The Game: In the era before Clu’s forceful takeover of the grid, Tron is kept busy with securing the digital world, leaving a vacuum from which a new champion can emerge in the grid games. Various factions have their own champions, who now battle each other on the game grid in various contests: light cycles, hyperball, disc battles, tank battles, and various vehicle races. (Disney Interactive, 2010)
Memories: Though tied into the new Tron movie, Tron Evolution: Battle Grids shows strong signs that its DNA is infused with the original movie and its associated games. Scenarios that didn’t even appear in Tron Legacy are front-and-center in Battle Grids, despite the story mode that sets up the era between the two movies.
Just the fact that every other platform has Tron Evolution and the Wii has Tron Evolution: Battle Grids gives away that something is different here, but what’s different in this case is that some of the battles make excellent use of the Wii’s controller.
Notice the emphasis on “some,” not “all” – the Tank Battles might as well be the tank game from Wii Play, while the Disc Battle control scheme takes some serious getting used to. Many of the games use the Wii remote turned 90 degrees to the left – so that the D-pad and 1 and 2 buttons mimic the old NES control scheme – which just isn’t my favorite use of the Wii controls.
The Light Cycle and Hyperball games, however, are the real standouts, with almost-perfect control schemes. Hyperball – the jai-alai-style ring game from the first movie – features a more traditional Wii control scheme, and the controller stands in for the scoop used to hurl a ball of energy at one’s opponents. As a member of that age group which marveled at this scene of the original Tron as kids, I can only describe this portion of the game as inordinately thrilling.
But even better is the Light Cycle Arena, which takes the Barricade-inspired Light Cycle battle from the original Tron arcade game and gives it the physics of the new movie, with the ability to make gentle (or sharp) turns and the ability to go airborne to avoid other combatants’ light walls. (Since everyone can go airborne, this also results in deadly, vaguely-bridge-like arches of solid matter that can be crashed into during a jump. Players can score extra points for using this to their own advantage, however: a bonus is scored for an “air derezz.”) Though the Wii controller is turned on its side for this, the jumping and turning is accomplished purely through kinetic motion, and it’s an absolute thrill. This might just be the point at which a Tron light cycle game ceases to be Barricade with yet another new coat of paint and becomes its own beast.
Don’t be put off by the inclusion of the new movie’s light cycle physics, however: the D-pad can be used to make the impossibly-sharp 90-degree turns that characterized light cycles in the first movie, and employed properly, they’re just as deadly here.
Sporting similar controls, but also featuring actual weapons, is the Light Runner Arena, named for the four-wheel off-road vehicle featured prominently in Tron Legacy. Since it’s a heftier vehicle that doesn’t handle quite as smoothly as a light cycle, it’s not quite on the same level as the Light Cycle Arena, but there’s a certain thrill to being able to blast away at the other guy(s). There are also Light Cycle Races and Light Runner Races.
The game can be played in free-for-all battle mode – basically, each event as a stand-alone arcade-style game – or in a ranked championship mode, or in story mode – basically, various events in story-specific settings, linked by cutscenes. Up to four players can do battle in the free-for-all and championship modes. There’s also an option to make use of the WiiMotion Plus add-on if you have it, but the game is a blast even without it. Use of the nunchuk controller is also optional, but going into the Disc Battle without it isn’t recommended.
Battle Grids may not be exactly like the other consoles’ Tron Evolution titles, but judicious use of the Wii’s unique control scheme means that this version gains more than just a bit of extra fun. Highly recommended for anyone seeking a taste of really being on the grid.