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'Tron: Evolution' is a time bridge that sometimes sticks in a loop

Fights with "Tron's" iconic battle discs are one of the features that will be familiar to longtime fans in "Tron: Evolution."
Fights with "Tron's" iconic battle discs are one of the features that will be familiar to longtime fans in "Tron: Evolution."
  • 'Tron: Evolution' starts great, but soon can get repetitive
  • The game, available on multiple platforms, bridges time between "Tron" and "Tron: Legacy"
  • It looks great, but fighting sometimes is a series of the same moves over and over

(CNN) -- "Tron: Evolution" tries to bridge the time gap between the classic movie and the new version, but it sometimes lets gameplay and combat fall into a time loop that is exciting but repetitive.

The storyline is actually spread out over four console games that all have the same title. Disney Interactive Studios decided to develop slightly different versions for the Nintendo DS, Wii, Sony PSP and a version for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

Each takes place in a portion of the time between "Tron" and "Tron: Legacy," transitioning from the DS to the Wii to the PSP to the next-generation consoles and the PC.

While there is no need to play all versions to get the whole story, it may be more age-appropriate for younger players to stick with the Wii games.

I was provided copies for the Xbox 360 and the Wii to get a feel for the differences. And there are big differences.

The Wii version felt a lot like the arcade game from 1982. Players set up an avatar that can compete in 16 different game types featuring light cycles, battle tanks and a jai-alai type game.

Read about the legacy of the classic "Tron" arcade game

There is no online play, but up to four people can compete on the same Wii. This version does not have a story mode, per se, but does allow players to improve their characters with upgrades for offense and defense.

The Xbox 360 version is where the story takes off.

You are Anon, a monitor program created by Kevin Flynn -- the human programmer who created "Tron's" electronic world -- to find out why there is strife between the "Basics" (regular programs) and "Isos" (programs that seem to have free will).

The world is beautifully rendered and changes as the game progresses. In the beginning, it is bright and electric, but as the story becomes dark, so do the surroundings.

While there are plenty of programs mulling about, the game offers very little interaction with them except for specific, game-related instances. It appears wide open, but in reality, the action occurs on a very linear path.

Disney officials said the game tells a unique story of how CLU, the electronic system administrator, begins his takeover of the electronic world.

Game developers at Propaganda Games worked closely with movie makers to design environments, characters and vehicles that would mirror what appears in "Tron: Legacy."

In a convergence move, there are scenes in the game that will appear as flashbacks in the movie. It won't exactly look the same, but will show a viewpoint that's different from the one that plays out on the console.

Since the game story occurs before the new movie's events, equipment in the game appears as beta versions of what will eventually show up on the big screen.

Why fans love the movie "Tron" almost three decades later

Characters from the game, like Quorra (a nonplayer character who helps Anon) and Abraxas (a computer virus bent on destroying the world), also transfer from console to movie screen.

There are seven chapters in the game that span three different cities and the surrounding areas. And here is where the game starts getting repetitive.

Action usually consists of entering a room, battling some enemies, then moving to the next room via a series of leaps, climbs and slingshot maneuvers that resemble moves from "Assassin's Creed."

This room-jumping-room, room-jumping-room routine is played out repeatedly in the game.

Anon uses his disc to battle -- at a cost to his energy -- and the weapon can be upgraded at various disc stations throughout the world.

Four different types of combat powers (heavy, stasis, bomb and corruption) are at his disposal, as well as upgrades to energy, life and defenses.

The disc can be thrown toward enemies for a variety of effects that are made more powerful if done while leaping around the room. The disc also can be used as a melee weapon to strike enemies directly or hit the ground indirectly to create an area effect.

There are bright locations on the wall to get health and energy nodes to gain power for disc moves. Players will find themselves running from wall to node to battle and back again as they try to stay alive while fighting enemies.

It is fun to run up the wall, gain some health, flip off and fire a bomb toward a group of rogue programs.

However, the fun diminishes when battling more powerful bosses because it is a constant repetition of hit, run for energy, get hit, run for health.

There are some breaks in the run, jump and climb movements from area to area. Light cycles can be used to get from one place to another, but it isn't a race in the truest sense.

Players must avoid broken roads and obstacles, but there isn't the "running into the solid light trail" feature that was made famous in the arcade game and first movie.

There are also moments to use the classic game's battle tanks to move around. This is more fun, because you get to battle other tanks and forces while trying to get to the next building.

The game does have some role-playing elements. You will interact with nonplayer characters and can level up. In a nice twist, progress made in the single-player game carries over to the online, multiplayer action, and vice versa.

But combat there isn't restricted to opponents of similar strength, so it can, and does, sometimes set up battles between a level-20 player and a level-1 player.

When you're matched up against a similarly powered opponent, the fighting is pretty awesome with light cycles, discs and tanks.

Up to 10 people can compete on one of four maps in Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and King of the Hill missions. Leveling up here also transfers back to single-player action.

Overall, the game starts out exciting and fast-paced, and then slowly slides into sameness. The action still remains quick and almost frantic at points, but too much repetition begins to drain away the excitement.

It will be interesting to see how the story in the game transitions into the story in the movie. The game felt like it had a lot of potential, but it ran out of things to do, so developers kept presenting the exciting stuff over and over.

It isn't a bad game, but a good game that could have been great.

"Tron: Evolution" has different ratings for the different versions. It is rated E 10+ for the DS, PSP and Wii. It is rated T (fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes) for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC versions. Only the Wii and Xbox 360 versions were reviewed for this article.


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