Twisted Pixel Games were responsible for some of the most creative, intuitive and fun Xbox Love Arcade titles on the Xbox 360 console. With games such as The Maw, ‘Splosion Man and Comic Jumper, the developer hammered out a reputation for building inventive titles that were a little bit different. Unfortunately, Lococycle just doesn’t match up to any of their usual standards. Their latest game is confused, sprawling, devoid of invention and not very much fun to play.
Things start off promisingly enough, with the trademark Twisted Pixel sense of humour on show. The background story may be completely ridiculous, but seemingly no expense has been spared for the full motion video cutscenes, starring Hollywood actors such as Planet Terror’s Freddie Rodriguez and even Tom Savini of Dawn of The Dead fame. The story goes that Big Arms – a shady weapons manufacturer – has developed Spike and I.R.I.S, two self-aware combat motorcycles. However, I.R.I.S decides that combat is not for her, and escapes the military compound where she was built, unwittingly dragging poor mechanic Pablo along with her when his trouser leg gets caught on her rear axle.
So far, so ridiculous. The rest of the game sees the unlikely pair racing through Mexico and into North America, heading towards a biker rally that I.R.I.S saw advertised on TV and has become obsessed with. Pablo pleads to be left behind, but he is speaking Mexican and I.R.I.S has a faulty translation chip. The title consists of driving along highways and bi-ways while fighting Big Arms agents using guns, I.R.I.S’ programmed martial arts skills and even by using Pablo as a projectile.
If you think that this all sounds a bit strange and can’t imagine how it all comes together, well, it doesn’t really. Both the racing and fighting are reduced to their base elements, resulting in a very simple and shallow game. The entire thing is more or less on rails and steering is barely required. The roads are all surrounded by barriers, so you can’t go off-road, and after an early upgrade is purchased, your cycle won’t even lose health from mistakenly colliding with barriers or other vehicles. The only real reason to steer is to aim your attacks.
And attacking is just as simplistic, with ranged attacks simply involving holding down the shoot button and close-quarters melee attacks being reduced to hammering the same two attack buttons to perform the same repetitive combo over and over again. Even though you earn points by playing through levels – gaining more for completing stages quickly, hanging good accuracy, etc – and then spend these points on upgrades, the fighting system never gets more complex and there is just so little satisfaction from completing these repetitive attacks.
There are a few other game mechanics, such as the turbo boost that helps you speed through levels faster and also can be used to make your attacks more forceful and also countering, which is activated in both hand-to-hand and ranged fights, but it’s clearly signposted and very easy to pull off to the point that there is no real challenge in it. There are also quite a lot of quick-time events scattered through each stage, which require good timing but are, once again, quite easy as you are given a lot of time to pull them off. Your stage scores all rely on completing these objectives well, but A grades are easy to achieve on most levels due to the forgiving difficulty level.
Boss battles are the only other gameplay feature of note, but these offer very little that is unique and are largely just a series of counter-attacks until the enemy is defeated. There are no multiplayer modes to stretch out the longevity of the game and the only online feature is leaderboards. The title is unlikely to keep you hooked for long, despite the somewhat amusing cutscenes, where the poor acting is entertaining in its B Movie style. The voice overs are all solid, but the actors have little to work with and the story is merely there to try and tie together the disparate game elements.
The graphical presentation overall is quite basic, and despite a cartoony aesthetic, everything is too bland and plain making the game come across more like an HD remake of a PlayStation 2 game, rather than a next-gen title. One final nail in the coffin is that Pablo speaks solely in Spanish, so to understand what he is saying you must always read the subtitles – which is a real pain when trying to play a driving game and you have to take your eyes off the action every few minutes. Just another poor design choice in a game full of them.
VERDICT: It is shocking how a studio renowned for making great original titles could produce such a mis-fire. There are so many elements of Lococycle that don’t work well, or that are just plain boring, it is hard to see how the game could have been released on Xbox One. The fact that Lococycle was intended to be an Xbox 360 game to begin with is quite clear, as it does nothing to take advantage of the new power that the Xbox One affords it. Despite a mixed bag of launch titles on the console, this is by far the biggest disappointment, as Twisted Pixel have delighted us so much in the past.
TERRIBLE. A step up from “diabolical”, but a minor one. A 2/10 will have at best one or two positive features that, alongside its catalogue of disappointments, just aren’t enough to render it playable.
Review code provided by publisher.