By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Most of the games developed after the release of TRON or its sequel Legacy try to be faithful to the source material, but there’s no denying the original arcade game is the best. It had four different types of games available to play, and if the user is highly skilled, can plow through it in one go. Given the limits of the technology at the time, it did not recreate every single moment like the film, but it was a terrific product. With home computers, some of it was translated over, or developed into a new game.
Checked and re-checked is this list of products still available to play. Some were not easily reobtainable (this avid TRON enthusiast has a budget known as a hobby allowance) and had to be replayed in the making of this list.
I’m still hopeful a future is out there for a third film. Interest is alive in different merchandising fronts than with a tale. I believe TRON is simply laying dormant, that’s all.
In the Arcade:
Manufactured and distributed by Bally Midway in 1982, this game earned more money than the movie ever saw. It consisted of four different games and was awarded the “Coin-Operated Game of the Year” by Electronic Games Magazine. Players have a fixed route to go through before they can destroy MCP, and the game follows the movie’s continuity with some slight variations to make the final mission fun.
It all begins in an arena, where players have to do battle in a game of Light Cycles. They break free, but that only leads to the next stage—where they have to avoid or defeat the Battle Tanks in a maze-like environment. Players have to reach a teleporter in the center of the maze.
Focus then shifts to Tron storming to the I/O tower. Tron has to reach a protected spot before the timer runs out in order to receive the code to destroy MCP. In the final stage, the barrier Tron meets has to be opened up sufficiently so Tron can hit the core. And when the mission is done, the game restarts, but this time with a greater level of difficulty. The game only ends with your death.
Discs of TRON
Released in 1983, this game saw a limited run in the arcades. Fortunately, it gained new life on the Commodore 64, Game Boy Advance and Xbox Live Arcade.
The idea was simplistic and yet very faithful to the film. Players can’t dance around on the platform they’re on, and catching the ball is a must. Miss and the platform will shrink.
As a game of anticipation with real opponents, this can be fun.
The Mattel Games
Intellivision gamers were the first ones to be able to play TRON at home, and Mattel Electronics released three separate games for the console in 1982—Tron: Deadly Discs, Maze-a-Tron and Solar Sailer. They were later ported to the Atari 2600, and of these, Deadly Discs is considered to be the best. All the player has to do is to run through doors, encountering enemies to either destroy with his light disc or simply avoid. Other than racking up points, there’s no real end to the game until one gets tired.
With Maze-a-Tron, players can work solo or with another player in order to penetrate the tower of Master Control. There are deadly “bits” to destroy and the goal is simply to gather points too. But in Solar Sailer, the game takes a page right out of the movie. Players have the choice of blasting everything in sight, which drains precious energy or avoid the spiders and tanks on the path to destiny.
Lightcycles (Blockade aka Surround)
There have been many variations of this classic over the years. In the arcade, it was known as Blockade. Players fought against another in an open world trying to manuver the opponent to a wall of their own making or an obstacle. The cursor moved at a set speed and you had to have lightning reflexes to avoid bumping into them! At home, the game was renamed and continued to have success in this eight-bit generation. These days, the versions can be found online, on an iPhone/ Touch or at home. Perhaps one of the best is GLTron, which is freely distributable and available for many computer users. Development stopped in 2016.
Fortunately, console users have the advantage of the game nestled in certain retro software bundles. Curiously, it has not made it to the Atari Flashback yet. At least this game can be played online on Free 80’s Arcade.
This game never saw fruition until the coming of TRON Legacy. At Disneyland, cabinets popped up at Flynn’s Arcade in promotion of Legacy and it was a true recreation of the game he made in the first film and was limited to those people who lived in the area than brought to arcades everywhere.
This product is still enjoyable, even in its iteration of a web-based shooter. A website pop up arrived to allow players to experience the product but after the movie is gone, so was this product. End of Line.
Thankfully, Y8.com has kept it around and can be accessed through their website. Sadly, not all web browsers (Google Chrome) can run it since it requires the Unity web-plugin to run it.
The goal is to destroy as many enemies as possible. And in keeping with tradition, there’s no final objective—but isn’t that what a good time-waster should do?
Tron 2.0 and Tron 2.0: Killer App
(PC, XBox, 2003, 2004)
Unlike where the new film is going, this video game sets itself in the universe where Alan’s son, Jet Bradley is the star. In 2003, ENCOM has been taken over by fCon. And in a bit of industrial espionage and sabotage, Alan is kidnapped and Jet is digitized. His adventure is played out much like if he was a supporting character from the movie.
This game had a story to appreciate and lots of gameplay, ranging from first-person shooter to platformer, to keep many an enthusiast sated. It was well received. The original PC release was the first to appear, but it’s been updated by Climax Games (this version being named Tron 2.0, Killer App) for the X-box.
There’s a different version on the Game Boy Advance and as a bonus, Nintendo included the original arcade game classic for fans to enjoy.
Not to be excluded in the mix, this game was developed for some quick rounds of either surround or puzzle solving while waiting at the bus stop. Players can enjoy a quick game of Light Cycles or Tanks. In the latter game, one has to evade or blast away grid spiders while navigating a maze of corridors. Sadly, the reception for this Disney made product was mixed. In order to access the bonus content, like accessing the latest information for the coming movie or looking at trailers, a Wifi or 3G connection is required.
(Windows, Xbox, PS3, 2010)
Released Dec 7, 2010, this video game takes place in between the two movies. Director Joseph Kosinski of Propaganda Games confirmed that Tron 2.0 is not part of the canon.
The game featured solo and multiplayer gameplay modes. Early videos show some impressive platform style gameplay, similar to that of Prince of Persia. And no TRON game will be complete without a revisit to the world of lightcycle duels. Also included are a few RPG style gameplay elements.
For the true TRON enthusiast, there’s a collector’s edition for both the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions. Included is a model of the updated Lightcycle from Sideshow Collectables.
Tron Evolution: Battle Grids
With this all-in-one package, Hyperball and Light Runner Arena, are the best two mini-games to play. They recreate two of the best moments from both films, and as a multiplayer product, it’s one to vaguely remember. Replay was needed to put together these thoughts. Other games from the grid include Light Cycle arena, Light Cycle Races, Disc Arena, Light Runner Races and Tanks.
While the Grid Games mode is basically a free-play mode, the Story mode allows the player to create a custom ISO character and access optional side-quests accessed from hubs such as TRON City to improve the ISO’s stats and earn Bits to unlock new equipment and vehicles. The goal of the Story mode is to become the champion of the TRON Grid Games.
(PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows, 2016)
Essentially capitalizing on the success of games like Temple Run in the mobile front, this version by Sanzaru Games did no better to improve the engine. Players can either ride the light cycle, avoiding obstacles, or simply be an avatar constantly on the run (hence the title), avoiding being attacked. This product is available on Steam, and only the die-hards may want to shell out currency for the ultimate package to put their avatar through a brutal course of running for their life and surviving!
Interestingly, this product released Feb 16, 2016, well after the demise of plans for a third film. As for whether Disney was paying attention to sales as an indicator to revitalize plans to make a finale, the thought is highly unlikely.