The Game: Based on the most computerized movie of its era, the Tron arcade game puts you in the role of the eponymous video warrior in a variety of contests. In the Grid Bug game, you must eliminate as many grid bugs (who are naturally deadly to the touch) as possible and enter the I/O tower safely before the fast-moving timer hits zero. The maddening Light Cycle game was the only stage to directly correspond with the movie. You and your opponent face off in super-fast Light Cycles, which leave solid walls in their wake. You must not collide with the computer’s Light Cycle, its solid trail, or the walls of the arena. To win, you must trap the other Light Cycle(s) (in later stages, you face three opponents) within the solid wake of your own vehicle. The MCP game is basically a simple version of Breakout, but the wall of colors rotated counter-clockwise, threatening to trap you if you made a run for it through a small gap. The Tank game is a tricky chase through a twisty maze, where you try to blast opposing tank(s) three times each…while they need to score only one hit on your tank to put you out of commission. (Bally/Midway, 1982)
Memories: Okay, granted, so there really isn’t much correlation between Tron the game and Tron the movie, but in this case, it doesn’t matter. The game, with its awesome backlit cabinet graphics of special effects stills from the movie successfully, stole just enough of the movie’s millieu to be a successful tie-in – and let’s not forget the awesome polyphonic recreation of Wendy Carlos’ cool synthesized score from the movie, which was heard mainly during the Grid Bug game.
Some people, rather unjustly, think the game was better than the movie. I disagree. I thought they were both incredibly cool.
Tron, at least in its arcade form, was never translated into home video game format, although an article in Electronic Games Magazine at the time indicated that the team of designers and programmers behind the arcade game were working on a 2600 edition for CBS Video Games (with which Bally/Midway had a licensing deal). However, Disney opted to retain licensing rights to the property, and Mattel won the bidding. They produced two rather good Tron cartridges for the 2600, and no fewer than three titles for the Intellivision, including Tron Maze-a-Tron and Tron Solar Sailer, in addition to an Intellivision version of the Deadly Discs game for the 2600. None of these, however, bore any resemblance whatsoever to the arcade game.
The closest home video game fans came to the arcade version of Tron was Tomy’s impressive handheld LED game based on the movie. The Tomy Tron, packaged in a cool translucent plastic similar to the same company’s Tron action figures, included a light cycle race, an exchange of deadly discs with Sark, and a level involving guiding Tron’s disc into the MCP’s core.
Tron finally came home as a minigame embedded into Disney Interactive’s Game Boy Advance version of the sequel game Tron: Killer App, though with its squished-down graphics and occasionally awkward controls, players may not have felt like the wait was worth it.