Hello and welcome back to this second part of our in-depth review of Stern's Tron:Legacy.
In the first part we looked at the game's layout and mechanical build, the external and internal artwork, and inside the cabinet and backbox. Now it's time to examine what happens on the playfield, as we explain the rules and give our verdict about the games various elements.
The game we used to work out the rules was a new-in-box European Pro model, running version 1.5 game code. The Limited Edition model has some differences, although the core functionality described here will most likely be similar or even identical, with additions for the drop targets, a moving Recognizer and an additional mode.
When a sequel to the original Tron movie was first mooted, several pinball collectors opined it would make an ideal theme for Stern licensed game. Somewhere along the line, Stern agreed and despite the previous difficulties working with Disney on the Pirates of the Caribbean game, decided to press ahead with Tron:Legacy (or Tron as we'll call it from now on). After all, movie-based science fiction games have been good for Stern.
As the rumours began to firm up, several advocates stated this would be a new-in-box purchase for them, even before they saw any pictures of the game. People may criticise the use of licensed themes at Stern, but there's no doubt titles like Tron build excitement and generate sales even before any details of the game are known.
How much of that excitement has made it into the game, we'll see now as we press the start button and begin.
The six Light Cycle inserts flash, and the four Z-U-S-E letter inserts follow suit. The first T-R-O-N mode insert is lit, as are the arrow-shaped Flynn's Arcade and the circular Advance Quorra inserts. We are told Flynn's Arcade (the scoop) is lit and our score stands reassuringly at zero.
Right away we can see Tron uses the familiar one-third/two-thirds split screen with the player scores on the left (up to four of them) and the display animations on the right.
However, Tron uses the left third of the display to show some additional information during gameplay.
At the bottom are three horizontal lines of ten dots each.
These represent the three timed T-R-O-N modes, and the dots show the time remaining in each mode. When a mode is started, its line becomes brighter but that bright section reduces in width as time begins to run out.
There's no indication of which mode each line represents, so it's not entirely intuitive. But we'll explain how they work a little later in this review.
The same technique to show the time remaining is used in the vertical dividing line where two of the three timed modes take up a ten dot section of the divider - Clu at the top and Gem in the middle.
The vertical resolution of the DMD is thirty-two dots, so three strips of ten dots leave a one dot gap to separate them. This makes it all the more surprising that the bottom strip of ten dots isn't used, as you'd expect, for the timed Zuse Fast Scoring mode. Granted, Zuse tends to have priority on the main part of the display when his mode is running, but that's not always the case. Maybe this strip of dots is used in the Limited Edition model for the additional mode included in that version, but it seems odd not to use it in the regular model.
Again, the lack of any mode names against the vertical strips limits their usefulness somewhat until you learn the order, but at least they provide a little additional feedback when the main display area is busy with animations.
In our first section we showed you the progress ladder running down the centre of the playfield.
This focuses on the key scenes in the movie - the disc battle, the light cycle race, the recognizer hunting down rogue programs, the fight to reach the portal - and the movies main characters - Flynn, Clu, Gem, Zuse, Quorra and Tron.
However, if you've watched the movie, you might notice there is something missing from that list. Or rather, someone.
Sam Flynn is conspicuous by his absence, but that's not some oversight by Stern. Sam is the one standing in front of the machine, operating the flippers. You are Sam, and you have to take part in the disc battle, ride the light cycle and meet all the characters, if you are to make it to The Portal and return home.
So, with the first of the game's four balls resting gently against the plunger tip, it's time to launch it onto the playfield and start our adventure.
Tron's playfield design means we are devoid of the top rollover lanes which would normally form the skill shot. So we have to look elsewhere for those first big points.
Tron offers us three skill shot options, although none of them are relayed directly to the player. The first is hinted at by the first display shown and the audio clip played.
The audio is usually from Kevin Flynn when he is telling his young son Sam the story of The Grid's creation, part of the movie's build-up which results in Sam having to visit the arcade. These include, "Now, I met a brave warrior", "The Grid" and "How about tomorrow you and I hit the arcade?"
So how about it? In Tron pinball, the arcade is the scoop.
If you plunge softly, the ball rolls through the one-way gate at the end of the shooter lane on the right, and can bounce off the Flynn's divider to fall into the scoop for the first skill shot award of 500K points.
This increases in value by 50K each time you collect it throughout the game.
If the divider doesn't deflect the ball to the left and into the scoop, it will send it to the right where it rolls over a switch which starts a second skill shot.
As the ball rolls through one of the inlanes and down to the right flipper, a shot to the left ramp will score a 250K skill shot award (increasing by 50K each time).
The third skill shot option needs to be explicitly chosen by the player before plunging the ball, by holding in the left flipper button.
Normally, when the ball is launched, the pop-up post in the right orbit lane rises to prevent a full orbit and send the ball back into the pop bumpers.
If the left flipper button is held in, the pop-up post remains down and the ball continues around the orbit lane to the upper flipper. The skill shot is then to use the upper flipper to shoot the ball up the right ramp.
Make the shot and you collect 300K (+50K each subsequent time).
Those are the three skill shots but each also gives an additional benefit it you successfully make the shot.
If you get the ball into the arcade scoop from the skill shot, you also collect your first mystery award which is lit at the start of the game. This is displayed as a pan across various video games, settling on the one with the selected award.
The mystery award can be collected whenever it is lit during the game - including during multiball modes - by shooting the scoop. Re-lighting the mystery award is achieved by shooting the right orbit. Just one shot is enough to enable the scoop for the next mystery award and it is also relit at the start of each new ball.
Awards we have seen offered so far include:
Some players have commented they have never seen Light Special or Light Extra Ball awarded. We haven't seen the extra ball awarded, but we can confirm the Light Special award is indeed given.
Both most likely depend on the percentaging set up within the game, the number of free games awarded through reaching replay levels and matches, and may also require a certain number of games to be played before the software will consider giving either award.
If you go for the skill shot from the upper flipper and up the right ramp, the shot will also collect the lit Light Cycle insert.
The left ramp skill shot choice also collects a lit Light Cycle insert from the ramp, but it additionally begins one of the modes on the progress ladder, so that's where we'll visit next.
Tron uses the tried and tested ruleset which asks you to complete (or at least play) all the game's features to get to the wizard mode at the end. It's a pretty straightforward proposition and doesn't complicate things by having two sets of objectives for two different wizard modes, like Iron Man does.
