One of the interesting things about gaming is the way certain genres carry a negative connotation before players even see what the projects have to offer. For example, the first-person shooter often evokes groans and expectations of washed-out “gritty” color schemes from certain gamers, while others roll their eyes at the teenage characters and bouncy over-enthusiasm of JRPGs. Most of these are just lazy generalizations, of course: for every stereotypical Call of Duty and Megadimension Neptunia, there is a complex BioShock and Persona to serve as a counterbalance.
There is one genre that may have earned the ire of game fans, however, and that’s the “runner” — largely because of its prevalence as a way for hack developers to cash in on both mobile storefronts and Steam, and because even major publishers can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to piling on the micro-transactions. Now, of all the intellectual properties out there, you’d probably not expect Disney’s Tron to form the basis for a superior runner game — but that’s exactly what Sanzaru Games has done with Tron Run/r, bringing a truly delightful casual experience to the PS4.
Now, just as a small caveat, it’s worth mentioning that the game didn’t come in this form prior to its release on consoles. In its previous version, Tron Run/r was a “free-to-play” experience with very few included levels and all the same sort of cringe-inducing micro-transactions you’d expect from a cynical mobile title.
Thankfully, this new release has seen fit to apply a full-game price and include all the content from the start; sure, there are still some micro-transactions, but they’re completely optional and unnecessary in this version. The main point is that you’ve got full access to all three modes — Disc, Cycle and Stream — and all 16 levels in each of the first two.
So let’s go through those modes one-by-one. Disc is easily my favorite offering of the bunch, being the most straightforward and solid “runner” interpretation. That’s not to insinuate it’s boring or standard in any way — on the contrary, this must be one of the most energetic and hyperactive iterations of the genre around.
This mode, which follows your character from a 3D perspective rather than the traditional side-scrolling viewpoint, introduces new mechanics as you progress: first, you’ve simply got to jump and collect as many Bits as possible (trying not to break your precious combo), but later you’ve got to incorporate slides, disc-throwing, wall-running and gliding to succeed.
The best part of this mode is easily the control: while some games are quite finicky and require pixel-perfect jumping, whatever character you choose to play as in Tron Run/r controls like a dream — with looser timing and more fluid motion, your button presses feel extremely responsive.
It may sound strange to compliment something like this in a genre that’s already sort of simple, but it’s crucial to have the basics right, and this is as intuitive and satisfying as it gets. Also, in a deviation from the normal mode of many runners on the market, there’s nothing “endless” about Disc mode: there are 16 set levels with a beginning and an end, which makes for more interesting and specially-tailored level design.
Cycle isn’t bad at all, but it certainly wowed me a lot less than the buttery-smooth light show of Disc. In this mode, you race Tron’s famous light cycles around a series of different courses, performing tricks and maneuvering through time checkpoints to ensure you don’t run out of precious seconds before you reach the goal. As you do this, riders on other light cycles try to block your path and interfere, which you can stop by attacking them and knocking them off the course. If you’re up for a bit of light racing, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy Cycle of its own accord, but its spread-out and vacant courses seem a little plain-Jane compared to the multi-faceted levels of Disc mode.
Stream mode is probably the most uneven of the game’s offerings, partly because of its design and partly because of some technical problems. This mode is the traditional “endless” mode, featuring remixed versions of course elements found in the prior two modes — and while that may sound cool, Disc and Cycle are so different that it’s honestly a little jarring to have to switch between them in the middle of things. The game sometimes hiccups in the middle of loading new areas, too — and as you might imagine, even a split second of slowdown can really ruin your day here. Some players might get a kick out of trying to go further than anyone else, but I certainly found this middling compared to the other two modes.
Tron Run/r’s presentation is, I think, exceptional for a runner game. The visuals really nail the feeling of Tron, albeit with a lot more energy and flash than the pioneering (and now laughably outdated) 1982 original. The score is similarly lively, bringing a whole host of fist-pumping EDM to back your hopping and gliding activities.
If you’re looking for a bit of light fun on PS4, Tron Run/r is an exceptional selection in the runner genre. Its 16 Disc mode levels are energetic affairs that control like an absolute dream, and while Cycle’s 16 stages don’t fare as well, there is plenty of variety and enjoyment to experience there as well. The genre may be a bit infamous thanks to the prevalence of micro-transactions on mobile devices, but this full-featured console version earns its keep as a visually pleasing and arcade-urge satisfying delight.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Tron Run/r is a truly addictive runner, combining fantastic visuals with buttery-smooth gameplay. It controls like a dream, has tons of variety in the levels and goes at a lightning-fast pace throughout. Occasional technical hiccups can mar the fun, but the game performs well most of the time.