LocoCycle preview: standing on her own two wheels

By Steve Watts, Jun 13, 2013 1:20pm PDT

Twisted Pixel has gained a certain reputation. Its games feature witty premises, are chock full of funny writing, and wear their handful of influences on their sleeves. These features get the most attention because mechanically, they're often good, but never great. Enter LocoCycle, a game clearly influenced by both brawlers and the classic arcade game Spy Hunter, with humor to spare. Unlike the studio's trend, however, these qualities aren't distractions from merely adequate gameplay.

In fact, judging from a hands-on at E3, the game doesn't seem over-reliant on its studio's notably humorous touch. It functions well as a game first, so the premise and characters don't have to be funny.

All of this is especially good news, because the premise and characters are funny. LocoCycle details the journey of I.R.I.S., a specially made smart motorcycle that gains self-awareness when she's struck by lightning. The first thing she sees is the promise of a free-ride motorcycle event several states away, so apparently interpreting the message to mean personal freedom, she heads out in search of it. Unfortunately, she happens to snag her mechanic, Pablo, and drags him along for the ride. Thanks to the lightning strike, her translation module is broken, so she interprets his Spanish pleas for help as friendly chit-chat. It has all the makings of a buddy-comedy, and the two seem certain to become friends.

The bulk of the game ostensibly resembles a racer, but it's not so much about tight turns and overtaking your foes. Instead, keeping pace and maneuvering are just elements that need to be juggled while dispatching the foes who have come, guns-blazing, to take I.R.I.S. back home. Most of the game is instead spent firing weapons at enemies ahead, jumping and kicking foes, countering their attacks, and even flinging poor Pablo at them. This all makes it much more like an action game, albeit one that's in constant motion with obstacles to dodge.

The demo ended with Pablo taking over the lead role, as I.R.I.S. suffered an unfortunate breakdown with an enemy truck bearing down on them. Twisted Pixel mentioned that it didn't want to give players too much information about what to do in this situation, since it wants you to panic a little as you figure out how to repair I.R.I.S. through a series of minigames. It worked, and I thankfully finished the repairs with seconds to spare.

Twisted Pixel is also looking forward to tying this into its larger universe, stating that it takes place in the same world as 'Splosion Man and The Maw. The difference, of course, is that this is set in the current day or near-future while those games are further-flung, but I like the idea of the former indie developer making their own strange little universe. A representative of the company even pointed out a character wearing a Gunstringer belt buckle.

I was playing on the Xbox One, as it was recently announced as a launch title for the system. Twisted Pixel isn't making any illusions about the nature of the game. It started as an Xbox 360 game and it doesn't look like it was designed for the Xbox One from the ground up. It did run smoothly, though, with the high frame-rate as promised.

LocoCycle will still probably be somewhat short -- Twisted Pixel acknowledged that their games tend to last around 4-5 hours, and didn't suggest this one would be any different. But those hours look to be more mechanically sound than many of their past efforts, and that's exciting.

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