There's one list of features to play - albeit a fairly lengthy one - and that list, together with the the prize for completing them, form the progress ladder.
The movie's characters sit at the bottom of the ladder, the set-piece multiball battles are near the top with the ultimate aim - Portal - sitting at the very top. In rough terms, the challenges get harder the further up the ladder you go, although there are some exceptions to that as we shall see.
We shall look at each of them in turn to see what you have to do to complete them, but before we get into the detail, there's a subtle change to the way the ladder works compared to previous games.
With Iron Man, Avatar and The Rolling Stones, getting part-way through a mode or feature will light the corresponding insert on the ladder, while completing it will cause the insert to flash.
Tron swaps these behaviours round, so a flashing insert indicates the mode is part-finished, and a solidly lit insert shows it was fully completed. Both ways have their merits but as the game likes to quote from time to time, "The rules have changed".
OK then, on to the first feature on the ladder and we start at the bottom with Flynn.
This is one of the easiest inserts to flash and not much harder to light solidly.
In fact, if you opted for the second of the three skill shots, you've already got it flashing as it merely needs the ball to roll over the switch to the right of the Flynn's divider to flash the Flynn insert.
Rolling over that switch starts Find Flynn mode where a flashing red arrow lights on the left orbit for a couple of seconds. This flashing arrow then roams across the playfield from left to right, moving to the left ramp, the left inner loop, the right inner loop, the right ramp and the right orbit, before reversing direction and heading to the left.
It isn't a timed mode and the strobing arrow continues moving across the playfield until you shoot it.
If you shoot the flashing shot, you find Flynn, score the Flynn value which starts at 275K and increases by 50K each time you find him,...
...and also light the Flynn insert solidly.
That's all there is to Flynn. It's simple to start, simple to complete and worth a moderate amount of points.
Apart from starting Find Flynn, triggering the rollover switch also starts another feature called Zen. To go with Zen you also get a nice pixelation of the existing frame and de-pixelation to the word 'ZEN'.
Zen is a useful helper which allows you to complete all the T-R-O-N inserts and start the current Tron mode with just one shot to any of the four targets.
The first time you roll over the switch you get the Zen display, but after that it's the instructions for Find Flynn. Starting Zen also scores you a rather appropriate 42K points.
Next on the progress ladder we have Gem.
Gem is an Armoury Siren (but of course you knew that already) and it is she who guides Sam to the End-of-Line club where he meets Zuse. So her associated mode is called Follow Gem.
Follow Gem is a timed mode which by default lasts for twenty-five seconds, but this can be changed in the set-up menu.
The Gem shot is the inner right loop - the lane just above the right ramp who loops back to the pop bumpers.
Three shots the this lane are needed to start the first Follow Gem, five shots for the second time, seven shots for the third, and so on. Additionally, a Gem shot can be awarded as an Arcade mystery award when it lands on the Advance Gem screen. If Gem is only one shot from starting, this becomes Start Gem instead.
You are awarded 250K once the single-ball Follow Gem mode begins, after which each shot to the inner right loop scores a Gem value which begins at 750K and grows by 250K each time it is collected up to a maximum of 2.5M points.
It doesn't sound an especially exciting mode by itself, and in truth Follow Gem is best combined with other modes and multiballs. Those twenty-five seconds might not seem long enough to start other features or score many points, so Follow Gem has a trick up its sleeve.
Once Follow Gem is running, shooting either spinner - on the right orbit or the left inner loop - will add ten seconds to the timer up to a limit of forty seconds. During multiball, the spinners are likely to get some decent action, so Follow Gem could well last through a multiball and beyond (even through the wizard mode), allowing some nice points to be earned along the way.
Gem's timer is shown on by the centre block of ten dots on the dividing line between the scores and the animations. The full forty seconds equates to all ten dots, so when the mode is started, the 25 seconds you are given only lights six of them.
Starting Follow Gem is enough to get the Gem insert on the progress ladder flashing, and collecting a Gem follow award lights the insert solidly.
Follow Gem continues until the time runs out or you lose the ball, when you get to see the total Follow Gem points you earned.
After this, an additional two shots are needed to the inner right loop to start the next Follow Gem mode.
The Gem value resets to 750K each time you restart Gem, so it's definitely worth keeping the mode going as long as possible and keep building that award by 250K per shot.
The next feature is Kevin Flynn's doppelganger on The Grid, the Codified Likeness Utility, or Clu for short.
Although there are Clu inserts scattered around the playfield, to start his mode you need to complete the three C-L-U rollover lanes in the left and right inlanes.
Lighting an unlit lane by rolling over its respective switch (lane change is available to rotate the lit and unlit inserts with the flipper buttons) scores 10K, and lighting them all gets you 50K. There's no display showing the build-up of C-L-U letters, just one showing the completed letters.
When all three have been lit, the scoop is ready to start Terminate Clu. Terminate Clu doesn't have an arrow like most of the other scoop features, but the Clu insert which is vaguely in the same vicinity lights up to let you know Terminate Clu is ready.
So, shoot the scoop and off we go.
Clu's shots are indicated by the round inserts with the Darth Vader-esque helmet-clad Clu within.
The first lit Clu helmet shot you make earns you 250K.
The next two Clu shots are worth double that - 500K.
When the other three other Clu helmet shots have been collected, shooting the fourth and final Clu shot value - also 500K - will end the mode.
Shooting the Clu helmet shots isn't the only way to collect the Clu values though.
Re-lighting the three C-L-U inlanes will spot the left-most Clu helmet shot, starting with the left orbit. So if there's one Clu shot you find particularly hard or risky, this might be the better way to collect it.
Starting Terminate Clu will get the Clu insert on the progress ladder to flash. Completing it by collecting all four shots will solidly light that insert.
As we work our way towards the top and the wizard mode, the next insert to light belongs to owner of the End of Line club - Michael Sheen, a.k.a. Castor, a.k.a. Zuse.
Zuse initially befriends Sam and Quorra but then betrays them to Clu, spraying the club with bullets in his trademark flamboyant style.
On the playfield, Zuse is represented by four standup targets. Two flank the left ramp, one is below the left pop bumper and the fourth is just to the right of the scoop.
