Twisted Pixel are one of the few developers in the business who have a distinct and creative personality that separates themselves from anyone else. The problem is that while their games share this sense of identity, Twisted Pixel's titles rarely feel like they earn it. Splosion Man is a legitimately great game, and I'm a fan of The Maw, but in all honestly the rest of their catalog is fairly weak.
This trend continues with LocoCycle. The premise of it is fantastic: a sentient motorcycle that gets into karate and fire fights with humans, helicopters and other sentient motorcycles. But the actual execution of this Xbox One launch title? Lacking.
LocoCycle begins with a very long winded and poorly edited live action cutscene. Twisted Pixel is very clearly going for a B-movie vibe, but early on fails. The game follows the adventures of a motorcycle named "I.R.I.S.", who gains sentience after being hit by a convenient bolt of lightning, and her mechanic Pablo, whose pant leg gets caught on her frame when she decides to escape her handlers at Big Arms weapons dealer. While this whole thing does sound interesting, this opening live action cutscene is so weak that immediately LocoCycle left a poor impression on me.
Unfortunately the beginning moments of gameplay also lacked the ability to leave a positive impression. The tad-too-loose handling of I.R.I.S. as she accelerates on her own, leaving you only to steer her, doesn't feel great. And the other two primary gameplay systems, the shooting and the melee combat are, as our impeccable Ross Hartley said best, are done "at the bare minimum required". The shooting lacks any nuance with a forgiving ammo count though actually trying to line-up shots is awkward and frustrating, and the Batman: Arkham Asylum-esque melee combat is missing any depth with only a single attack button and a counter button, with the enemies offering no challenge when facing I.R.I.S. in fisticuffs, rarely even mounting a single attack.
LocoCycle does start finding some traction at about halfway through when it starts letting its hair down a bit. The gameplay does a decent job of introducing gimmick sections like quick-time events and throwing Pablo like a boomerang at hordes of flying enemies, and digging into the upgrade trees helps with make your attacks stronger and more ridiculous. But where LocoCycle really starts to get interesting at that previously mentioned mid point is when it starts stitching all of these different throwaway sections in a different orders and throwing them at you at a nice clip. The game lacks any really depth, but at a certain point gets better when it starts spreading itself out horizontally rather than vertically like most other games do.
Indeed, LocoCycle's story also picks up at around halfway mark as well. The live action cutscenes start showing some actual craft and the writing gets much, much stronger and funnier overall. Robert Patrick steals the show as I.R.I.S.'s antagonist, a kindred motorcycle called "S.P.I.K.E.", as he hunts her down on this bizarre all-American road-trip. It's some pretty ridiculous stuff, but infinitely more fleshed out and compelling than any of I.R.I.S. or Pablo's stuff. It's a strange lack of focus that constantly perplexed me, because I felt like I was playing as the wrong characters throughout.
Being a next-generation launch game, it's important to discuss the production values of LocoCycle. And in that department, I find it hard to say anything remotely positive, not only early on but in any other point the game. Texture quality is very, very low and the art design of LocoCyce is definitely the weakest of any of Twisted Pixel's titles. In terms of audio, LocoCycle actually has some fun stuff going on with its sound design with pinball sound effects, but it's all stuff that I believe has been in previous Twisted Pixel titles, so that doesn't even count.
The soundtrack is done by the wonderful Chainsaw, but is ultimately lackluster. It's his first orchestrated score, but these large pieces lack the heart and soul of his best works. He set the bar very high for himself with his incredible score for The Gunstringer, and it is a bummer that the music he envisions for LocoCycle is just too generic action-movie for its own good.
Don't get me wrong, I love Twisted Pixel, even if I don't like most of their games. We need more developers who try and tackle comedy and more unique concepts like a man who constantly explodes or a motorcycle getting into karate fights. The problem is that LocoCycle just can't live up to its great concept, more so than any of Twisted Pixel's other titles. It does start revving up about halfway through, but at that point the damage has already been done. LocoCycle is just unforgivably boring and stupid easy.
Even the final crazy live action level feels uninspired and tired. Who thought that I'd ever say that about a Twisted Pixel game? Sure as hell not me.
TWO OUT OF FIVE
(A bad game with an abundance of flaws which outweigh its positive aspects)