“ Manufacturer: Disney / Type: Game / Platform: iPhoneOS „
Well, this is a disappointment and no mistake, once again proving the old adage that films and computer games don't mix.
Tron: Legacy from Disney is an iPhone app tie-in for the forthcoming film of the same name. It's touted as a game, but in reality is little more than another strand of Disney's marketing campaign for the film, rather than a piece of entertainment it its own right. It's a shame, because a well-designed iPhone game would have been a far better advert for the film that this hotchpotch collection of substandard stuff.
Initial impressions are actually quite positive. The main menu for the app is well-designed, with interesting use of Tron-like graphics and there's a strong, atmospheric tune (presumably taken from the film soundtrack) which accompanies it. Options are presented in a pseudo-3D menu and accessible with the flick of a finger, which is quite neat. It seems to promise a lot, but a bit of light delving will soon reveal that it doesn't deliver on this promise.
The package consists of a couple of mini-games (more on these in a moment), some videos and artwork from a graphic novel. At first glance, this looks like a pretty comprehensive package, especially when you consider the app costs nothing to download. Sadly, though, there is really nothing here that you can't get elsewhere, probably in a more convenient format.
First up is the inclusion of the current theatrical trailer for the film. Putting aside the fact that the film looks like it could end up being an over-hyped disappointment - Tron for the ADHD generation - it's questionable why you would want to watch a trailer on the iPhone's small 3.5 inch screen. Despite the overall quality of the phone's screen, it's not really up to displaying things like this to their full potential and there's no doubt that it loses a lot of impact. Given that the trailer is freely available online from the official Tron website, unless you absolutely can't wait to see it, you're better off firing up your laptop and viewing it online.
In addition to the trailer, there are also three videos, each approximately five minutes in length which are taken from interviews and presentations done by the Tron crew at this year's San Diego Comic Con. Again, much of this information is available online from the Tron website or elsewhere, so there's not really much to grab the attention. They are also actually quite dull and I got bored with them to the extent that I couldn't be bothered watching them all. Sadly, this app offers little by way of exclusive content to entice you to download and keep it.
All of these videos have another thing in common - they are all pretty much one-watch affairs. Unlike a decent game, which will have you returning to it time and again, you will watch them once, realise they contain nothing new, and never return to them. This is the most critical flaw behind this little app.
Bringing up the rear of the "extra features" is some artwork from a tie-in graphic novel which acts as a prequel to the events of the film. This consists of a series of black and white illustrated sketches depicting various events/characters and locations. There's a nice novel way of working your way through the panels (swiping your finger across the screen) which nicely gives the impression of looking at a series of comic panels, but sadly that's as much fun as it gets. True, the drawings themselves do look quite impressive, but once again, they suffer due to the small size of the display screen and it's difficult to really see them or appreciate how good the drawings are when they are reduced to this size. It's an interesting attempt to provide something a little different, but not one that really works.
So, onto the games themselves. Even with the disappointing nature of the rest of the package, the app could still have been saved if these had been different. In the same way that a good film with weak DVD extras is still popular, a good game, could have transformed this app, leaving you viewing the games as the main bit and the videos etc. as little bonus items. Sadly the two mini games. They smack of hastily cobbled together Flash games which has simply been quickly ported over to Apple's machine. Both games lack any kind of challenge or long-term playability. For games based on a film with visual flair, they are very boring to look at and unlikely to hold the attention of most gamers for long.
The first game is Tanks. This requires you to navigate your way through a top-down maze, making your way to the exit on each level. This involves an unoriginal mix of driving along narrow corridors, shooting at any enemies you encounter and locating and pressing switches to open up otherwise inaccessible areas. The game is so bland and generic that if you don't know the Tron world, there is no obvious connection to the film. The unoriginal, unappealing game play is not helped by a boring graphical style which consists mostly of browns and greys, not at all like the bright day-glo colours I associate with Tron. Factor in some finicky and flaky controls, a frustrating difficulty level (you only get one life) and you have a recipe for disaster If you like this sort of thing, then there are plenty of levels (20+) to challenge you, but the most people will never see these, as boredom sets in by around Level 3.
The second game, Light Cycles, takes one of Tron's most iconic sequences. Could this be it, a game that offers the player the chance to race along the wide open space of cyberspace, pushing the bike to death-defying speeds and sending enemies flying to their doom?
No. Thanks to Disney's mastery of the iPhone, Light Cycles is little more than a weak snake clone. You have to move your light cycle around a tiny walled-in grid only a few inches square. Power-ups will cause the "stream" coming from your bike to grow, with the objective that you make your enemy crash into this, without hitting it yourself. Once again, finicky controls prevent this from being any sort of fun, whilst the small play area prevents you from ever getting any illusion of speed. The dull visuals and rubbish AI of the computer opponents further dampens any initial enthusiasm. It's marginally more fun in multi-player mode, but not much.
In truth, though, this is a very lazy app from Disney. There's really nothing here but promotional puff-pieces and two very lame, dull mini-games. This is big company marketing at its most dire and most cynical. I had hoped the House of Mouse might come up with something a little more imaginative for one of its big December films, but instead, it's simply churned out a very poor attempt to fuse film promotion and game.
On the plus side, I suppose it is a free app, so you can't complain too much, although even at that price this is disappointing and has been long since been deleted from my phone.
© Copyright SWSt 2010