When the game begins, the Z-U-S-E inserts in front of the standups flash. As you might expect, hitting a target lights the insert solidly and adds a letter to Z-U-S-E.
The individual targets also score 75K, and once all four are collected you get 325K and Zuse Fast Scoring begins immediately.
Zuse Fast Scoring is a timed Frenzy-type mode where all switch closures add points to your score until the timer reaches zero. When it first starts, each switch scores 10K and the timer is set to twenty-five seconds. Shooting the spinner brings you a slew of 10Ks.
During Zuse Fast Scoring you can get all the points you can at 10K a time, or you can boost the points value and the time remaining by shooting the Z-U-S-E targets again.
The first Z-U-S-E target you hit increases the Fast Scoring value by 1K.
Hitting another unlit Z-U-S-E target adds another 1K...
...as does the third target.
The fourth and final Z-U-S-E target doesn't add 1K to the target score but it does give you another ten seconds on the clock and resets all the Z-U-S-E targets, so you can build the switch value and the time once again.
Zuse Fast Scoring continues through any other modes or multiballs until the time runs out.
Although it is a timed mode, Zuse Fast Scoring isn't represented on the left third of the display with a timer bar. It does become the default display if nothing else is happening and increases in the switch value are flagged up during multiball modes where there's a lot of other action going on, so perhaps it was thought the higher display priority negated the need for a timer bar, but it does seem odd not to be included when lesser features such as super spinner are shown graphically.
Starting Zuse Fast Scoring the second time requires four completions of the Z-U-S-E targets, but the initial switch value rises by 5K to 15K.
Once Zuse Fast Scoring begins, the Zuse insert on the progress ladder flashes. If you want to light it solidly, you need to complete the Z-U-S-E targets at least once during the mode's initial twenty-five seconds to extend the timer.
The last of the five main characters also brings us our first multiball mode.
Quorra is an ISO - a new form of program created by the Grid itself and the subject of Clu's attention as he tries to eradicate all the ISOs from his perfect world. Her inserts on the playfield are coloured green, and the first of these is found on the left inner loop.
The inner left loop is predominantly Quorra's lane, with her green insert and her picture on the front of the spinner. Since there is no other switch in the loop lane, advancing towards Quorra Multiball is done shooting the Quorra spinner.
It doesn't matter how many spins you get, one spin or ten spins all count as one shot to the lane, so you need to have a slight delay after the last spinner spin before a second shot will be correctly registered.
Five left inner loop shots are needed to qualify Quorra Multiball which is then started at the Arcade scoop.
Pop the ball in scoop (or start some score boosters such as Zuse Fast Scoring or a Tron mode first, and then head for the scoop) and away we go.
Quorra Multiball is initially a two-ball mode where the idea is to collect jackpots and build a super jackpot value which you can collect later. You might guess from that 'initially' that you can increase the number of balls in the multiball, and you'd be right. We'll get to that though. First, the multiball rules themselves.
We qualified Quorra Multiball by shooting the left inner loop and this is also where we find the jackpots.
The jackpots start at 250K and increase by 50K for each one collected.
However, once the jackpot value hits 500K it doesn't increase any further.
Apart from scoring the jackpot value instantly, the same number of points are added to the super jackpot which starts with a 1M value.
Collecting the super jackpot is a matter of shooting the right inner loop. This adds the super jackpot to your score and resets it to its base 1M points value.
It is possible to start the Tron Double Scoring mode from the T-R-O-N targets during Quorra Multiball.
This will double the values of both the jackpots, the value added to the super jackpot and the super jackpot itself when you collect it.
The display also tells you to shoot Flynn's Arcade to double all the jackpots, but we tried it and it didn't seem to double them, so who knows...?
We said Quorra Multiball started as a two-ball mode, but you can increase that up to the maximum of four balls (there are only four balls installed in the machine).
If you shoot the Recognizer 3-bank, you will be shown the number of hits on the targets remaining until a ball is added.
To add a ball you need to shoot the recognizer target bank 3 times.
Then, to add the final ball, shoot it another 3 times. Once you have added both remaining balls, the Recognizer target bank lowers, so you can't hit it any more. This also makes the shot to the right inner loop for super jackpots a little easier, since the target bank blocks part of the entry to the inner loop lane.
Of course, you might choose to keep the add-a-ball feature in reserve just in case you lose one of the initial two balls and are in danger of ending multiball. Adding a ball right at the end will keep multiball going.
Another way to add an additional ball is to start another multiball. If the other multiball is also a two-ball mode, you will get a total of three balls in play. If it is a three-ball mode, all the balls will be used.
However you play it and how ever many balls you have in play, the collection of jackpots followed by a super jackpot continues until you have only one ball left, at which point Quorra Multiball ends.
Starting Quorra Multiball by shooting the left loop lane five times followed by the scoop is what you need to get the Quorra insert on the progress ladder flashing.
To get it lit solidly, you have to collect one super jackpot at the right inner loop lane.
The sixth insert on the ladder is a little unusual, because it ties in with one of the inserts higher up - one of the easiest to collect, and one you'll almost certainly light first.
Let's explain that.
The blue disc inserts on the progress ladder and on the major shots relate to Disc Multiball.
Disc Multiball is the main multiball mode in the game, but to get there you have to pass through two preliminary stages. The first of these involves getting past the Recognizer target bank
As we mentioned in part one, all three targets act as one large target, so it doesn't matter which you hit, they all register and count down the number of hits remaining before the targets lower.
The first time you build towards Disc Multiball, it takes four hits on the target bank to lower it. These can be physical hits, or you can be awarded a virtual hit by the Advance Recognizer mystery award at the scoop.
This reduces the number of hits on the target bank by one, and you can also be given the Complete Recognizer award which instantly completes all the remaining hits.
In the absence of such help, you shoot the target bank and see a display animation of a Recognizer either flying towards or away from you, with the number of shots remaining as the background.
There appears to be a missing space in the middle line of text and the line spacing is also not perfect, but these should be easy fixes in the next update.
We mentioned how the Recognizer insert on the progress ladder also ties in to this feature and it is made to flash or lit solidly by shooting the recognizer targets. Just one shot to any of the three targets is enough to flash the Recognizer insert, and getting the target bank to lower makes the insert light fully. See, I said it was the easiest of the lot to light.
With the target bank down, we move to the second stage of the build-up - the one which will take us into Disc Multiball.
