The normal thing to do in the intro to a review on a movie tie-in game is talk about how all movie tie-ins have been pretty average at best and then go on about how we hope this one would be the shining example; a beacon to restore hope in the tie-in market. In all honesty, I've given up hope. Movie tie-ins are destined to be rushed out to be released alongside the film for maximum cash. If they aren't, like The Bourne Conspiracy, they have a chance of being good. Luckily, Tron Evolution fits somewhere towards the "fun" end of the movie tie-in scale, but it's by no means a brilliant title.
As opposed to simply following the story of the Tron sequel, Tron Legacy, the game instead acts as a prequel to the film acting as a bridge between the original Tron, which pushed the boundaries of effects, and the recent sequel. Kevin Flynn, CEO of Encom and creator of the Grid, has created a whole world within the Grid in which information can be freely distributed. New pieces of code, known as Isos, have formed from nothing creating a rift within the Grid. Not helping the situation is a deadly virus attacking the system, led by a piece of code known as Abraxas, which is corrupting both Programs and Isos alike. You play as Anon, Kevin Flynn's system monitor built to protect the Grid. The silent protagonist makes it his mission to bring down the virus and protect Flynn. The story isn't fantastic, and the fact that Anon is mute doesn't help the player engage with the story, but it acts as an effective bridge providing a bit of back-story to Flynn's assistant in Tron Legacy, Quorra, and contains a few cool Tron references which fans of the original will enjoy.
What Anon lacks in conversational skills, he sure makes up for in acrobatic and combat. He's incredibly nimble and getting around the locations which include the Game Grid, Tron City and Arjia is a breeze. Much of getting around the levels consists of free running ala Prince of Persia style. Running along walls, leaping over large gaps and quickly climbing to the top of a building is a lot of fun once you get decent flow going; everything seems quite fluid. The controls are also responsive enough to make any falls or misses made more your fault than the game's - but this is mainly helped by the lack of challenge presented in traversing the world. Everything is all very clearly signposted and getting from A to B isn't much of a task. Later levels might throw in some beams that will derezz your character but, other than that, there is little danger presented here. And it's this lack of danger that sucks the fun out of the fluid free running. Of course, jumping over barriers onto a platform below, running up the wall and leaping over a large distance is fun at first but it just becomes the same, over and over again.
In between sections of free running, Anon's agility comes into play in combat. Your light disc is your main weapon, which can be upgraded as you move up levels to allow you to deal more damage or make the disc explode on impact. Like the free running, combat is fun but pretty easy. There are a wide number of combos you can use, plus special moves performed by holding the triggers, but you will find a move set that works for you and stick with that. The fact the enemies aren't that tough doesn't help. The only thing they have on their side is numbers and, when there are a lot of enemies, things can get a bit more tricky but, due to the generous supply of energy bars scattered around which you simply have to run over to gain energy back, taking damage isn't a big deal. Still, it's great fun to leap about the levels, throwing discs and taking out enemies with flashy combos, but most of these combat scenarios are essentially arena based, with you having to defeat the enemies in the room to progress.
There are also vehicle sections littered around, but these are not that great. You can drive around a light tank, which fun in terms of blowing stuff up, but is very cumbersome and difficult to control at times. You can also ride a light cycle. If you were expecting awesome 90 degree turns and having enemies crash into your light stream, you're gravely mistaken. It's nothing more than a "go from a to b" type deal whilst avoiding falling debris or explosions. It's very scripted and ultimately not that fun. There's no sense of speed that you would expect from a light cycle.
Luckily, this game is saved online. The online modes are split up into the usual deathmatch, capture the flag (in this case a bit) and a king of the hill type mode. There are four arenas, two big and two small. The bigger ones usually turn into a light cycle fest where it actually feels like you're using them as the film intended; to smash the ever loving bytes out of the other players. The smaller number of maps and modes does take away from the experience, and it does feel very much like it has been tagged on, but the fun of the single player, which was marred by the lack of challenge, is actually sustained by having real people to play against and is actually surprisingly fun.
Tron Evolution is disappointing in terms of looks. It captures the world of Tron well, with neon strips everywhere and platforms that look like the surface of a computer chip, just how Tron Legacy has made the world look. Neon chic would be some rubbish an interior designer would spout. The problem is, it uses this same layout with just simple changes to the colour scheme depending on the level. You often feel like you're running and fighting in exactly the same place you were before. Luckily, the audio isn't nearly as bad. Getting Olivia Wilde in to do the voice of Quorra and a pretty great Jeff Bridges sound-a-like definitely helped and the use of songs from the Daft Punk soundtrack really help to emerse you in the world.
There's nothing ground breaking, innovative or exciting here. Tron Evolution is pretty much what we've come to expect from movie tie-in titles. Except this is rather fun. If you overlook the lack of challenge, simply the feeling of bouncing around the room like a rabbit on speed is pretty interesting; it harks back to the days of Prince of Persia, just with a futuristic neon setting. It's too short and too flawed to recommend completely, but if you just want a quick, fun game you could do much worse than Tron Evolution.