Those familiar with developer Twisted Pixel already know that the team isn’t too interested in creating games one might call…’normal.’ With ‘Splosion Man, The Maw, and The Gunstringer establishing the studio as a source of unique gameplay on console or mobile, their next Xbox exclusive – LocoCycle – is keeping the trend alive.
After being mysteriously revealed at Microsoft’s E3 press conference last year, the first look at LocoCycle gameplay showed that fans could look forward to yet another fast-paced action game hearkening back to the button-mashers and combo-chaining fighters of old. And now that we’ve played the game during Xbox’s showcase of exclusives at E3 2013, the studio doesn’t look to disappoint its fans.
For those who have yet to hear about LocoCycle, allow us to lay out the basic premise: Pablo, a gearhead with a taste for motorcycles comes into the possession of a futuristic, not un-TRON-like specimen. Before long Pablo finds that the motorcycle is not just a machine, but I.R.I.S. – an artificially intelligent weapon that will soon bring an unlimited amount of shadowy operatives down on both her(?) and Pablo’s heads.
The only solution is for Pablo to buckle up and come along for the ride; but it isn’t the rider that the player controls, but I.R.I.S.. Taking to the high-speed highways to flee attackers, I.R.I.S. is capable of firing traditional machine-guns, and even leaping into the air to take down airborne enemies. Whether soaring off the ground or simply beating enemy vehicles to a pulp, it is Pablo – tragically – who is used as the bike’s weapon, shouting in pain and horror as he is turned from unwilling passenger into blunt instrument.
That basic premise will certainly highlight the ways that Twisted Pixel has changed genres while keeping their unique sensibilities intact – and justify the LocoCycle name – but the core gameplay is more than just a means of delivering laughs at a digital character’s expense. With enemies in the demo ranging from cars, vans, and airborne soldiers, the need to both navigate a highway, avoid obstacles and balance offense and defense keeps players engaged for far longer than they’ll recognize.
It was hard to get a sense of the overarching story or conflict between I.R.I.S. and her nemesis S.P.I.K.E. (voiced by Robert Patrick), but from the light-hearted writing – delivered in barks and commentary from I.R.I.S. – to the constant image of Pablo being dragged along the pavement, it was hard to overlook just how ridiculous a concept LocoCycle is. And yet, it works.
Since the challenges posed to the player never extended beyond moving forward and building up as many combo chains as possible, it as hard to get frustrated, or even stall the momentum of the all-too-satisfying melee attacks.
Whether that limits the appeal to hardcore gamers or not, the core gameplay loop of LocoCycle is frantic, foolish, and fun – all the things Twisted Pixel has designed it to be.
LocoCycle will be released in 2013 for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One via Xbox Live Arcade.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.