As soon as the target bank goes down, the disc starts spinning. It makes quite a loud noise so even if you're in the middle of a different mode when it happens you'll certainly hear the motor and feel the buzz through the flipper buttons.
It only took four shots to the target bank finish stage one, but it's seven shots into the spinning disc arena to qualify Disc Multiball.
The display sees a return to the method of showing a short video clip and then dimming the final frame to use it as a background for the informational text. Unfortunately, it nearly always has the disadvantage of creating a somewhat blobby and unrecognisable mess as the backing, and the same is true here. To be fair, the transition to the dimmed version is instant as the text comes up, but it's never been a very successful technique and we hoped we'd seen the last of it.
There are some nice clips from the disc battle section of the movie and they work well in full brightness to convey your progress through the challenge to reach the ultimate goal.
Make that final shot and as Sam somersaults through the hole in the battle arena floor, Disc Multiball begins and you get an instant 2M points reward.
Disc Multiball is a three ball mode and it cannot be combined with any other multiballs. If Quorra or Light Cycle multiballs are running, you cannot advance any further towards Disc Multiball until they both end. Similarly, once Disc Multiaball is running, neither of the other two can be started.
The objective is to collect ten discs by shooting any of the flashing blue disc shots - the left orbit, the left ramp, the left inner loop, the right inner loop, the right ramp and the right orbit - or the spinning disc again.
Shooting one of the blue disc shots scores the disc jackpot value which starts at 250K and increases by 25K each time you collect it, and reduces the number of disc remaining by one.
Shooting a blue disc shot turn off the disc insert, so you can't keep shooting the left ramp over and over, for example.
If you go for the spinning disc instead, you still collect a disc but you only score a fixed 100K, although you do raise the next Disc Multiball jackpot value by 25K and, perhaps more importantly, you relight any blue disc shots which you've already collected and turned off.
Eventually you have collected all ten discs and are ready for the next level of Disc Multiball.
This one's a bit easier and the clues about where to shoot are given by the flashing red Recognizer insert and the fact the three-bank has now risen again.
Each shot on the Recognizer target bank scores a 500K double jackpot and three double jackpots are available to collect.
Once the third of the three shots to the target bank is registered, the bank drops again to reveal the spinning disc and the shot to collect the super jackpot.
Pop the ball onto the spinning disc and you collect a super jackpot value worth the total of the ten disc jackpots and the three double jackpots.
This can range between 2.5M and 5.125M for regular scoring, or up to 20.5M if you kept double scoring running throughout, doubling the jackpots, double jackpots and the super jackpot.
With the super jackpot collected, it's back to picking up those ten discs again with the base jackpot reset to 250K.
We continue collecting ten jackpots, three double jackpots and the super jackpot until you've only got one ball left in play, when Disc Multiball ends.
With the Recognizer lighting during the early stages, you need to progress some way through Disc Multiball to flash the disc insert and then light it solidly.
Collecting the ten discs and their associated jackpots is the target if you want to get the blue disc insert on the ladder to flash. After that, the first super jackpot you score lights it solidly.
Only two more inserts to light on our way to the Portal and the next on the ladder is the light cycle.
There are six square light cycle inserts positioned on the playfield in front of the two orbits, the two inner loops and the two ramps. At the start of the game, all six flash and shooting any of the shots extinguishes the insert and counts down towards Light Cycle Multiball.
The first time through, you only need four light cycle shots which means you can miss out whichever are the most difficult two for you and still qualify it.
When you're done, shoot the Arcade scoop to start it.
CLU launches himself in the air and initiates his light cycle as the battle begins.
After collecting 150K for starting Light Cycle Multiball, another ball is auto-launched for a total of two, unless you also start Quorra in which case you'll get three balls in play.
There's a certain lack of any instructions on the display, so you need to look down at the playfield where you'll find three of the six light cycle inserts are now lit - the left and right ramps and the right orbit - and shots to them score jackpots of 350K each. To go with the jackpot you also get a nice animation of two battling light cycles.
While initially three of the six yellow Light Cycle inserts are lit for jackpots, they extinguish when shot and start to light the other three for jackpots, so that only three are ever lit at once - the last three you shot stay off.
While shooting jackpots is all well and good, we know there are better awards hiding inside the game and to get them we have to start making combo jackpot shots.
If you remember, the two light cycle toys are mounted over the two ramps.
So it makes sense that the ramps should be where we find the good stuff and that is indeed the case.
If you shoot the left ramp for a regular jackpot, when the ball is returned to the right flipper, the left inner loop's Quorra insert flashes for a couple of seconds. If you shoot it during this time you score a super jackpot of 750K.
The left inner loop leads to the upper flipper, of course, and this sets you up for a shot to the right ramp. It here that you'll find even greater rewards in the form of a double super jackpot.
The values of the jackpots, super jackpots and double super jackpots are all fixed and don't increase once you've collected the double super jackpot. So you keep collecting them until you lose too many balls and Light Cycle Multiball comes to an end.
Collecting the initial Light Cycle shots and starting Light Cycle Multiball as the scoop is what you need to accomplish in order to get the Light Cycle insert to flash on the progress ladder. Collecting a double super jackpot, or two super jackpots will light that insert solidly.
In certain circumstances the Light Cycle insert doesn't flash when it should in this version of the software. But if you remember when you've played Light Cycle Multiball you can imagine it is flashing, and it does light solidly when it is supposed to.
That leaves us just one remaining insert to light, and the name of this one is also the name of the machine.
The Tron feature consists of three scoring-enhancing modes; Double Scoring, Super Pops and Super Spinners. All three are timed modes, lasting thirty seconds by default, although the duration of all three can be changed in the Tron-specific area of the adjustments menu.
The three modes are shown by inserts in front of the four T-R-O-N standup targets.
The lit mode is started by spelling T-R-O-N by hitting the appropriate standup targets to light the letters. When all four letters are lit, the Tron mode starts instantly. Sometimes this can happen when there are other animations on the display in which case the mode start display is not shown.
However, as we said earlier, there is a much easier way to start Tron modes because if the ball rolls over the Zen switch to the right of the Arcade scoop, just one hit on any of the targets will light all the letters and start the mode.
