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LocoCycle (Xbox One) artwork

LocoCycle (Xbox One) review

"Every mechanic is walled off from the next; a mission could begin with a Shooting Segment and then move on to a Hand-to-Hand Combat Segment before concluding with a Succession of Quick-Time Events."

LocoCycle asset

LocoCycle is a combat driving game, and I profoundly wish that it was nothing more than that. Then it would merely be shallow, unfocused and tiresome.

Instead, LocoCycle also has a sense of humor, and what a terrible sense of humor it is! The premise is that a sentient motorcycle named IRIS goes on a cross-country road trip to something called the Freedom rally, dragging along (literally) a Spanish-speaking mechanic named Pablo who's got his leg stuck to the motor. So you play the entire game as IRIS while Pablo hangs from your left side, scraping along the road and shrieking things like, "¿Qué estás haciendo?" A silly concept for a silly game, assuredly... except that, for reasons I cannot fathom, developer Twisted Pixel chose to accent LocoCycle with live action cutscenes and what must be a short novel's worth of in-game dialog. I hope you find the game's one-joke setup funny, because you're gonna be hearing that joke quite a bit.

I did not find LocoCycle funny, not even once. IRIS herself talks and talks (and talks and talks), but most of her quips are of the Duke Nukem variety in that she constantly quotes famous movie lines out of context... and that's about it. There may be some additional humor found in her exchanges with Pablo and the fact that her translator constantly misinterprets what he's actually saying, but it's been years since my last Spanish class, and reading subtitles while playing a relatively fast-paced action game is an art that, sadly, I have not perfected.

The live action cutscenes fare even worse. They're overlong (the opening cinematic lasts something like ten or fifteen minutes), they look cheap, they're poorly acted and they sport woefully compressed sound. What's more, they clash with LocoCycle's extremely loony nature. I can buy into the idea of an AI-controlled motorcycle dragging a perturbed Hispanic fellow across the Midwest (I think?) whilst battling men in power armor and electrified hamster balls if it's all happening in the context of an exaggerated cartoon. As soon as I see all of this unfolding using human actors and practical effects, though, it looks dumb. Why can't Pablo just... dislodge his leg? How is he stuck? It seems as though the fabric of his pants is trapped in IRIS's machinery, but then later, we see another human character stuck to a rival motorcycle, and this human isn't wearing any pants at all. So I don't know, then.

LocoCycle asset

What I'm getting at is that LocoCycle is obnoxious, and this is the sort of obnoxiousness that actually makes the product worse. The live action scenes are at least skippable (if you ignore the game's warning that you could be missing, I'm not kidding here, "important story details"), but the in-game cinematics cannot be skipped, nor can the mounds of dialog you'll need to listen to while trying to play.

But LocoCycle isn't actually enjoyable to play, either, so it's not much of a loss. I'm hesitant to categorize the game, because it cobbles together several different play styles, with "cobbles" implying that it does not convene its individual parts gracefully. Every mechanic is walled off from the next; a mission could begin with a Shooting Segment and then move on to a Hand-to-Hand Combat Segment before concluding with a Succession of Quick-Time Events. For as short and seemingly varied as the game is, LocoCycle's disjointed design – its inability to make its pieces blend – means it can often wear out its welcome several times within the span of a single level. Participate in a context-specific mini-game wherein IRIS throws Pablo like a boomerang to take out a line of armored soldiers on hoverboards, and Twisted Pixel says, "Hey, that worked out pretty well! Let's do that again!" And then another team of hoverboard soldiers comes soaring into the scene.

Not that the game handles particularly well in any regard, though; the steering is loose and imprecise, and the melee combat amounts to pure button mashing. There's a counter attack, but the windows for using them are often far too generous, and even when they're not, there's no penalty for hitting the button too early. There's a sequence midway through LocoCycle in which IRIS is repeatedly attacked by skiing soldiers that can only be brought down with counter attacks, and you can clear the entire section without a scratch by looking away from the TV and slamming repeatedly on the right trigger. Among LocoCycle's many flaws is that it's too easy, save for the bosses, which, like everything else in the game, overstay their welcome. Boss battles with multiple phases tend to be wearying; LocoCycle's generally have something like a dozen.

LocoCycle asset

The game is at least colorful, fast-paced and energetic, and I'd almost be willing to dismiss it as "harmless" were it not for two dreadful design mishaps. The first is its overreliance on quick-time events, and no, pairing them with an Elite Beat Agents-esque shrinking-circle mechanic doesn't make them any less arbitrary. The second is LocoCycle's misplaced emphasis on rail shooting, which is hamstrung by the oversensitive reticle controls which, nope, cannot be adjusted in the options menu. You're probably wondering which of these design choices the climactic action sequence adheres to. I'm sure the suspense is killing you. (It's both.)

I was prepared to rail on one of LocoCycle's final bosses for forcing players into a 2D fighter that handles poorly even from the perspective of someone who never plays 2D fighters, but you know what? The whole game is kinda like that, jumping from one idea to the next, few of them fully-formed and none flowing as a collective whole. The number of times LocoCycle gets old in the mere four or five hours it takes to finish the thing is unprecedented. Couple the tedium with an exhaustingly flat sense of humor – and an exorbitant amount of it, at that – and the overall product is downright unpleasant. I can respect Twisted Pixel's ambition to turn LocoCycle into something more than a generic arcade game, but instead, it's something far, far less.

P.S. If you do happen to play LocoCycle, be sure to open the pause menu at some point and scan the options carefully. There's a random little nugget of quirk hidden there that's more charming than anything in the actual game.


Suskie's avatar
Freelance review by Mike Suskie (November 25, 2013)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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zippdementia posted November 26, 2013:

Good to know the industry is keeping alive the tradition of mediocre launches across all systems.
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honestgamer posted November 26, 2013:

Twisted Pixel is a capable developer that has produced magic frequently in the past, and this was a promising concept with obvious opportunity to provide a good time, so this one had all the potential in the world to be great and its failure to execute is especially disappointing.
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pickhut posted November 26, 2013:

This was one of the few launch games for the Xbox One I was genuinely interested about, even with the very goofy premise. Though, since it was Twisted Pixel, I figured they could pull it off.

But after reading your review, this really sounds like an incredibly stupid game. The constant spouting of pop culture references sounds similar to my short experience with Ms. Splosion Man... which got old fast. I wonder if Twisted Pixel just got too "ambitious" with the game because it was a launch title and wanted to show off? Maybe they should have just stuck with a safe bet and went with a sequel to one of their other properties.

Anyway, really good review!

Edit: Huh, nevermind, just read that this was originally an Xbox 360 game.

Double edit: Wait, I just read on the LocoCycle site that it's still coming to the 360... in 2014. I... doesn't that just defeat the purpose of enticing players to buy an Xbox One?
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Suskie posted November 27, 2013:

Wait, I just read on the LocoCycle site that it's still coming to the 360... in 2014. I... doesn't that just defeat the purpose of enticing players to buy an Xbox One?

Well, even if LocoCycle was an Xbox One exclusive... it still shouldn't entice anyone to buy the system, because it's bad.

Crimson Dragon is another launch title that was originally for Xbox 360, and they both show it. I don't know why Microsoft is doing this. They should be pushing content that showcases the power of the new hardware out of the gate, right?

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