Pankaku Inc.’s LightBike is a nifty little clone of the Tron Light Cycles arcade game of yesteryear–in turn inspired by a particular scene in Disney’s swoopy sci-fi classic Tron, starring Mr. Jeff Bridges. LightBike makes an awesome first impression, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not a very substantial game… and it’s going to look even worse when it goes up to its full $2.99 price.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the Light Cycle meme, which has burrowed its way pretty thoroughly into the popular consciousness over the last quarter-century, we’ll run a quick recap. You and three other players are each piloting a LightBike in a square arena. The bikes can only turn at right angles, and they can never slow down or stop.
As they move, they generate a permanent wall that traces their path through the grid; if they run into their own wall, or an opponent’s, they blow up. The last biker standing wins, so the idea is to try to outrun the others and trap them inside your walls. It’s all meant to simulate the relentless precision of data moving around inside of a computer, and it looks pretty darned cool.
LightBike has the Tron business down pat. Every bike is a bright primary color, and the fast action is punctuated by the humming sound effects from the movie. It’s also nice and easy to play; tapping on either side of the screen turns you in that direction, while tapping in the center gives you a temporary speed boost, complete with a cool particle effect.
The game also features an interesting take on multiplayer. Two players can play on a single device using split-screen, and then a third and a fourth can join on another device over WiFi. We haven’t seen anything quite like this before, and we think it’s a great idea.
Unfortunately, when you get down to brass tacks, LightBike is really nothing more than a quick diversion. There are three difficulty levels in the single-player game, and you can beat the first two simply by sticking to the edges of the arena; hard mode takes more skill, but it’s still not what we’d call difficult. Once you’ve mastered the hard mode, you’re done with the game. LightBike doesn’t keep track of your performance, and there’s no level progression, unlockables, or other reason to keep playing.
We can see why LightBike would appeal to those looking for an ultra-casual racing game to play for a minute or two at a time, but even under those circumstances, there are much better options available. We have a feeling that this game’s popularity is going to drop off significantly when it moves from 99 cents to $2.99 in a few days.