Light cycle games have been around for quite around. Although the 1982 classic Tron popularised the genre, high-speed bikes that inexplicitly leave solid trails behind go all the way back to the 70s with games like Barricade and Blockade. A new member in this family is Positron, developed by Retroburn. We played it at PLAY Expo Blackpool 2018.
The concept of Positron is simple: you control a bike that races through a maze, trying to find the exit. On its way, the bike leave a trail behind that is as shiny as is it solid. One collision with said trail or a wall and your bike shatters in a colourful explosion.
Positron does not hide where it gets its inspiration from — both its name and gameplay give it away. Nor does it need it, as there is a good reason why light cycle games still work 40 years after the first titles emerged in the arcades.
That said, Positron offers a little more than just racing through mazes. There is also a versus mode in which the primary antagonist is not the wall around the next corner but other players (or AI). The goal is simple: cut off your opponents with your trail while not being cut off yourself. This mode is planned to support up to 16 players, so the area will be crowded.
Lastly, there is a ‘snake mode’ that, well, features Snake-style gameplay. Here, your light cycle’s trail does not grow indefinitely, but instead needs to be extended by collecting power-ups — once more without crashing into anything solid.
Positron is fast-paced. Every mistake is fatal. However, upon shattering into pieces, your light cycle respawns almost instantaneously. There are no loading screens to sit through before you can give it another shot. Additionally, even the more complicated mazes only take a short time to complete. This makes a high failure rate significantly more tolerable, even for beginners.
Visually, Positron offers high-contrast neon colours and even gives them a minor purpose: when you get close to a maze’s exit, they change. Upbeat music accompanies this simple for effective visual style.
Positron does not reinvent the light cycle wheel. Instead, it takes an easy-to-access, high concept idea and pairs it with appealing visuals, multiple game modes, and smooth performance. If the final product runs as frictionless as its demo, Positron could very well be the next go-to light cycle game.
Positron is expected to be released in Q4 2018 for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.