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Discs of Tron by Snoopy
Game:Discs of TronCompany:Midway
Type:PlatformPlayers:1/2

Discs of Tron has been one of my staple games for years, ever since I first discovered it at a local theater. Fortunately for me that same theater still has it, so as you might imagine I have become an excellent player. After all this time playing, I still find Discs to be as great as when I first started. Does this mean I canít write a balanced review? Of course it doesnít. So letís take a look at one of the greats of the 80s.
For those who didnít know, Discs was originally slated to be part of the original Tron arcade as one of the mini-games. Due to time and budget constraints, the Discs mini-game found itself on the chopping block. However, the designers took what they had and expanded it into a wholly separate game, released the following year, which devotees like myself have been thanking them for ever since. You are Tron, and Saark is out to defeat you. You have a set of ring platforms in the foreground, and Saark has an equal number in the background. The goal is to kill Saark in each arena by either knocking him off his rings or derezzing him with a direct hit from one of your discs. Movement and initial aim are independent of each other, but once you throw a disc its trajectory can be influenced by your movements. Saark tries to bring you down with discs, bombs, and tracking seekers. Some can be repelled by hitting "deflect", others must be hit with discs (and thereby destroyed) or evaded. In later levels the platforms move up and down (requiring a vertical aim adjustment) and may sometimes be derezzed if hit by a disc. Discs of Tron was released in three versions: the normal upright, an "environmental" version (basically a cockpit version except the player is standing instead of sitting), and a rare hybrid of the two (which I know nothing about).
Graphically DOT isnít bad for 1983 (though a little lacking in detail), but it was still 1983. You either love it or you donít. The environmental had one extra graphical touch; the screen flashed when you died. The sound is well done, with various music bites from the movie soundtrack, and speech in the environmental version, namely a few of Saarkís movie quotes.
So what does Discs lack? Simultaneous two player support has to be the most glaring omission. The upright allowed two player alternating play, while the environmental was one player only. The game was quite popular as it was. Adding a competitive mode could have potentially elevated its popularity to the heights of only a select few games. Another thing I miss is the ability to take on more than one opponent at a time. When Next-Generation magazine put DOT on its "100 greatest video games of all time for all platforms" (computer, console, arcade, etc.) list (9/96) they mentioned in the capsule review that "later levels featured multiple opponents who coordinated their attacks" but I have scored over 300,000 and have yet to see this. It would be nice if itís there, but right now I mark the game down for lacking those two things.
Also playing Discs emulated is difficult. The arcade setup works very nicely, with a trigger joystick that has the deflect button on the front of it, and an aiming knob that pushes down and pulls up for vertical adjustment. The best that can be managed through emulated controls is a compromise setup. I use the mouse for the aiming knob, fire, and deflect, and I use the keyboard for movement and vertical aim adjustment. Of the two emulators supporting DOT--MAME and Retrocade--I prefer Retrocade because it doesnít map the vertical aim to the mouse like MAME does, which I find extremely annoying. My play control rating reflects the glaring weakness of using computer controls to play Discs, for the real arcade machine play control rates a solid 10.
The best feature of DOT is its AI, which for the time is incredibly well done. Remember how I said you can affect the trajectory of your discs by moving? The computer is a master at this. Saark is almost frighteningly smart sometimes, usually knowing exactly where to move so that his discs will threaten you each time they bounce off a wall. He is also smart enough to recognize when your discs are going to hit him and gets out of the way. Later levels can require some serious ingenuity (or a bit of luck) to kill the bugger, but it never gets so hard that it stops being fun.
Discs of Tron is a very enjoyable game, with a richly deserved place in arcade history. Do give it a try if you havenít already, but my recommendation is to play it at an arcade somewhere. This game just isnít the same without the real controls and a blacklight under the monitor. Though itís still good, it takes the arcade to make it great.
Graphics
5
7
Sound
Play Control
5
9
Challenge
Replay Value
10
9
Performance
© 1999 EmuViews