts, where players will control four- wheeled buggies on a map that’s apparently undergone a bit of digital destabilization. Those traditional slippery grids outline the perimeter and still leave deadly wall trails, but the action mostly takes place in the center of the arena, where craggy hills and rock formations have emerged.

But what truly sets this apart from the other modes is that instead of playing a cat-and-mouse game of Snake, power-ups are strewn across the level and multiple players must fire missiles, mines and other explosive projectiles at opponents for a virtual “kills.” There’s no 90 degree insta-turns to be found here, yet the drift button works well enough to completely turn tail and face pursuants with bombastic grace. Thankfully, I fared much better against the dev team this time. I pounded the snot out of an opponent until they were just on the brink of death. Then, just when they pulled a 180 to avoid my fire - BAM! - I finished ‘em off with a powerful Ram Boost, which is stored in a meter at the top of the screens and unleashed via the B trigger. Cool stuff.

The second mode I tried out was none other than the Light Discs multiplayer. Fans of the movie should need no introduction, but for you negligent readers who haven’t quit reading this preview to dump the DVD into your Netflix cues, this is the iconic game of deadly Discus throw. Your default disc homes in ever so slightly on your opponent doing a little damage, and a bomb disc is a little less accurate by has an explosive radius that can still catch any fool who thinks they’re getting away with a well timed double jump.

What really makes this interesting is that the terrain raises and lowers randomly. It’s possible for you to be saved from a perfect hurl by a piece of the hexagonal arena jettisoning up into the air. Pretty cool. Add to that, you have a block/parry move that can deflect enemy throws and even counter them when they’re vulnerable. Oh, and you can play with the nunchuck, but I choose to play classic controller style (natch.)

It’s a bold move on Propaganda Studio’s part to focus on multiplayer without an online element, but at least there are a helluva lot of options and gameplay diversity. (I didn’t even get to play the Tank game!) It’s certainly going leagues beyond typical Wii minigame compilation drivel by offering fleshed out modes with unique challenges and strategy unto each. And since the design of the players Clone War-esque and kid friendly, gaming parents shouldn’t have any problem sneaking a little geek history into their kids’ hands!

Sep 4, 2010