With the recent debut of the Xbox One, much of the gaming world has been rather anxious to see what sort of titles would start off the indies race on Xbox Live Arcade. And starting off for the Xbox One we have Lococycle, the newest, next gen offering from Twisted Pixel Games. Twisted Pixel Games is a small development company based in Austin, Texas that got worldwide recognition from their previous Xbox Live Arcade titles 'Splosion Man and The Maw. Now, as a part of Microsoft Studios, they get to race onto the next gen highway with Lococycle, and it looks like they may have brought Texas with them.
The team at Twisted Pixel must be fans of Robert Rodriguez films, because Lococycle has quite the selection of actors known for starring in his movies. Lococycle stars a sentient motorcycle, named I.R.I.S., who accidentally starts dragging around a mechanic named Pablo, who is voiced by Freddy Rodriguez (who is known for playing El Wray in 'Planet Terror'). The T-1000 himself, Robert Patrick (who starred in Rodriguez films 'The Faculty' and 'From Dusk 'Til Dawn 2'), voices I.R.I.S.'s opposing motorcycle, S.P.I.K.E. And just for good measure, Lloyd Kaufman (the creator of the Toxic Avenger), Tom Savini and James Gunn (the director of Slither and Marvel's upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy), are providing voices as well. Most of these actors appear in Locomotion's intro as well as portray characters during Lococycle's gameplay. With a very experienced cast of actors providing their voices to help Lococycle come to life, Twisted Pixel can't go wrong, right?
Lococycle starts off with a very strange intro cutscene that's about 10 minutes long. I know it was meant to be comical, but there was quite a racist vibe emanating from it that we had to mention. Given the track record of twisted humor from Kaufman and Gunn, it would make sense that having all of these guys under one roof wouldn't be all that politically correct. Seeing Kaufman act as a newly-reformed Soviet Union general and purposely mangling the Russian language, along with the other jokes featuring the African king and Korean general were a bit much.
After watching Freddy Rodriguez play a mechanic who can't speak English (but can still understand directions in English), start sweet-talking to the I.R.I.S. bike in Spanish similarly to Pepe Le Pew, we realized how weird Lococycle was going to be. We remember Rodriguez's gruff, raspy voice in Planet Terror and in this, it seems like they purposely had him act and sound like a stereotype. But watching Rodriguez's backstage shenanigans at Twisted Pixel, we know it was all supposed to be in the name of good fun. After getting that huge disclaimer out of the way, Freddy's bumpy ride (he's being pulled by the light cycle for the entirety of the game), only gets bumpier.
Lococycle will eventually be coming out for the PC and Xbox 360. But it simply does not look like an Xbox One title. You basically drive down endless highways on a rail and dispatch bad guys trying to catch I.R.I.S. with machine guns and motorcycle kung-fu. Watching I.R.I.S. jump into the air and start doing Transformers-esque attack sequences was enjoyable, until we saw the same sequences repeated throughout Lococycle's entirety. Watching Pablo get tossed around as his leg is still stuck to the bike, and even being used as a swinging weapon, was rather funny the first few times we saw it.
The textures and graphics of Lococycle are no better than any other Xbox Live Arcade title we have previously seen. The graphics are about as good as Telltale's signature cel-shaded look, but there is nothing to warrant Lococycle's current Xbox One exclusiveness. The sound effects and music are extremely lackluster and are constantly repeated throughout the entire game. Expect to hear the same exact clanking sounds from I.R.I.S. and Pablo's same cries and grunts repeated multiple times within the same minute of playing. After a while, everything we witnessed on the road, from the backdrops to the audio, just started blurring together into a mediocre mess. It's just a shame because we know that Freddy Rodriguez is a much better actor than how he was utilized here. Lococycle attempts to throw dozens of jokes at you throughout the game in order to diversify the monotony, but many of these seemed to be inside jokes or references I simply did not catch.
The controls and mechanics of Lococycle are just as uninspired and repetitive as its graphics and audio. Twisted Pixel must have noticed the mundane nature of Lococycle's core gameplay and tried to supplement it with level-specific action sequences (mainly quick-time events), but even these surprise parts were overdone. For example, during every quick-time event we encountered, the attacks and sequences were repeated in tandem, with the same exact animations sequentially repeated. Quick-time events are meant to be cutscenes that look cool and keep you moving forward, not cutscenes that are going to be immediately repeated.
These action sequences also include rail shooting, an aerial perspective dive bomb and even a part where Pablo is thrown like a Tron Disc (which is funny given I.R.I.S.'s obvious inspiration). Unfortunately, these attempts at variation are just as lackluster as everything that preceded them. So Lococycle's boring, repetitive levels are split up with boring, repetitive mini-games.
Ultimately, Lococycle doesn't really do anything to justify it being a part of the Xbox One's launch lineup. The only good thing we can really say about it was that we are fans of its cast and it is currently the lowest priced game on the Xbox One library. Its graphics are dull and current gen. Its sound effects are limited and frequently repeated. Watching a motorcycle physically beat up bad guys while traveling at high speeds is cool the first time we saw it happen, but after realizing that mindless button mashing is just as effective as trying to figure out its limited combat system, everything in Lococycle turned stale very fast. The minigames tossed in to add variety are just as poorly executed as Lococycle's overarching mechanics.
If you ever have friends over and they say something like "Oh is that the Xbox One?" And you want to show off the system to them, Lococycle should be the last title you would ever want to consider playing. But if you have children who wouldn't know any better, then yes, Lococycle would be for you.
This article is based on a digital copy of Lococycle for the Xbox One that was purchased for review.