Jay Stuckwisch, marketing director over at Twisted Pixel Games, gets serious for a moment, looks me right in the eye, and says, “We’re not talking about that right now.”
Of course, that doesn’t last. He is, after all, here at E3 promoting LocoCycle, a video game about a talking motorcycle with an unlucky fellow named Pablo hopelessly stuck to her chassis. But that is what happens when you ask about Pablo’s pants. In the game, I.R.I.S., the aforementioned chatty bike, is cruising at almost 200 miles per hour with Pablo dragging behind her as she shoots at cars and melee battles flying robots. Normally you get a response like this when you ask about multiplayer (there is none), but not in this case. Those pants, man.
There is, of course, more to it than that. In my time spent with the game with a show floor demo, I went through a few stages and got a feel for the game. Not much was presented in the way of hints at what the narrative might bring—still no sign of Robert Patrick’s S.P.I.K.E., the primary antagonist—but I do have a better idea now of what the gameplay is laying down on the line.
Running on an Xbox One, I get to put my hands on one of the new fancy controllers. It feels nice and all but the gratuitous amount of crashing I’m doing as I gain control over I.R.I.S. is rather distracting. She is rather squirrely and takes some getting used to. This particular mission opens with me and Pablo taking a leisurely drive through a canyon/desert area while, I dunno, twirling katana missiles embed themselves into the ground around me. With this do-or-die lesson presented to me, I was obviously going the dying route.
I.R.I.S. handles a lot like an actual vehicle in that when you push a certain direction, she goes through a gradient of steering. Rather than snapping to the degree of your stick movement, she leans into it like a real motorcycle would handle (a “deliberate design decision,” according to Stuckwisch). And when you release, she doesn’t immediately snap back to neutral; she somewhat slowly saddles back up to the middle. If you’re not careful or just used to steering things like a Halo Warthog or a Forza car, you can oversteer and erroneously correct to the point of exploding. Once you get the hang of it, though, it feels very natural, almost rewarding in a way when you dodge a bomb with a graceful arc.
There’s a boost button, but I didn’t get much use out of it. Or at least, I didn’t see the point of it. There seems to be two discrete types of combat: air melee and ground shooting. Cars will often come up and get in front of you while shoot back or throwing stuff at you, but you can fight back with your guns (which can overheat). Boosting up to them to get just a couple of Pablo attacks in never felt worth the effort, so I just gunned them down instead. And then when flying cyborgs or motorcycle lackeys come up around you, you just start pressing one of the two attack buttons and you immediately jump in the air and don’t come back down until you’re done—or get hit.
When you fight said cybernetic foes, you press X for an I.R.I.S. attack and Y for a Pablo attack, the former being a direct tactic and the latter seemingly one for groups. You can pull off combos and have a meter for the number of consecutive hits you land (eventually gaining fire tires and status like OVERWHELMING and BRUTALin various, amazing WordArt-like treatments), but I don’t think I ever did any on purpose. I am sure, though, that when a little warning icon pops up over an enemy, if you press A, you’ll counter the attack and see a nice little ridiculous animation.
My impression before playing the demo was that it would play a lot faster than it does, but the combat is actually quite slow. It focuses on getting those counters in and moving between dudes with your attacks. From what I played, it can get pretty fun, but its longevity remains to be seen. Though every once in a while, you’d get a timed objective like destroy a certain car or all of the enemies to get bonus points, so that might help.
At the end of each stage, you get graded on your performance from your accuracy to number of kills to your combo string. The highest I got was a C and I thought I was doing pretty well, so there’s obviously some nuance to be found here. And despite these clear delineating screens, you roll (badum, chssh!) pretty quickly and seamlessly into the next mission, so it seems like it’ll be pretty hard to stop in the same way it’s hard to stop playing a Call of Duty campaign.
The very last bit you play is all about Pablo. I.R.I.S. seems to be immobilized and needs repairs to get going again. Pablo can get it done, but there’s a large 18-wheeler barreling towards the duo. There are several areas that are all busted up and need to be fixed, all of which are represented in the corner of the screen (along with a meter showing how close the truck of doom is). You’ll push the stick in a direction to move Pablo that way and look for things to patch up which will then present you with a little WarioWare-style minigame of screwing screws or rewiring wires or welding…things.
This, at first, is pretty cool. There are no prompts that come up to tell you what to do, so it can be a little frustrating at first, but it’s intuitive enough that after the first repair, you’ll have no problem with the others. It does, however, go on a bit long. Between looking for where I.R.I.S. is all busted up and actually fixing her up and then checking how close the truck is, you’ll be worn out by the end of it all. But it does add quite a bit of variety that I wasn’t expecting, so it’s appreciated all the same.
This little changeup also highlights the relationship between Pablo and I.R.I.S. Stuckwisch says that it’s to point out that the sentient motorcycle isn’t the sole hero of this adventure and that they will rely on each other to get it done. Seems to make sense given how strangely caring I.R.I.S. can come off as when she talks to Pablo before, during, and after battles, though I’m sure he would love to get better pants, perhaps something with more padding. But I guess they aren’t talking about that right now.