Once more I rise from the dead.
Sorry about the second short break from blogging I took the last few days. The cold I tried to pretend I wasn’t developing during finals week hit me extra hard once the high stress of exam season began to dissipate, and for two days all I could do was sleep and cough my head off.
However, if there was any benefit to take away from sidling the edge of death, it was that I have seen the face of Armageddon and am prepared for our inevitable, collective demise.
An Armageddon that is: Armagetron.
Welcome to a game that I had basically forgotten about until my Macintosh Desktop rescue. The original file had not been opened since 2009, when I discovered it during that sprite animation camp I talked about in my Smash Bros. wallpaper post.
But unlike a lot of the other relics of oughts Jasoncana, Armagetron Advanced is totally rad. After all, it’s a simulator experience based on the light cycle races from 1982’s TRON.
I had this whole plan set out after replaying the game to record footage so I could show off my sweet Armagetron skills, maybe even gif a few seconds of me dunking on computers.
Except turns out I don’t exactly have good screen capture software that doesn’t make the footage come out like this on the other end. Forewarning, this video is very choppy and kind of nauseating.
Was not going to be able to get the high-octane action that I originally wanted out of showing this game off.
Luckily Armagetron isn’t complicated to explain, even if there’s a nice amount of depth under the hood for things like customization. If you’ve seen the race sequence from the original TRON, you know exactly what you’re getting.
You move around a digital grid leaving trails that immediately destroy (or derez) opponents. The aim of the game is to be the last man standing, with points earned for killing opponents and lost for ramming into other light trails or “committing suicide” against arena walls.
On top of customizing the color of your light cycle, Armagetron allows you to set up matches with as many AI (or people given a decent lan party) in as many parties as you want. Everything from the AI’s intellect to the size of the battlefield and the amount of time light trails last can be altered.
For the most part, each trip to the grid feels unique because of the timeless style Tron imbued on its light cycle sequences. It makes for cinematic experiences even in a fairly basic simulation.
It helps that on top a great general style, the game features really crunchy sound effects for the racers speed, doppler echoes as opponents move past and — of course — digital explosions.
Lots and lots of explosions.
Where I would argue Armagetron thrives the most is in its simplicity breeding implicit storytelling. A lot of computer players are named after applications like “word” or “excel,” so it feels as though you’re duking it out with your own computer’s software out for revenge after yet another 2,000 word essay.
Plus, I’m a fan of situations where I need to time my turns and thread the needle:
Or, like you can see in the featured image, those moments when you’re boxed in and have to survive as long as possible driving in a square on the off-chance the AI dies before you run out of room.
Extra graphical touches like sparks when you grind as close to a wall or light trail as possible without killing yourself really sell these scenes:
The amount of times I died just trying to get that feeling of barely evading death are uncountable.
But of course that feeling of narrowly avoiding death is only superseded by the thrill of a well-won victory after pulling off death-defying tricks.
While there isn’t a whole lot to say about Armagetron Advanced past the basics, it still earns my high recommendation. If you want to feel like Jeff Bridges, this isn’t a bad place to start.
In fact, while throwing this little post together, I discovered that the game has gotten updates as recently as 2016.
I haven’t tried it the most recent update since I’m still stuck in the nostalgia trip of my beloved 2009 version, but from screenshots I know there are plenty of different game modes and graphical styles to choose from now.
This fan project stretches all the way back to the original Armagetron in 2004, so there’s a ton of love put into it. Even if it’s not getting much in the way of development recently, I’d still say you should all go support it.
Armagetron Advanced is something that shouldn’t just be derezzed into obscurity.