LocoCycle starts off innocently enough with a title screen, then transitions into a silly video introducing the plot and using a ton of wacky ’80s-level stereotypes – or parodies of them. It goes for kind of a Black Dynamite vibe in that regard, but doesn’t quite succeed. Wackiness occurs, lighting strikes, and the incredible IRIS motorcycle comes to life with her mechanic Pablo attached to the back and being dragged along for the ride. It’s a goofy premise, but works very well when the live-action stuff isn’t involved – which is ironic since the idea of a wise-cracking vehicle with a bunch of gunfire and on-road craziness worked great for the original Knight Rider series that clearly inspired this game to some degree.
During the game, the plot is limited to IRIS being oblivious to the agony she’s causing Pablo, and it’s hilarious. The core game involves using this KITT/Mach 5 hybrid of a motorcycle to drive around, shoot bad guys, lob their rockets back at them, and partake in a lot of QTEs and mid-air car-fu combat. It’s an interesting mish-mash of simple concepts that work very well together. The core formula rarely deviates from those mechanics, so it’s good that they’re executed well.
Driving around is easy with the left stick, while B shoots. Turbo activates with either RT or A unless you’re near an enemy – then you jump into car-fu combat. Unlike most games that use QTEs, responding quickly isn’t always best – there’s a little timing-based icon on-screen that you want to hit before it’s too late, but ideally want to wait until the last possible moment to hit to get a better score. Score is the key to combat as well, as you’ll jump into the air and engage in combo-heavy battles with the X and Y buttons being your light and heavy attacks both on the ground and in the air when things get crazy. Countering with A at just the right time allows you to counter an enemy and take them out either instantly or close to it, while continuing your chain. After a play session of Killer Instinct, it feels a bit odd to play another game with 100+ hit combos in it, but it certainly does mix things up for a motorcycle-heavy game.
The controls as a whole are responsive and the button layout never feels like it needs to be changed for anything. The car-fu battles remind me of GripShift and the licensed Speed Racer game based on the movie that used the same engine. A different engine is used here, but that car-fu combat feels more natural here and is much easier to learn with only two buttons to play with and minimal timing to worry about. The QTEs can get a bit tricky due to how fast the prompts come at you, but they’re pretty forgiving and you can always retry a section if you do badly and really want a higher score. The game’s toughest sections wind up being areas where you’re timed, since you’re rarely given much time, and you may have to do some complicated things in that time – like beat three giant tankers, or repair IRIS on the road while a giant truck barrels down on you. The interplay between IRIS and Pablo is the star of the game, with the actual gameplay coming off as secondary at times.
Lisa Foiles’ mechanically-altered voice is something you’ll hear throughout pretty much every major moment of the game, so it’s a good thing she’s talented and the script is funny. It’s not particularly amazing writing or anything given that so much of it relies on pop culture – like her quoting movie lyrics and songs – in proper succession, during rocket-chucking sections. But what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for in simply being hilarious to hear. Tongue-in-cheek humor works perfectly here, and results in gags that fans of Double Dragon Neon will like. So if you loved Crystal Dragon Cola there, you’ll have a battle with the crowbar-wielding Road Rashers that IRIS mocks for having poorly-constructed bikes.
The visuals are quite the mixed bag. During the live-action sections, everything is in vibrant HD – which certainly explains the large 11 GB file size. In the game, you’ve still got vibrant graphics, but they certainly don’t seem to push the envelope of what the Xbox One can do. Really, the only thing that seems to have prevented this from being an XBLA release on the 360 would be the live-action stuff because nothing about the graphics scream next-gen. The ground textures are a bit muddy, which holds true for the environments and character clothing texture as well. Even the clothing animation isn’t all that good. Now, with all that said, I wouldn’t go so far as to say the graphics are bad – they just look like they’re a few years old. That’s not quite what anyone wants from a launch game on new hardware though, and it is fair to say that the visuals are the least-impressive yet on the Xbox One even if the overall visual design is pleasing to the eye with hilarious character designs.
As mentioned before, Lisa Foiles nails it with her performance as IRIS, but the supporting characters are funny as well. Her rival Spike sounds like a bitter bike, while his hapless human helper is just glad to take advantage of him for a free ride across country so she can eat all the ice cream she wants. The voice work is hilarious, and will have you laughing constantly throughout the game. The music is very much like Austin Powers in the sense that it’s heavy on parody, so you get Bond-esque stuff at times, with sillier fare thrown in as well. It’s not amazing, but does compliment the action well and doesn’t take the spotlight off of the voice acting.
While LocoCycle doesn’t scream next-gen visually, it is a lot of fun to play. There’s a ton of variety with what you can do and you’re never quite sure what you’ll do from one stage to the next – let alone what kind of wacky enemies you’ll do battle with. The controls are sharp, the voice work is outstanding, and the script is pretty funny as well. If you enjoyed the sense of humor present in Twisted Pixel’s past games, you’ll love this game. Unlike Comic Jumper, which had a great script but lousy gameplay, this one has great writing and gameplay, but probably should have been kept as an Xbox 360 title to avoid the graphics coming off as somewhat archaic. They’re appealing, but the least-impressive graphics yet on the Xbox One. Still, anyone who loves the studio’s past work, or enjoyed the GripShift/Speed Racer game will get their $20 worth out of this.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
This review is based on a digital copy of LocoCycle for Xbox One provided by Twisted Pixel.