Twisted Pixel is a company I certainly gained a fondness towards during the time where the Xbox 360 was my platform of choice. Their games were fun and creative and each offered something new while remaining consistently enjoyable. Though when it came to Lococycle, the reception was pretty cold from the majority of outlets for reasons I did not read, as I knew I’d pick the game up when it was cheap enough, and $2 is the cheapest I could hope for. But for those looking for a TL;DR and do not want to scroll down, this is by far the studios worst title and one I can hardly recommend. Onto the why!
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: Twisted Pixel
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Lococycle’s premise is about as oddball as they come, as an arms manufacture in Mexico, cleverly named Big Arms, created a duo of the most hyper intelligent killing machines in the world and made them motorcycles. The actual why is something that I can only believe to be answerable by claiming the game was originally centered on motorcycle combat, but somewhere they decided to glue a Mexican mechanic to the bike’s legs and call it Lococycle. With the ensuing plot involving the hyper intelligent motorcycle, named Iris, getting struck by lightning, watching an absurdly placed ad about Scottsburg, Indiana’s Freedom Rally, and deciding to attack the mechanic, Pablo, to part of her body and burst out of BIg Arms HQ and onto the open world. How does Pablo not object? Her circuits were fried and she is a psychopath who is unable to translate his cries for help.
That madlibs of a starting point out of the way, how exactly is the story told as it goes along? Well, not by a whole lot. Big Arms comes up with absurd and nonsensical ways to get Iris back, including just sending another motorcycle back to get her and shoving a bunch of scientists in balls in hopes she will ram into them. During such events, Iris comments about them while making pop culture references, or in some cases statements when Ski School and Weekend At Burnie’s 2 come up for no reason, while Pablo screams about how he wants to stop being nonsensically attached to a murderous machine. Beyond that? Not a whole lot aside from some unsurprisingly well done FMV cutscenes, which are likely the most enjoyable aspect of the game as they are consistently bizarre and humorous and boast acting on the on the cusp of quality, and hamming it up more than a pig wrapped in bacon.
The gameplay? Well, no aspect of it is inherently bad, but none have much depth either. There is not necessarily any primary mode of gameplay said from driving on the open road, and using a statically placed series of firearms to take down cars with the same handful of white men in black suits as they futilely shoot at Iris, who would likely be immune to bullets if 350 million is her MSRP. I suppose it is rather fun, but it, and just about every one of the modes Lococycle boasts is hampered by how regularly you do it, and how little there is to them, including fun or even any real sense of challenge. The character action game segments, which is both a diet and lite version of the genre if I’ve ever seen one, can literally be won by mashing X five times, press Y once, and press A when a bit yellow and orange circle appears on enemies. You are never in much danger of taking damage, and are pretty easily able to keep a combo going for every single enemy without even using the unexplained mechanic that is dashing between foes.
In fact, there are quite a few things about the game which are unexplained, most of them being certain situational threats such as knowing Iris can hit back certain objects that appear to be damaging ones in boss battles, or how exactly Pablo is suppose to fix Iris during the two times in the game where she breaks down. Hell, even the final bit of gameplay in the game relies on the player to know at this point what buttons to press during a moment that is, from the outside, unlike anything the player has previously encountered. Glazing over the minor bits of rather uninteresting gameplay that Lococycle inserts as an attempt to add variety to a game that begins repeating itself near the three hour mark, in the dialog structure, events, and overall gameplay, the final stretch of the game is one of the most bizarre conclusions I’ve played in a while.
In short, Big Arms is never really brought up and their plotline, which was a very main one, is more or less thrown aside as a character shown in the introductory FMV is revealed to be the last enemy fought in the game… Despite how there was no implication that he would be important, as he wasn’t even seen in-game until the final level. Yet things get even more confusing with the decision to make the final boss stage be one where Iris is in a 2D fighting game. A decision that would be cute except for how Lococcyle impliments something that I am always upset to find in games, a ranking system.
Thankfully, getting a slew of A ranks in Lococycle is easy excluding that one exception, which defeats the point in my mind, especially when you consider how terrible it is to go back and replay a stage due to how much is lost upon hearing a series of jokes a second time, and the fact that you cannot skip through in-game cutscenes in this game, and they do certainly drone on for quite a bit. It’s not like the ranking system does much aside from reward the player with experience points to level up Iris and unlock concept art that, along with the game itself, very much paint a picture of a troubled development or some major scaling down that resulted in a game that quite simply feels lopsided and is not all that fun to play, instead feeling average at best.
I suppose I could say the same about much of the visuals, but that is partially due to how Twisted Pixel is a small studio using an in-house engine that they’ve had for the entire seventh generation of video games, or in other words, their entire existence. And seeing as how the levels of Lococycle require for the game to move very quickly, there is naturally not a lot of detail that can be placed in the world. Even then, however, so much of the game’s assets, form models to environments, possess a level of quality displacement, with certain models and textures, such as Iris herself, looking very nice, which the open roads and repeating scenery look shoddy in addition to being very uninteresting as they are repeated ad nauseum. Although, I wouldn’t be hesitant to say that it fitting given the rest of the game.
I know that somewhere there is a reason why Lococycle turned out the way it did. Maybe it was due to Microsoft’s mandates that the game be ready for the Xbox One launch. Maybe the studio was struggling to make the title a reality as it is the most ambitious one they’ve ever made. Or maybe this was just something whipped up as Twisted Pixel was working on a bigger title made specifically for the eighth generation. Regardless, Lococycle’s ambitions and goals are apparent, it’s just that when racing to make its dreams into a reality, it got a flat tire and wasn’t able to get to its conclusion without some bird pop on it and a tree branch lodged within its wheels… because it’s a bike.
There are points of noteworthiness, but as the titles goes on they become far less common when compared to all too common mundanities. Would not recommend.