I’ve mentioned this a few times on the Pixels & Ink Podcast, but TRON is my favourite movie of all time, so I had to be the one to cover TRON: Identity. While this usually resulted in jeers from my colleagues, it’s really easy to see why. TRON—while maybe not the best film structurally—is a deeply complex film that combines intense action with a compelling plot backed by commentary on politics, religion, transhumanism and the function of technology.
It’s always been bizarre to me that for a film franchise that was centred around video games, there haven’t been a lot of games based around TRON. I missed out on TRON 2.0 back in 2004, and while I personally loved TRON: Evolution, no one else seemed to share my enthusiasm for the game—particularly where the very fun online multiplayer was concerned. Even Disney appeared not to care about TRON all that much, unceremoniously cancelling the outstanding TRON: Uprising and seemingly pulling the plug on a third movie for a minute.
But now, much to my surprise, not only do we have confirmation of a third TRON film, but a new video game from Bithell Games—the guys who did Thomas Was Alone. When I first saw TRON: Identity, I’ll admit I was a little disappointed that it took the form of an interactive novel—but that’s really just me wanting more Disc and Lightcycle action. But after playing the game, I can confidently say this was the perfect franchise for the genre.
TRON: Identity puts players in the role of Query, a member of the Defenders of Tron—detectives who value the truth above all things and are tasked with objectivity and never becoming involved in the action. Query is called to a monolith building safeguarding information and all manner of things after an explosion damages one of its safes and causes several people within the building to have lapses in their memory functions. Query will need to interrogate and investigate in order to determine the cause of the explosion and what exactly was stolen.
Obviously, to say any more would thoroughly spoil the complex narrative that is at play, but rest assured, it is not as simple as it seems. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll be introduced to several interesting characters, each with their own motives and mysteries. Complicating the story even more, is Query’s involvement since, at several moments, he will need to go against his code and make choices that drastically affect the outcome of the story.
It’s a simple, contained narrative—only ever taking place inside the one location—but the choices the player is given and the weight that they may carry will definitely give them pause. Some players may experience a game that ends rather quickly, while others will see it sprawl into something deeply engaging, but its layers will compel players to dive back in and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Fleshing out the narratively driven gameplay are Defrag puzzles, wherein Query will need to rearrange the data within a program’s Identity Disc in order for them to access fragmented memories. It’s a simple yet compelling puzzle game where players match cards based on their number or suit in order to meet the target number of cards required to complete each puzzle.
“Visually, TRON: Identity capitalizes on the franchise’s unique aesthetic introduced in TRON: Legacy.”
While it may seem a bit straightforward at first, it consistently throws the player curveballs in the form of Error Cards that can create gaps between cards—cards can only move one or three spaces, so this is more problematic than you’d think—errors that swap cards positions, or even duplicate cleared cards. It takes a second to get the hang of it, but once I did, I was genuinely hooked.
It’s an excellent blend of functional simplicity with intellect testing that always results in satisfaction in every completed puzzle. Furthermore, each puzzle gives players options to undo moves—pretty much all the way back to the start—or have the game make three moves for them, so it’s never so obtuse or demanding that it becomes unapproachable. Combined with small objectives for added information unlocks and, for players who simply wish to experience the story, the ability to skip every puzzle, their inclusion only enhances the game and never feels like a roadblock.
Visually, TRON: Identity capitalizes on the franchise’s unique aesthetic introduced in TRON: Legacy. Every environment and character has a sleek, futuristic-cool, cyberpunk style that combines a distinctly monochrome colour scheme with bright lines of neon colour.
“While it’s not a very long game, I was immensely satisfied with my time with TRON: Identity and only wished there was more to experience.”
Backing this is a soundtrack that perfectly captures the TRON style—emulating the iconic Daft Punk soundtrack but also calling back a bit to the original TRON film’s 80s sci-fi themes. What’s more, the soundtrack does an excellent job introducing a theme and slowly building upon it as the tension rises or elements in the moment begin to change—the Defrag puzzle theme is especially good for this.
If I have any criticisms of the game, they are minor at best. The Library theme, in particular, is somewhat poorly balanced—with the audio peaks sounding like they’re blowing out your speakers, even at low volume. And it may be more like wishful thinking than true criticism, but I really wanted the game to do a bit more with its own premise.
While the choices you make can give you added dialogue options or influence how characters react and respond to you, it never really feels like you’re building a case and presenting evidence as you would in something like Phoenix Wright. While it’s not necessarily the point of the game, I can’t help but feel like fleshing out the narrative gameplay a little bit more would have made this something truly special.
However, that might be the game I want, but the game I got is still an incredibly engaging, well-written story that perfectly captures the essence of the TRON franchise. While it’s not a very long game, I was immensely satisfied with my time with TRON: Identity and only wished there was more to experience. It’s an excellent game in its own right, but it shows there is a lot that can be done with the TRON license if only Disney were willing to capitalize on it. If you’re a fan of the franchise or even someone interested in interactive novels, you’ll want to give this a look!