If a mode is currently running its insert is lit solidly, and if it is the next mode to play, the insert flashes. The next mode is normally the next lowest insert on the playfield, so if you start Super Pops, the next mode will be Super Spinners. This can be changed by the pop bumpers but it won't change to any mode which is already running unless all three are running, in which case it boosts the time remaining on the next mode started.
We also mentioned at the start of this review how there are timer bars at the bottom of the score area of the display which give a visual indication of the time remaining for the Tron modes. There are three bars for the three modes, and they represent the modes in this order:
This order matches the order of the inserts on the playfield, although the naming is a little different with 'Bumpers' on the insert instead of the 'Super Pops' shown on the display, and 'Spinners' rather than 'Super Spinners'.
Double Scoring does what it says on the display and is the default mode at the start of the game.
Double Scoring is potentially the most valuable of all the Tron modes, doubling jackpots and jackpots as well as smaller scores for as long as it is running. However, it is not always easy to start a Tron mode when you need it. During Light Cycle Multiball, for example, the T-R-O-N targets don't add letters but you can start a Tron mode with the Zen feature followed by a shot at the targets. So choosing the right moment to start Double Scoring is vital.
Super Pops triples the value of the pop bumpers. These start the game scoring 10K and increase by 1K after 25 bumper hits. The display shows how many bumper hits remain.
There is often so much happening on the display that you can easily miss the pop bumper value building. So it can come as something of a surprise when the pop bumpers are suddenly worth 45K a hit or more, thanks to Super Pops.
Super Spinner applies the same 3x multiplier to the value of the two spinners which also start with the same 10K value as the pop bumpers and appear to increase in line with them.
Super Spinner is probably the least exciting of the three Tron modes when all you'll normally want is Double Scoring, but you do have to play all three modes if you want to light the Tron insert on the progress ladder. Completing the T-R-O-N letters once and starting one mode is enough to flash it but you need all three to make it solid.
You can take a shortcut to achieving this by banking your Zen features. Zen normally starts a Tron mode with one hit, but if you don't shoot the T-R-O-N targets but instead send the ball over the Zen rollover again to collect more Zen awards, you can bank three of them and, with just one shot to the T-R-O-N targets, start all three Tron modes one after the other.
With all nine of the required tasks completed, it's time to play the wizard mode.
So now is the time to skip the wizard mode section by clicking here if you don't want to read about what happens, and would like to find out for yourself.
Tron works a little like Iron Man by having a sub-wizard mode which you get to play if you haven't completed all the features, and a main wizard mode only accessible once you have. In Tron the operation is slightly different as the sub-wizard mode is really there to help you complete those features you still lack.
If you have solidly lit only some of the progress ladder inserts while the others are flashing, your next visit to the scoop will start Sea of Simulation. If you had all the inserts fully lit however, you'll skip this part and go straight to The Portal.
Sea of Simulation
The first thing you see in Sea of Simulation is the intro animation as Sam Flynn says "Oh man, I'm all over this!".
Sea of Simulation is a single ball mode where our task is to complete all those inserts not lit solidly, which will qualify us for the main wizard mode - The Portal.
Before we can do that, though, we get a number of large points awards which build up depending on the number of solidly lit inserts on the ladder. The first one scores one million, the second one two million and so on, starting at the bottom of the ladder and working up until it reaches an inset which isn't solidly lit, where it stops.
So you can see the value of reaching Sea of Simulation with a good number of inserts fully lit. In addition, if you have Doube Scoring running, these bonuses are also doubles, which is extra nice. Each award is accompanied by an "Ooh!" sound which rises in pitch as the scores increase in value, making it sound rather orgasmic. Or maybe that's just me.
Unfortunately though, all these points are awarded in one lump right at the start of Sea of Simulation, so you don't get to see your score increase with each display. This seems to be a common failing with Stern software and it takes much of the mystery out of mystery awards when you see the points added to your score even before the award has supposedly been chosen. The one benefit is if your Double Scoring mode times out while the display and sound effects are being played, since it doesn't matter because you've already received your points right at the start.
Anyway, your job is to shoot the lit shots relating to the features you had flashing coming into Sea of Simulation. The six Light Cycle shots are all lit if you didn't light the Light Cycle insert solidly for example.
The recogniser will always be lit by this stage, but the other shots are:
Flynn - shoot the scoop once
Gem - Shoot the Gem shot once
CLU - Shoot each CLU shot once
Zuse - Hit each Z-U-S-E target once
Quorra - Shoot the Quorra inner loop once
Disc - Shoot each blue disc shot once
Light Cycle - Shoot each light cycle shot once
Tron - shoot each of the T-R-O-N targets once
Collect the indicated shots and the appropriate insert lights until you either get them all, or lose the ball.
As you solidly light the inserts, the million+ award given at the start of Sea of Simulation continues working its way up the feature ladder as you fill in the missing steps. So if you only had the first four lit, as soon as you complete Quorra you get the 5M for her, plus 6M for the disc if that is lit and so on. Again, as soon as a non-solid insert if reached, the million+ points awards pause until it becomes solid.
You only get to play Sea of Simulation once before you reach The Portal. If you don't get all the inserts on the ladder lit during Sea of Simulation, those you missed go out and you have to light them by completing their associated mode in the normal way and you miss out on the million+ awards for them.
Whether you do it during regular play or during Sea of Simulation, once you solidly light all nine inserts on the progress ladder, the tenth - Portal - lights and its insert flashes at the Arcade scoop.
If you played Sea of Simulation on the way here, you got all those lovely million+ points for every solid insert on the ladder. It would be odd if you didn't get them if you played well enough to go straight to The Portal. Sure enough, if you haven't played Sea of Simulation, you get all the same awards (and all the same sound effects) at the start of The Portal.
Once those are played out, The Portal begins properly.
As Sam and Quorra reach their destination and are beamed up by The Portal, you are awarded a further million points and a four-ball multiball begins.
Portal Multiball consists of two discrete stages.
In the first stage, the lowest insert is lit in front of four of the major shots - The left orbit, the left ramp, the right inner loop and the right ramp. That means the Clu insert lights on the left orbit, while the light cycles light on the two ramps and the right inner loop since they don't have Clu inserts.
Shooting any of the lit shots collects the current shot value, adds the same points to the super jackpot, increases the shot value by 50K and moves the shot's lit insert to the next highest one.
