• It’s 1983. You are not Sam Tyler. You are not DCI Drake. You are a 14 year old arcade junkie called Peej…

    As a 14 year old, I had to travel some 50 odd miles to the nearest arcades. Thankfully London was chock full of places that you could go and play the latest cabs, usually safe in the knowledge that you could probably spend an entire day there for a tenner and still have enough money left over to buy lunch.
    In 1982 Disney Studios took the rather bold move of producing the first CGI enhanced / Live Action movie, Tron. Back in an era when most kids turned to home micros for their videogaming entertainment, and systems like the Atari 2600 and Intellivision were still selling by the truckload, the hope of reproducing the thrill and thunder of the arcades in the comfort of your own home was pretty slim. Short of shelling out an extortionate amount for a genuine arcade cab (and believe me, I’ve come close to doing just that a couple of times now) your best bet was to hope that some enterprising soul did a conversion of your favourite arcade game for the Speccy, Commodore 64 or Amstrad.

    Tron spawned two arcade games. Tron (imaginative title there) and Discs of Tron and it’s the latter we’re dealing with here just in case the title of this review wasn’t a big enough giveaway. Whereas Tron offered largely 2D levels based around some of the film’s set pieces, Discs of Tron gave the player a pseudo-3D battle arena to slug it out in and at the time looked pretty spiffy.

    Throwing yourself into a time vortex and propelling yourself forward 25 years, arcade thrills can be had relatively easily and the Xbox Live Arcade versions of both Tron and Discs of Tron can be nabbed for a mere 800 points.

    So have the years been as harsh on Discs of Tron as they have on me? We’ll see.

    Discs of Tron

    In the game you take the role of Tron, battling against the evil machine genius Sark. The game is based on a scene in the film where various AI constructs and characters battle against each other in a sort of computerised version of Jai Halai. Instead of hurling a ball at a wall though, they’re hurling an energy ball at each other with the intention of toppling their opponent from the energy platforms they stand on.

    Controls are simple. You press the right trigger to hurl your energy balls at your enemy. Left trigger operates a deflection shield so you can deflect Sark’s shots back at him. The left stick is used for movement and avoidance while the right stick changes the horizontal (and later vertical) position of your target reticule. Walls in the arena can be used as deflection grids also, so you can angle your shots sneakily to try and catch the AI out.

    Each level ramps up the difficulty a notch with Sark eventually throwing out energy balls that you can’t deflect, and seekers that will hunt you down and instantly “de-res” you if you don’t leap out of their way.

    The XBLA version of Discs of Tron has a classic and an enhanced mode. Classic mode recreates the original blocky sprites from the arcade cab, but enhanced mode actually does polish things up to a pleasing level. In other XBLA games this graphical enhancement can often ruin a title’s charm but here it does actually make Discs of Tron slightly more palatable.

    The game is quite generous with its achievements too, allowing the player to pick up a few Gs here and there for things like knocking down Sark in the quickest time possible per level, or deflecting a set number of energy balls.

    There is also a LIVE multiplayer mode which allows you to sack off the AI in favour of playing against a fellow human should you so wish.

    Putting Discs of Tron in its proper context is everything. In 1983, the videogames industry suffered a massive crash with several companies going under largely due to aggressive pricing. Bally (the company originally responsible for the Tron and Discs of Tron arcade cabs) managed to somehow hang on in there by the skin of their teeth (thanks in no small part to their fantastic moneyspinning Pinball machines). Discs of Tron however was not the massive success it was expected to be and even the home versions for both Atari 2600 and Intellivision didn’t sell in sufficient numbers to avoid the game being consigned to the “has been” pile.

    When you consider that arcade players in 1983 were still hooked on the likes of Pac-Man and Pole Position, and the very first proper vector-based 3D games (Star Wars for instance) and Laser Disc games (Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace) were offering thrills far in advance of Deadly Discs, it’s not hard to see why it underperformed then.

    In the here and now, it’s just as difficult to see the appeal of the game when offered up for a similar price to modern greats like Rez HD or Jet Pac Refuelled.

    If you’re that famous internet guy who made his own Tron costume, and are that die-hard a fan of old arcade classics then Discs of Tron is certainly far better than some of the other dreck that has turned up on XBLA for the last couple of years but a classic? Nope, a minor distraction perhaps but classic is reserved for titles that carry fond memories and are still as satisfying to play as they ever were, and Discs of Tron just doesn’t fit that description at all.

    Score: 4/10

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