LocoCycle – Review

Title   LocoCycle
Developer  Twisted Pixel Games
Publisher  Microsoft Studios
Platform  Xbox One, Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Genre  Racing, Vehicular Combat
Release Date  November 22, 2013 (XB1), February 14, 2014 (360)
Official Site  http://www.lococyclegame.com/

LocoCycle is an arcade motorcycle driving combat game from those serial mentalists, Twisted Pixel, that initially underwhelmed critics and gamers alike as an Xbox One launch title and has now made its way to the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade.

The first thing you’ll notice is how you have to follow up the initial 2gb download with another 2gb ‘Datapack’ download. That kind of got my back up right away if I’m being honest, but when you eventually get to start the game you can see, and appreciate, where that extra downloading has gone.

This is because the game opens with a fairly long and extravagant video cutscene that sets up the game’s fairly ludicrous plot. It starts with a private arms fair attended by various military leaders as well as Tom Savini as the leader of a biker gang. While the various actors chew the scenery to bits, the video reveals I.R.I.S. and S.P.I.K.E. a pair of intelligent combat motorcycles.

This scene, while being mildly diverting, is a good indicator of what’s to come with the game. It’s trying too hard to be funny and while it has good production values for a videogame cutscene, it still looks cheap enough to be a deleted scene from the average made-for-SyFy-Channel TV movie.

Eventually I.R.I.S., in true Johnny 5 fashion, is struck by lightning and becomes sentient. While fixing her, Pablo – a non English-speaking mechanic – inexplicably gets his trousers caught up in her chassis while she makes a break for freedom. Her goal is to reach the Freedom Rally in Scottsburg, Indiana and Pablo gets to go along for the ride, albeit in a very unwilling and uncomfortable fashion.

Once the game gets going, it’s initially all a bit of a whirlwind. You control the bike as she hurtles forward at impressive speeds making huge leaps and weaving in and out of traffic while being pursued by company goons. At first this feels like some sort of exciting missing Dreamcast game with its big, bold graphics and arcadey gameplay. It takes a while to get used to the slippery controls and irritating viewpoint (that inexplicably seems to be closer to the camera of Gears of War than anything else) but once you get into it, LocoCycle is initially pretty exciting.

The game plays out over five chapters, each broken into three sub-levels. For the most part this involves charging forward while various enemy types show up to try and stop you. Usually this will be enemies in SUVs, jetpacks or various other vehicles and you generally take these out using your guns or combinations of ridiculous melee attacks. It’s all deliciously over-the-top, especially when you send traffic flying up into the air and have to dodge bouncing cars, and for a while there the game gets by simply on its mid-’90s charm.

Unfortunately though, the gameplay is all too easy with none of the standard enemies really putting up much of a fight, and the difficulty only spikes minorly during the various boss encounters, and these only offer any significant challenge until you figure out what you need to do to beat them.  The driving also fails to put up any real challenge with an early upgrade pretty much making collisions irrelevant and I.R.I.S. herself handles any of the trickier bits of driving meaning that you stay on course no matter what, and any significant obstacles are usually avoided with easy QTEs, adding to the simple arcade feel of the game.

Now, I love that era of gaming and LocoCycle actually does a good job of mixing together the look and feel of such games as Outrun 2, Eighteen Wheeler and Afterburner Climax, and the bold visuals, which I actually find pretty impressive for an XBLA title, are completely in keeping with this. The sense of speed and drama as your weave through traffic (be it on fire or not) is impressive and while you don’t necessarily feel in control for all of it, the effect is certainly pleasing.

On this level, LocoCycle works as a guilty pleasure. The gameplay doesn’t offer much in the way of substance but flying through a game at high speed seeing things explode isn’t a bad way to kill a few hours. However, where this would be okay in itself for a while, the game tries all too hard to pretend it’s all part of the joke. This is supposedly the gaming equivalent of a bad action movie but eventually the joke wears off.

Just as the opening cutscene grates quickly with its bad acting and fairly poor attempts at humour, the game itself also tries to be funny constantly and fails most of the time. An example of this is when I.R.I.S. keeps quoting Big Trouble in Little China. Look, I love that movie, and I’ve quoted it a few times myself but when she keeps doing it, with no context or set up, it feels painfully forced. It’s all a bit ‘do you remember the ’80s? What was that all about’ for my liking. Also, her relationship with Pablo is all based on her misunderstanding what he says and thinking he’s saying the exact opposite. It’s kind of like watching an episode of Inspector Gadget as a kid and realising that every minute of every episode is going to be you watching an idiot.

All the best bits of humour come via S.P.I.K.E. (voiced by Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame) who is sent to hunt down I.R.I.S. His Ron Swanson-like performance raises the odd chuckle. Especially the ice cream bit.

Despite the fact that it’s often boring and rarely funny, LocoCycle is almost there. If one of the playtesters had turned around and told Twisted Pixel that the game offers no challenge and if the writers had realised that parodying something bad only works when you’re making something good, then LocoCycle could have been spectacular. However, it all feels a bit too self-congratulatory for my liking. Comic Jumper was pretty hilarious at times but this all feels a bit indulgent for my tastes, even if I am apparently the exact target audience.

I’m a Dreamcast-loving, ’80s movie maniac, and even I find LocoCycle irritating and tedious at times. When it all settles down and stops trying so hard, I can’t help but be impressed with the visuals and I even enjoy parts of the gameplay but I can see why the game flopped with Xbox One owners and I can’t see the Xbox 360 version doing much better.

  • Bold, exciting visuals
  • Occasionally funny
  • Nice arcade feel that is fun in small doses
  • Too easy
  • Repetitive gameplay soon becomes dull
  • Not nearly as funny as it thinks it is

For an XBLA game, LocoCycle is pretty ambitious and can occasionally be fun but ultimately the game's most surprising feat is to mix the gameplay of Outrun, Roadblasters, Road Rash and the Rush series with lots of '80s pop-culture references and to somehow make it all a bit dull. Lococyle doesn't quite shake the pillars of Heaven.

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One Comment

  1. Lorna Lorna says:

    Haven’t actuyally played a TP game since The Maw, which I thought was pretty great, but don’t think this is for me. I’m all for games taking a stab at comedy, but the trying too hard thing is rather off-putting. Didn’t the Matt Hazzard game have this same problem?

    Love fast-action, arcadey racing, and anything referencing the eighties is good, but this doesn’t sound as good as it probably did on paper at some point.

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