The idea is to keep shooting each lit shot so you work through all the inserts and reach the red arrow. Each shot scores the current shot value and increases it by 50K up to a maximum of 1.5M.
After you have lit and collected the Clu (where available), Light Cycle and blue disc inserts, the red arrow insert on the shot lights. This also scores the current shot value and increases it by 50K, but it also adds a ball into play if you have lost any.
And even if you haven't lost any, you do get a very short ball saver activated. When we say short, we mean it. If the launched ball goes all the way round the orbit and straight down the middle, the ball saver will have deactivated by the time it drains. So the best thing is to be ready for the added ball and make sure you flip it with the upper flipper.
Another thing you might like to shoot for is...
Yes, the T-R-O-N targets still function to start the Tron modes Double Scoring, Super Pops and Super Spinner.
Double Scoring not only earns double the current shot value, but it adds that double value to the super jackpot, and those extra points stay in the super jackpot even after Double Scoring ends.
Once you have collected all the lit inserts on a shot, they remain out until you complete all the remaining shots. At the start of Portal Multiball only four of the shots are lit, but once you start collecting lit inserts, the other two - the right orbit and the left inner loop - join in the fun and become available making 21 shots to collect in total, topping out at 1.5M points.
When the final shot is collected, the super jackpot you have been amassing is now available.
The disc has been spinning all through Portal Multiball but whereas previously it was just another way to drain the ball, now it's worth some serious points as the light inserts strobing up the feature ladder indicate.
Of course, starting Double Scoring is a must before collecting the super jackpot if you want to maximise your score.
With the super jackpot collected, we move on to stage two of Portal Multiball and it comes as something of an anti-climax when you find out that all red arrow shots are now worth one million points, as is the spinning disc and, err... that's it.
Yes, all the major shots and the disc now score a million points until you are down to one ball. You can still start any of the Tron modes including Double Scoring to make them two million, but that's about as exciting as it gets.
When you do lose all the remaining balls in play but one, Portal Multiball ends.
Judging by the lack of rules and the general absence of information or embellishments to the display frames, Portal Multiball may not be entirely finished in this version of the software.
When you return to regular play, all the inserts on the feature ladder go out. However, it is possible to start relighting them during Portal Multiball, so if you started some Tron modes you might find the Tron insert flashing or lit. The same for Flynn if you shot the lit arrow after rolling over the Zen switch. The Recognizer target bank remains down throughout Portal Multiball, so you can't light that or start any of the other multiball modes, so it's probably just Flynn and Tron you can begin to build.
Now we'll take a brief pause as those who skipped the Wizard Mode section rejoin us.
Welcome back and we now look at one additional feature Tron has to keep us entertained and improve our scores.
Although not an essential part of the gameplay, Combos do feature and can be quite lucrative if well executed.
After making any of the six major shots (those with the red arrow inserts on them), all the arrows flash briefly to allow you to start making a combo sequence. Each combo scores its own points, but to cash in you need to shoot the Arcade Scoop to wrap up the sequence and collect an End of Line bonus.
A single shot followed by a shot to the scoop brings you the minimum value of 500K.
The more shots you string together, the higher the End of Line jackpot value, but the value will build with every combo sequence you make, even if you don't collect the End of Line jackpot at the end.
You do need to collect the jackpot as part of a combo sequence before the ball drains though, or it is lost and resets to 500K on the next ball.
Combo displays seem to have the lowest priority of all, and since there's nearly always some other feature to advance or score on each shot, you'll be lucky to see them. Just look for the flashing arrows instead, and remember that these, like most things in the game, can be boosted by a bit of Double Scoring.
Inevitably though, the ball must eventually find its way under the apron and into the ball trough, and that can only mean one thing...
Unusually, the end-of-ball bonus is not based on the number of switch closures made during the game.
No, instead you start with a fixed value of 50K which doesn't increase for subsequent balls.
Then, added to that are fixed values depending on which inserts on the progress ladder you got flashing or lit solidly.
If you didn't get any and didn't build up the bonus multiplier, that's all the bonus you get.
If you do manage to flash or light any of the inserts you get some additional points which are shown in the top half of the display, with the total so far below.
Each flashing insert on the progress ladder adds 50K to the bonus.
Meanwhile, each solidly lit insert boosts your bonus by 250K.
The awards are shown in the order of the progress ladder, starting at the bottom with Flynn and then progressing through Gem, Clu, Zuse, Quorra, Disc, Light Cycle, Recognizer and Tron.
In addition, further points are added if you made it to either Sea of Simulation or The Portal. Reaching Sea of Simulation will earn you 450K points at the end of every ball for the remainder of the game, while getting to The Portal piles on a extra 2.25M points which is equivalent to the nine solidly-lit inserts you achieved to reach The Portal which were extinguished when the wizard mode finished.
So if you make it The Portal you've already got a pretty nice bonus, but there's more to come because every shot to the right inner loop increased your bonus multiplier by 1x. The right inner loop isn't the easiest shot to make but if you've already built up a nice bonus it certainly makes sense to keep trying for it.
and so on, up to...
Although the display doesn't reflect it, the bonus count can also doubled if you have Double Scoring running when you collect it. The score does increase by double the bonus, but the values shown on the right of the display are only single value.
As usual, the actual bonus points are not added until after the total is shown (or if you achieved a high score, after you've entered your initials), which is in contrast to other parts of the game such as mystery awards or wizard mode bonuses which are awarded before the display even tells you what they were.
As you can see, a decent bonus can form a significant part of your score, and while the bonus multiplier resets to 1x at the start of the next ball, all the bonus points earned form the flashing and lit inserts never go away, and only build during the remainder of the game.
If this was your last ball though, the only thing to be decided is whether you win a free game or not.
The match animation features the iconic Light Cycle zooming past us, with the voiceover saying "match event" as the two digits are revealed.
Once again, we have the standard means of progressing through the game - the central ladder of features which need to be started or completed to reach the very top and the wizard mode.
Tron adds a few twists to the traditional formula though, and manages to make the game more accessible - and generally more enjoyable - as a result.
Changing the way the inserts indicate whether a feature has merely been played or whether it has been completed makes a certain sense. It follows the natural pattern of:
More importantly, though, allowing access to the wizard mode in two different ways - directly to The Portal by excelling in each feature, or by successfully navigating through the Sea of Simulation - gives more players hope of reaching the ultimate goal, while rewarding those who do it the proper way.
