The silent system monitor known simply as Anon runs through the computer world of TRON: Evolution like a leather-and-neon-clad Prince of Persia, smoothly defying gravity in a digital display of free running. This movie tie-in title, too, shows some deft touches, mixing up extended sequences of wall jumping and chasm leaping with combat that’s appealing if a little simplistic. It doesn’t quite have the gameplay or visual variety to battle off feelings of repetitiveness, but for the most part, TRON: Evolution is a smooth ride through one of science fiction’s best known worlds.
TRON: Evolution doesn’t tell the story of the new film, TRON: Legacy, but instead, it acts as a prequel, bridging the narrative gap between the original film and its sequel. The hero of the first movie–Kevin Flynn–now lives full time inside the computer world of the Grid, and it’s a rocky time for him and the Grid’s digital dudes. A new form of sentient life has appeared–the Isos–and many existing programs are distrustful of the new race. An aggressive virus led by the villain Abraxas is also sweeping the world, turning both programs and Isos alike into nasty, green-tinted creatures with an unexplained penchant for dreadlocks. You play through this corrupted code base as Flynn’s trusted system monitor Anon, a completely silent avatar that lets his acrobatic moves and light disc carry him through most conversations. As a mute protagonist, Anon doesn’t do much to pull you into the story of TRON: Evolution, and the narrative itself isn’t that intriguing. Fans of the TRON universe, though, will get a kick out of references to the original film, and all of the voice actors (including an impressive Jeff Bridges sound-alike) do a good job of bringing the Grid to life.
Anon’s only real expression in the game is through his actions, and when it comes to movement, Anon has a wide vocabulary. The system monitor is extremely nimble, and tight controls make it easy for you to take him on extended acrobatic runs along walls, over environmental hazards, and across wide gaps. Free-running takes up a large chunk of TRON: Evolution, and when you get on a smooth run, it’s fun to take Anon though some seemingly impossible obstacle courses. The controls do a good job of making you feel like you’re in charge of Anon’s every movement, and when you do miss a jump or a ledge, you always feel like it’s due to your own lack of skill rather than any control failing. That said, the challenge here isn’t particularly hefty; there’s never any confusion about which path to take as its clearly delineated via conveniently placed markers, the puzzles are all rather basic (find all the not-at-all hard to find switches to open a door), and there are only a few truly difficult platforming sections to clear. Even the tough sections won’t bother most, thanks to TRON: Evolution’s extremely generous checkpoint system. A mistimed jump usually results in instant death in the Grid, but frustration never gets a chance to set in because you’re only a few leaps away from a save.