Insanity is the best word to sum up Twisted Pixel’s new game, LocoCycle. Not surprising given that the studio has delivered such zany titles such as ‘Splosion Man, Comic Jumper, The Gunstringer, among others. Craziness seems to be the studio’s mantra, and that tradition is carried in LocoCycle. But is the tone and humor enough to carry a game through its running (no pun intended) time?
Developed by Twisted Pixel / Published by Microsoft Studios
Available on Xbox One.
*Review copy provided by Twisted Pixel
What makes LocoCycle such a crazy story? Listen to this: a company called Big Arms crafts two incredibly advanced motorcycles: I.R.I.S and S.P.I.K.E. At the outset of the story, I.R.I.S get struck by lightning and it fries her processors. She’s taken over to a mechanic named Pablo and as he’s fixing her, she reboots and sees a commercial for a bike rally in Indiana. As she speeds off to go to the rally, Pablo’s pants get hooked on her rear wheel and he’s dragged along throughout the whole game. Twisted Pixel has toyed around with live action cutscenes in the past with Comic Jumper and Gunstringer, but in LocoCycle they take it to the next level. A big part of the story is told in this manner and they went as far a getting some real talent to voice/portray the characters.
Lisa Foiles voices I.R.I.S., while Robert Patrick voices S.P.I.K.E.. Freddy Rodriguez is Pablo, and you also get a couple cameo roles like James Gunn and Tom Savini. The problem is that this material is hit or miss, and more miss than hit. Many of these cutscenes, especially the intro, drag on for far too long, and feature some really weird editing and odd sound. Many scenes consist of nothing but background noise as characters walk around and talk to each other. All you hear is the jumble of everyone talking at the same time and every scene like this is a minute or more longer than it should be. A lot of the acting and jokes also come of as awkward and just plain unfunny.
Sadly, the gameplay doesn’t fare any better. The 17 stages in the game will take you through various locales and constantly introduce new enemies and new mechanics. But the game suffers the same symptom as the cutscenes: it just doesn’t know when enough is enough. Many of the stages drag on for far too long, and are comprised of wave after wave of enemies that just drive ahead of you so that you can blow them up. Sometimes it changes it up with melee combat somewhat similar to that seen in the Batman: Arkham games, but it’s nowhere as fluid. You punch enemies over and over with the X button, and occasionally counter with A. Other than that, there’s not much depth. You can upgrade I.S.I.S throughout the course of the game, but after upgrading her all the way through, I noticed the change wasn’t big enough to make me feel like I had made some progress.
The game peppers in different game styles here and there to keep things fresh, like turret sequences, parts where you throw Pablo as a disk, side-scrolling sections, etc. These imbue the game with some variety but they go on for either far too long or are over before you know it. There’s no consistency, and then you’re thrown back into the same mundane game you’ve been playing all this time.
The way the game handles challenge and how you control I.S.I.S also don’t help. There’s barely any challenge in the game. When it comes to punching bad guys, it’s insanely simple to keep a combo going up into the 1000 hits and avoid any damage. It’s the same with shooting: just hold down B and follow the cars. The game also features quicktime events. Every now and then, the camera will switch to a more cinematic view and big command prompts will pop up on screen to tell you what to press. The thing is, whether you press them or not, the sequences play out anyways. I can imagine this was done to prevent frustration but it takes out any challenge or tension these sections would’ve otherwise caused, making them boring, flashy parts where the game takes control away.
Despite these many faults, LocoCycle has its redeeming parts. Some of the humor is very good, especially the lines delivered by I.S.I.S., and the gameplay can be fun in a mindless sort of way if played in short bursts. The presentation is also top notch. While the game looks like a Xbox 360 game (because it technically is), the characters emote well, the animations are fluid and wonderfully cartoony, and the music/voice acting is generally great. Even the aforementioned long cutscenes look great in HD, which might explain why the game is a whopping 13 GB.
LocoCycle is probably Twisted Pixel’s most insane game, and that’s saying something considering their past endeavors. The 5-hour running time saves it from seriously wearing out its welcome, but that’s not enough to let I.S.I.S. drag you through a sometimes fun but mostly repetitive and tedious romp all over the US.