The quality of the various features varies. two of the three Tron modes are not worth aiming for other than to light the Tron insert, and the Portal wizard mode's second stage feels unfinished and something of an afterthought. Light Cycle Multiball is quite fun if you can make the ramp combos, but Quorra Multiball is run-of-the mill and unexceptional.
In fact none of the features are that inspired in themselves, but Tron doesn't feel as though it should be played one mode at a time. No, the key to having fun in Tron is stacking features. The software allows you to do this most of the time, and the sounds and lights reward you with a pretty intense show if you do. Your score really shoots up once you combine multiballs and throw in a couple of timed modes to spice things up.
The more you stack, the quicker you find yourself lighting those progress ladder inserts and before you know it you're diving into the Sea of Simulation.
Tron also seems a little friendlier than some recent Stern offerings. It's not constantly trying to throw the ball down the side and seems to want you to have at least a half-decent game for your money.
Where it needs to improve is in conveying more information to the player about what they have to do, and just as importantly, why. Right from the very start, there's no information on the display about skill shot choices, nothing about what Zen does (although perhaps you're just supposed to know that one), and when you start Light Cycle Multiball, there's no information given at all.
Perhaps these things will come in time, but their current absence just takes the edge of what could be a very player-friendly game.
There's no arguing that Tron the movie plays very heavily on the visual feel of the characters and the environment. In such a highly stylised world, the light cycles, the disc battle arena, the End of Line bar and The Portal provide plenty of bespoke and recognisable images, and a decent assortment of snappy video clips and still images to raid for the dot matrix display.
It's somewhat surprising, therefore, to find that the display effects are probably the weakest part of the game.
That's not to say are there aren't some dramatic and highly effective visuals in there, but some of them fall a little flat. Follow Gem, for example, is just a series of still images with almost no images of Gem at all, while there are just too many plain text messages with no adornment or graphic treatment.
We mentioned the timer bars in the score area of the display above and while a little obscure, they do more or less succeed in conveying the amount of time remaining in their respective modes.
Their need springs from the stacking of multiple modes and features, and the congestion that causes on the display. Many times, the start displays for the Tron modes are pushed so far down the waiting list they are junked altogether, so the timer bars are the only things to let you know a Tron mode is running.
There's probably no perfect solution to this problem with such limited screen space. Disallowing so much stacking detracts from the fun of the game, while cutting some animations short to display others looks messy and confusing. Perhaps Stern need to either come up with a larger display, or have really short versions of display animations which run into each other and can be used when there are a lot of effects waiting to play out.
As with the display effects, the movie has to be the starting point for assets to use in Tron - the pinball.
Taking place largely in a computer-generated world, everything which moves in the movie has a whoosh, click, clunk or explosion sound effect. If you've got the effects library discs, you're well on your way to recreating that world in the pinball system.
The speech is harder though. With no custom voice work by any of the actors, you're restricted to using semi-relevent speech clips from the movie, augmented by sound-alikes for the few pinball-specific calls such as those for a multiball being lit, a high score being achieved or the match animation.
Using audio clips from the film certainly helps tie the game very closely to the movie, but it also adds to the lack of clarity about the rules. If the key voices in the game can't tell you what to do, you have to rely on the display or the playfield lights, and as we've already seen, the display can sometimes not give you that information either.
There are some standout voice calls though, particularly from Michael Sheen's ebullient Zuse character who manages to achieve the near-impossible feat of stressing every word he says.
We always say you really need to be able to hear a pinball and Tron is no different. There are even specific sounds you need to listen out for, such as the Zen rollover switch effect which tells you you've added a Zen shot in the bank to be used at the appropriate time.
Musically, the game contains a good mix of tracks, with three from Daft Punk and the remainder being original music for the game from David Thiel. The most recognisable Daft Punk tracks are the Tron Legacy (End Titles) as the main gameplay music, C.L.U for Terminate Clu and Derezzed during Quorra Multiball, but C.L.U. also turns up again in the bonus count music.
The custom tracks blend in seamlessly with the Daft Punk music and help prevent the tone becoming too dark and slowing down the pace of the game, making this one of the best games musically of recent times and on a par with The Rolling Stones which takes some doing given the source material for that game.
The visually striking Tron environment is perfectly-suited for large-scale print such as pinball cabinets and backglasses. The Light Cycle battle images are bold and colourful enough to fill the cabinet sides with just the smallest addition of the Tron:Legacy logo.
These are presumably composited from images supplied by Disney as part of the licensing deal, such as this one:
Nevertheless, a good picture is a good picture, and there's no point paying someone to recreate pre-existing artwork you get included with the licence. The images of Gem and Quorra on the backbox sides reminds us this is Tron:Legacy and not any previous (or indeed, future) movie.
Including a 3D translite in the game is a nice touch and looks quite effective in making the game look a little more modern. As we noted in the first part of this review, it works best for smaller objects and not so well for the large disc or Jeff Bridges' face where the depth appears to change in vertical bands across the image element.
Down on the playfield, the artwork has to be customised for the pinball layout and to match the rules.
Again, we see a mix of Disney-supplied elements, such as the battling light cycles behind the main flippers...
...and all the character images, blended with original artwork created in accordance with the Tron style guide. Some of the icons on the inserts, the Recognizer, Clu and the Light Cycle for instance, look almost comic book in their relative simplicity and flat colours, but the blue/black background picked out with yellow accents certainly says Tron.
As you can see in the picture below, dark base colour of the playfield does produce a few problems for the general illumination resulting in some dimly lit areas leading up to the two orbit shots.
But the large central progress ladder and the plethora of inserts flanking it help to mitigate the problem by increasing the ball's visibility as it passes over them.
In keeping with the two-colour theme, the flashers on the left side of the game are yellow, and those on the right are blue. These site on, or adjacent to, the ramps for the appropriate light cycle.
The left orbit, ramp and inner loop receive plenty of light thanks to some handily-placed GI lamps, but their companions on the right side aren't quite so well lit due to the pop bumpers taking up most of the free space on that side. Not that it matters so much, as the inner loop and ramp entrance are quite well hidden anyway.
There are just six GI lamps on the backboard these days, but they still do an effective job of providing the backdrop to the main playfield action. Less effective are the lamps in the Tron video game cabinet. They struggle to attract attention when they are flashing away which isn't any great surprise considering they are inside a black plastic box. So home owners should look for a better crafted replacement for the video game cabinet and make sure it supports internal lighting.
