Following the success of some bizarrely humorous and yet massively challenging titles (‘Splosion Man and Comic Jumper to name but two), Twisted Pixel Games, now owned by Microsoft Studios, seems to be taking a different approach when handling their new projects. First with the Kinect exclusive arm-cramping cowboy puppet shooter The Gun Stringer, and the the Spy Hunter inspired Lococycle.
Lococycle was originally released on the Xbox One, where it was met with poor to mediocre reviews. But now, Lococyle, which can only be described as Twisted Pixel’s Frankensteinian mash-up of of genes lumped into a single game, has come to the Xbox 360.
• Developer: Twisted Pixel Games
• Publisher: Microsoft Studios
• Reviewed on: Xbox 360
• Also Available On: Xbox One/PC (Steam)
• Release Date: Available Now
Taking place in the same universe as ‘Splosion Man, the villainous corporations Big Science & Big Weapons have have created two super powered motorcycles – I.R.I.S & S.P.I.K.E – which have been built with the sole purpose of being sold to the highest bidder in an auction attended by evil-doers. When the two bikes are moved to storage, I.R.I.S is struck by lightning and shuts down. After being taken in for repairs, I.R.I.S reboots, becomes sentient, sees a commercial for a freedom rally and makes this her mission in life to attend. Before leaving however, her Spanish-speaking mechanic Pablo becomes snagged to I.R.I.S and is dragged by the leg behind her from that point forward.
What follows is a painfully long and repetitive game – just about every aspect of Lococycle fails to present the player with any kind of variety. The relationship between Pablo & I.R.I.S seems to boil down to a single-note joke; thanks to the aforementioned lightning strike, I.R.I.S. can’t understand a word of Pablo’s Spanish mutterings. Harmless though this simple comedy mis-communication sounds, it begins to grate on you by the end of the tutorial and only worsens during the rest of the game. There is a nice little story arc created by the second bike S.P.I.K.E and his pursuit of I.R.I.S, but this is pushed to the wayside in favour of Lococycle‘s tiresome narrative.
Much like previous titles from Twisted Pixel, Lococycle intertwines in-game cut-scenes with live-action. The former is used in each stage and during gameplay, whilst the latter is largely reserved for bridging each level together. These scenes are reminiscent of many a B-movie and, unfortunately, most of them outstay their welcome, are drawn out too long and just aren’t that funny.
When it comes to the actual gameplay, Lococycle can be described as a mis-mash of racing, action, beat ’em up and with a little arcade shooter thrown in too. Typically you’ll have to either shoot vehicles from a distance or engage enemies in hand to
hand wheel combat, but along the way there are other modes that may surprise you. Though it is clear that the various different sequences littered through each stage are an attempt to keep things fresh, the vast majority of these need a great deal more work and simply lack enough depth to keep you engaged. At its core, Lococyle’s gameplay consists of brawling with Jon Hamm lookalikes in some form or another, and everything you might need to do can be achieved simply by mashing buttons.
Gameplay consists of steering side to side, boosting, firing guns and using melee attacks to take out bad guys. Most enemies you encounter are guys in suits, riding in or on cars (usually throwing projectiles or shooting at you), to take these guys out you’ll either boost to drive alongside them and fight them Road Rash style or, more likely, you’ll just shoot them from behind. Every now and then you’ll encounter flying enemy types, which require you to jump in the air and spam the attack button until they’re all defeated. Occasionally, one of these flying bad guys will attempt to launch an attack on I.R.I.S – which marks them with a large cross hair – giving you a chance to counter with a tap of the appropriate button. This button is then used throughout the game to either counter or deflect an object back to the enemy.
As you can probably tell by the description here, Lococycle’s controls are rather basic and have all been seen before. In order to change things up and break away from the brawling, you can expect the odd boss fight. These usually consist of either avoiding something until you can parry a projectile back to the opponent, then either shooting or beating said boss and repeating this process. Where boss fights usually pop up in the final stage of each level, quick time scenarios are used to the same effect in other areas. After doing a bit of testing I discovered that there is no fail animation or penalty for failing any of these QTEs, which means you’re just hitting buttons during a cut scene for no reason other than the screen told you to.
After each level is cleared, you will get the opportunity to apply upgrades to I.R.I.S, including health, boost, shields, attacks and other benefits that help shorted the multitude of attack spamming you’ll have to do. As mentioned earlier in this review, Lococycle is awfully repetitive – admittedly, there is a scenery change each level but they all just feel like skinned versions of the previous one. There is a fair amount of variety when it comes to enemies, with new ones being introduced throughout the game, but when you’re using the same controls and tactics to take them down, they fail to add much interest and struggle to break through the monotony of playing the game.
As a fan of Twisted Pixel’s previous odd ball titles, I felt a little disappointed with Lococyle. Although the story set-up still carries the same kind of lunacy as, say, Comic Jumper, it fails to hit any real depth with its humour. What starts out as an interesting idea quickly becomes dull, repetitive and tiresome.