Steam, Xbox Live Arcade
Review based on Xbox Live Arcade version
|Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Twisted Pixel
Release Date: February 14th, 2014
LocoCycle is the story about Big Arms Corporation’s Spanish speaking mechanic and it’s two brand new battle ready intelligent motorcycles named I.R.I.S. and S.P.I.K.E.. After a meeting of various bidders, I.R.I.S. is struck with lightning, prompting her repair in Pablo’s shop. The shock to the system causes her to go rogue by desiring the open road and taking part in a biker convention many cities over that was advertised on the television in the shop. I.R.I.S. also brings poor Pablo along for the ride, not in the driver’s seat, but dragged along cross country with S.P.I.K.E. and the many hired guns of the corporation on the hunt for her. The catch is while I.R.I.S. speaks many languages, the shot to the system fried her speech recognition chip, making her misunderstand Pablo the entire time.
The story really isn’t any deeper than that, and much of the progression is told through live-action snippets that carry a b-movie Action and Science Fiction vibe. That sensation is completed with the casting of Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror, Six Feet Under) as Pablo, Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Home Video, The Toxic Avenger) as General Major Sergei Kuznetsov, and Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn, Dawn of the Dead) as Holt Ryebach. Lloyd’s involvement is limited to the first cut-scene along side Tom Savini, who appears again at the end of the game. Other than that it’s simple comedic bits mostly between Pablo and I.R.I.S., such as when they stop for gas and the attendant doesn’t speak Spanish, an off screen shot of Pablo being attacked by wolves when I.R.I.S. stops to take in the scenery, as well as S.P.I.K.E. kidnapping a human to level the playing field.
The main gripe is that this game just feels senseless in more ways than one. Not only are you directing I.R.I.S. to kill security members of the corporation who are hellbent on destroying her and Pablo in the process, but you’re also taking out innocent civilians, drivers, and some people just doing their jobs and were stuck in the way of the carnage (think the contractors on the Death Star argument for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi). It doesn’t seem like much, but after a while you just start questioning why so much senseless slaughter is happening. Even at the start with Big Arms planning to pollute a towns water supply for some reason during the first chapter of the game. And then there’s the disregard of physics to Pablo being dragged across the country and barely having a scratch due to his expensive clothes, While handled sarcastically, this just feels sinister, as if taking part in some modern variation of early racist events like drunken rednecks of KKK members dragging African Americans with their trucks for sick kicks. Of course, this is all if you take it literal, and LocoCycle is only meant to be silly light hearted fun… Right?
The voice acting is about the same as it is in the cut-scenes, and its all done well enough to get the point across. Of course unless you speak Spanish (or English, or even both in some circumstances), most of the banter between Pablo and I.R.I.S. will escape you. Some of the exchanges are just hysterical if you get the chance to follow it, especially when Pablo pleads with the Big Arms people that get in your way. The score also sticks to the light hearted vibe with some fun performances for the live action segments, but the music to the main stages is a little more glorious and tense, capturing both the feel of the open road with the sense of knowing you’re still being hunted. It isn’t the most amazing, but it manages to keep you on your toes enough to remain vigilant amid the large amount of repetition.
Visually there isn’t much to go by. Yes, the transition from Xbox One to Xbox 360 is done surprisingly well, making many of the more textured scenes to be quite appealing for the system’s far more limited abilities with only some indications that it can’t keep up. This is thanks to there being an additional DLC file you need to download (thankfully free) to get the entire experience. As far as the landscapes go, they’re all pretty generic and straight forward depending on what the level calls for, such as woods, larger water filled areas, but mostly long stretches of highway. This makes for terrain that becomes as boring and repetitive as the enemy encounters.
There is a nice amount of variety to some of the enemies you meet along the way, but if it’s not a really silly approach, it’s just more of the same close combat melee that only requires you to spam one of the two attack buttons. There are some enemies that fly which I.R.I.S. will send Pablo spinning like boomerang to dispatch. It feels like Space Invaders crossed with a basic Shmup style pattern you just collide into for this battle. Then there are those drive cars across the lanes during side-scrolling battles against foes on the other side of the highway that you have to dodging and firing long-range attacks. But the most infuriating are the scientists in the electronic balls, leaving you to essentially play Frogger to avoid being hit until their magnetic fields weaken enough to spam your choice of attack buttons once more. There’s even a Mortal Kombat style fight with S.P.I.K.E. later on that just pushes the absurdity to the point where it really tests your patience with the game.
Thankfully the simple controls respond very well. You have your turbo, two forms of melee attacks, and your gun. Sadly there is no targeting reticle for the gun, so aiming to meet certain objectives in a timely fashion can definitely be annoying, but in no way vital to the completion of the game. You can upgrade I.R.I.S., which really does help in the long run to make those kinds of flaws a little more tolerable, as well as break the repetition by making the similar sections of combat go by quicker. The counter button will get a decent amount of use as well, and it responds perfectly, even triggering automatic combat sequences when you see the reticle on an enemy displaying an unblockable attack being changed. There’s also some quicktime button pressing scenes throughout the game that don’t really emphasize exactly when to hit the button or move the analog stick, but it only matters if you’re going for one of the game’s achievements. As long as you don’t perform the action too early or late, you typically come out unscathed.
When you break LocoCycle down, it can be considered a highly racist game of senseless murder to achieve a set of automatons own selfish goals in the name of a corporation and grilled cheese sandwiches. Thankfully this is all handled in a cheeky manner that makes the game a fun, somewhat short experience with a twist at the end that leads one to suspect a sequel may be in the works (much like the artwork you can unlock hinting at many other sequels to the developers existing library of creations including the Splosion Man franchise, and even an overdue follow-up to The Maw). Once you finish LocoCycle, there’s no real need to go back unless you want to play the game from start to finish with a maxed out I.R.I.S., or have to pick up a few achievements you missed. The way the story is told there’s no room for DLC story lines, but that’s fine unless they expand the story past the conclusion, which it just doesn’t need to. If you’re looking for a game that you can just pick up and play with your brain turned off, LocoCycle does make for an enjoyable round of senseless combat that you can easily finish up in the course of a weekend, if not maybe two sittings.