Down at the flippers, the areas which matter have plenty of light and, as we noted before, almost appear to glow thanks to the artwork on the inlanes. It's a little dark behind the flippers, but it's a too late to be concerned about controlling the ball when it's down there unless you're into bangbacks or deathsaves.
At last, a game with an upper flipper. And with that upper flipper come plenty of comparisons with other upper-flippered games such as Rollergames, Funhouse, The Addams Family and so on.
Naturally there are some similarities in the design. If you put an upper flipper on a game you have to give it something at which to shoot, be it a ramp (Rollergames), a lane (Funhouse) or both (The Addams Family).
Apart from the upper flipper, Tron sees the return of the motorised target bank and the spinning disc. This latter feature has some unique characteristics which improve the grip and the illumination of the disc's surface.
The left inner loop is a fairly new shot for Stern to employ and is a nice way to feed the upper flipper. The right inner loop is less effective mainly because it's so well hidden behind the right ramp and the pop bumpers that it's largely a matter of faith whether the ball made it up the lane or not.
The addition of a second inlane on the right moves the centre line of the playfield way over to the left but this doesn't seem to matter too much because there are no real centre shots. The Recognizer target bank and the spinning disc behind are shifted to the right, the left inner loop is off to the left. Plus, this also allows the extra Arcade Scoop and Zen switch to be placed on the right side.
With the lack of any top rollovers, it would have been nice to have something to shoot at the very top of the game, something like the The Wall feature in Indianapolis 500 where a hard shot can lead to a special feature not accessible from a weak flip.
Back in The Rolling Stones review we bemoaned the lack of playfield mechanisms on a game with just a moving standup target. With Tron we are starting to get some of these mechs return to the game.
But it's still early days.
The upper flipper doesn't so much give us more possibilities for shots, it adds some variety to those shots. Tron effectively has ten main shots from the three flippers - the six arrowed shots, the Tron targets, the Recognizer/disc, the Zuse targets and the Arcade Scoop. On that same basis, the two-flippered The Rolling Stones had nine.
Both games play to their strengths when it comes to using the assets which come with the licence. For Tron that means the characters, the colours, the music and the storyline.
The story is the starting point and Tron makes you Sam Flynn, puts you in the computer seat and fires the digitising ray at you. As Sam, you do most of the same things he does in the movie. You get captured by the Recognizer, race Light Cycles, battle with identity discs, find Flynn Sr., go with Quorra, follow Gem, meet Zuse fight Clu, get some help from Tron and head for The Portal by flying over the Sea of Simulation.
These tasks ensure you keep to the film's plot, which is great if you're a big fan. But it also asks those unfamiliar with the movie to just accept certain situations and relationships and play through them. It's a trait of any licence, but the more closely you adhere to the movie, the more you risk alienating non-fans.
Tron has to be one of the most stylised movies of recent years (probably since Sin City) and those blue/yellow battles and races continue to identify with The Grid. The pinball version keeps to this branding on the cabinet and playfield without going over-the-top and compromising the gameplay because of it.
When Tron was first mooted, advocates of the licence were highly vocal that the game must contain one key thing from the movie. Thankfully it does. The music abides.
Daft Punk's soundtrack was as distinctive as the look and drove the movie forward when it could have bogged down in sentimentality. No such problem in the pinball version as there's rarely a quiet moment, but still the music kicks it up a notch at the important moments. It's not all from Daft Punk, of course. Only three tracks make it past the accountant's red pen, but they are the ones most people would choose and the complementary music from David Thiel is just that.
The final point of note is the way the rules encourage you to combine various features, modes and multiballs. If you can keep the game going, pretty soon you're caught up in a frantic maelstrom of jackpots, super jackpots and points flying in all directions. This is when the game really shines. You may not know exactly what is happening, but you are having fun.
That's all the good stuff. Where the game struggles a little is in the depth or enjoyment of the individual modes' rules, and in some of the display effects which appear rushed or unfinished at times. These two areas could be addressed in future software upgrades, of course, and yet the existence of a Limited Edition model suggests Stern won't be expending too much more effort on improving the regular model.
Before we wrap up this review, it's worth expanding on that point about Limited Edition models. We have personal knowledge of several people who were excited about buying a Tron when it was first suggested. They continued to be excited as details emerged and were reported here. They seemed to be certain to buy new-in-box Tron games as soon as they were available.
And yet, none of them bought Trons.
The reason? The existence of a Limited Edition version. The LE was out of their price range, but none of them wanted to own the 'second class' version of the game they would get if they bought the Pro model. So their money stayed in the bank.
Doubtless Stern have done the sums and worked out that they make more money from the LE sales than they lose by not making those Pro sales, but it's worth bearing in mind those potential buyers have gone down the route of almost buying the game only to be let down - in their eyes - by Stern. They may not be willing to go through that again.
And don't forget, Stern are no longer the only game in town.
Finally, we come to that part of the review where we give our ratings to the individual elements of the game and come up with a total for the game as a whole.
While most of the details in this review are objective and factual, these rating are entirely subjective, describing our feelings about the game, how it plays and how much fun we had playing it.
Each element is scored out of a maximum of 10 points. If a game gets a 10, then it’s the best we’ve ever seen in that category. Consequently, it’s pretty rare to see a 10. Scoring an 8 means that element is 80% as good as the best example we've ever seen, which is pretty good too. You get the idea.
Once again, we have waited for a stable production version of the software before writing about it. Sometimes we review an earlier version and try to avoid taking Stern to task over elements we're sure will be fixed in an upcoming version, but this is the version with which most export machines in the initial batch were shipped.
Editor's Ratings for Tron:Legacy
Don’t get upset if our ratings don’t match your own – it’s quite unlikely you’ll think exactly the same way we do. You should, however, be able to see why we rated them as we did if you’ve read right through this review and noted our comments along the way.
Finally, a huge thanks to Evert Brochez and his family for their help and hospitality in the making of this review.
With that, we end this in-depth review of Tron. Thank you for reading it. We hope you enjoyed it and we'll be back soon with our in-depth review of Stern's Transformers game.
Share your comments with other readers by sending us your thoughts with the message box below:
© Pinball News 2011