Game Review: Armagetron

In the ongoing quest to keep myself entertained, I try to rummage around looking for good distractions to while away the hours between the time I declare “I can’t work anymore” and the time I can safely say “It’s time to go to bed.”
My earlier solution to fill these hours was Kobo Deluxe, which, while still an outstanding game, gets wearing after a while. Not to mention crampy on the hands.
I recently discovered ArmageTron, the most accurate reproduction of the infamous Lightcycle ‘game’ in the 1982 movie ‘Tron I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of ’em.
Now, I, like other geeks, had daydreams about that lightcycle game for the longest time. I even wrote a version of it for the TRS-80 called ‘Gridrunner’ that was a load of fun, but hardly as visual as the movie.
ArmageTron reproduces the exact look and feel of the movie game. The scrolling green grid, the whine of the motors on the cycles, the exact left! right! left left! action of steerig the bikes and everything. The game designers have also brought in things that puzzled me in the original movie, but make the gameplay perfect.
For instance, your lightcycle runs faster if it’s close to the jetwall of another cycle. If you’re brushing up against it, it’s the fastest. This doesnt’ work for the arena walls (so you can’t go tearing around the outside of the arena), but it does make chasing someone else interesting. The person behind doing the chasing has the advantage of picking up speed, the person being chased has the advantage of being able to make a right angle turn directly in front of the chaser.
In keeping with the original premise in ‘Tron’ (that the programs were actually small autonomous creatures living inside the computer – and they could think live and die on their own), the AI opponents in the game are named after well known applications that are known to be somewhat tempermental. This is presumably to give you satisfaction ramming them into a wall. It works. There’s nothing like tearing off in pursuit of ‘Outlook’ and slamming it into a wall.
I installed ArmageTron via the Debian Sarge packages, so installation took only took a few seconds. The game is rock solid and very playable, though does require a fully functional GL installation. I haven’t tested the networked version yet, but variable-level AI is quite a challenge in its own right.
This is a fast paced, well designed, and extremely well executed game, taking a simple concept, with a baseline for presentation, and making it an eminently playable game. Kudos!


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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