If you’ve seen any trailers for the collaboration between Disney and Bithell Games, TRON: Identity, you likely already know exactly what you’re getting with the latest in the TRON franchise. In this visual novel, you play as Query, a wholly original character and perhaps the best name for a detective I’ve heard. You’re enlisted to solve a mysterious occurrence in the Arq server, an area filled with original characters in a completely new server in the world of TRON.
To quickly shoot down an idea that some folks may have about this game: TRON: Identity is not only for TRON fans. This is a great jumping on point! Every character here is new to the franchise. While there are references to certain terms that the uninitiated might not catch on to right away, they end up becoming pretty clear through context. Before playing Identity, my experience with the TRON franchise was the following two things:
- I watched TRON: Legacy once over ten years ago and forgot pretty much everything
- I saw the world in Kingdom Hearts and thought it was pretty cool
That’s it! And I forgot pretty much everything about both of those experiences. Luckily, Bithell’s writing makes it pretty simple to catch on to what some mysterious (at first) terms mean. If anything, being uninformed about the world of TRON was an advantage. I had even more of a mystery to explore than other players, with the mythology of Users & Flynn and your beliefs of it being major parts of how certain characters behave around you.
As far as gameplay, there’s two real parts to TRON: Identity: dialogue choices and defragging discs. Making dialogue choices is exactly what you expect: make different choices of what Query says or actions he takes, and characters around you will react accordingly. Those reactions, though, are far-reaching and impactful. It’s likely you’ll have wildly different playthroughs than those of myself, or other people around you.
You also see what each action you took does very clearly. With every thing a character says to you, every new action that happens, and every new thing that Query can say due to a choice you made, it’s clearly marked as such. I loved this feature in my time with the game. It made it very clear where I could act differently in subsequent playthroughs to unlock more options and start to truly unravel the mystery of the Arq.
In addition to dialogue, there’s also the puzzle elements that comes in the form of defragging discs to restore memories. This solitaire-like game is pretty simple at its conception: match symbols or numbers of cards that are either adjacent or exactly 3 spaces away on either side. It reminds me a lot of solitaire, something that isn’t surprising considering one of the previous projects from Bithell Games, The Solitaire Conspiracy.
Whether you enjoy these puzzles or not, there’s options for both types of players. For those that aren’t fans, you’ll be glad to hear that every section is skippable. You don’t have to play any defrag section, and the only thing you’ll really miss out on is cosmetics. On the other hand, if you love these puzzles, you can enjoy an included endless mode of defrag puzzles, something I could see becoming a good way for people to wind down at the end of the day, especially with the game being portable via Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch. I personally thought they were fine, but by the end of my first playthrough I found myself skipping these to get back to the story.
TRON: Identity is one of the few games I’ve played where “choices matter” is more than a marketing point. You probably won’t solve all of the mysteries in Identity in a single playthrough. But, that’s what makes the short playtime great! You can spend one night playing through a movie length story, then spend your next playthrough focusing on different characters, befriending some characters and being more hostile towards others to experience a completely new story in the same universe. Some players may have wanted something more action-packed for the first TRON product in years, but the product that we got is pretty great. More indie developers making small-scale games based on huge franchises, please.
TRON: Identity is for you if:
- You’re a fan of TRON already. Hell, you should already be on the checkout screen right now if this is the case.
- You like visual novels, regardless of your experience with TRON. You’ll get into the world pretty quickly, even if some of the terminology doesn’t immediately click with you.
- You love replayable, small-scale titles. You can be satisfied with one short playthrough, but there’s way more to discover.
It may not be for you if:
- You only want to play a TRON video game with light cycle races and action-packed combat. You aren’t going to get that from Identity.
- You’re the type of person to skip the cutscenes in games. In Identity, you can skip the gameplay to get to the cutscenes.
TRON: Identity is available now on Steam & Nintendo Switch.
Steam code for review was provided by Bithell Games. Played on Steam Deck.