My introduction to Tron was actually through Monolith Production’s 2003 FPS, Tron 2.0. It was a great game and an unfortunate way to dive in. I later watched Tron and was disappointed that Tron 2.0’s nuanced and deep interpretation of the inner world of computers wasn’t informed by the storytelling from the 1982 film.
That’s not to say Tron isn’t worthwhile. It’s an imaginative setting that feels like an archaic interpretation of what computers would eventually be. Tron: Identity is an unassuming approach to that universe. It’s a visual novel and decidedly a small project made out of love for the property. Playing it, you can almost sense the excitement Bithell Games had for developing the title, and that goes a long way in making Tron: Identity a worthwhile title.
Tron: Identity (PC [reviewed], Switch)
Developer: Bithell Games
Publisher: Bithell Games
Release: April 11, 2023
Taking place in an initially undefined part of the Tron timeline, Tron: Identity puts you in the role of Query, a Disciple of Tron who works without allegiance. Essentially, a private eye. At a place called “The Repository,” someone has blown open a vault and, it’s assumed, made off with something important. No one is quite sure what, and no one really knows why. That’s for you to find out.
Familiarity with the Tron mythos isn’t firmly required, but you’ll be diving in at the deep end without it. The Grid has been left on its own for so long, that the idea of a User has fallen to legend. Some people still believe firmly in these godly figures, while others believe only in programs. You’ll be hit with references of ENCOM, Flynn, and TRON, but the programs you meet along the way are new characters and they don’t have any definitive knowledge of what’s going on. However, the impact of the game’s revelations won’t be as significant without knowledge of what’s happened in the world previously.
Tron: Identity is firmly a visual novel with a light puzzle-solving mini-game. Essentially, some memories got rattled loose from some of the programs you meet, and you “defrag” their identity discs to get these memories back. It’s reasonably fun.
There’s an endless mode where you just play the mini-game, but I’m not sure it’s that cool. It’s definitely a lot better than playing another version of the light cycles again. For that matter, if you’re only here for the story, you can skip the defrag routine entirely and just proceed with the text.
The main meat of the game is the investigation. You have some sway over how things play out, but since a first-run playthrough is maybe 2-3 hours long, there isn’t a lot of opportunity for decision making. The decisions you do end up making are pretty impactful, though Tron: Identity likes to declare exactly where those effects are being felt. That said, they’re not obvious black-and-white moral choices. They’re the type of choices that there isn’t a right answer for, and you’ll likely end up pissing someone off.
The narrative itself is very nuanced and satisfying. Even as someone who isn’t fully immersed in the Tron universe, it gave me a bunch of stuff to chew on and figure out after the game ended. It can sometimes be overly vague, and not being fully indoctrinated, I can’t help but feel I’ve probably missed some things. While this wasn’t a huge problem, there were times when I felt like I was making a decision without all the needed facts. Like Query knew more than I did.
There’s also the possibility that if you found Tron to be a bit hokey, this isn’t going to change your mind. I feel that the world presented does a great job of framing our own, but at the same time, I don’t know why it’s raining in a mainframe. I felt like I needed to suspend disbelief pretty hard everytime a program started showing emotions, but since this isn’t our world, and neither is it trying to be an accurate representation of a computer world, it gets to make the rules.
I really appreciate that Tron: Identity is as short as it is. It makes great use of its runtime, and playing through it again feels like a reasonable prospect. It tells a complete story but leaves things wide open to continue. In many ways, I love that the focus is entirely on the interior of The Grid and leaves out any human interference. It’s a terrific approach.
Its focus is rather admirable. There’s no voice acting, the graphics are rather basic, but everything comes together wonderfully to get the job done. Fans of visual novels have been eating great recently, and Tron: Identity is another great morsel to dig your teeth into. Even if it’s not the most transcendental experience, it’s hard not to be charmed by the amount of love that’s been put into it.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]