Monday, March 31, 2008


If I hadn't already played Armagetron Advanced (reviewed here), I probably would have been impressed by glTron. Unfortunately, they essentially offer the same gameplay, and while glTron has a few nice touches, Armagetron Advanced is a more feature-rich and solid production.

Like Armagetron, glTron is a lightcycle game, based on the scenes from the sci-fi Disney classic film. It captures the look of the film, and the controls are simple and intuitive, but... so does Armagetron.

Differences? First, the positive: the mini-map that shows the whole playing field is a nice touch; you can tell at a glance exactly what's going on and plan your strategy around that.

The other big difference is the booster-button. Pressing it gives you a speed boost, and in one game mode allows you to power through walls. Armagetron allows you to gain extra speed solely via a weird wake-system, where if you're close to a wall, you gain a bit of extra speed. It's very unintuitive and I never quite got the hang of it. In glTron, the booster button allows for a simple and highly intuitive method of gaining extra speed, which can be very useful. Huzzah for that!

A minor difference that may make all the difference to you is that glTron has a simple method for adding your own music to the game. You just drop your music files into the appropriate directory, and select them from the internal menu. While you could play Armagetron with another music player running in the background, in-game support theoretically means less processor overhead and is just a nice feature.

Negatives? As far as I could tell, glTron runs only in a window, and only at one resolution (technically, you can change the resolution from the command line, but can't go into full-screen even from there). The graphics aren't quite as nice looking, even at a comparable resolution.

glTron does offer different artpacks - you just download the artpack and plop it in the appropriate directory, and it becomes available within the game's menu system the next time you start the game. Some of the artpacks may make up for the game's innately lackluster look - I didn't install any. Their screenshots showed them to be better done than the graphical themes available for Armagetron, which is an amusing quandary: better game, with better graphical engine, or lamer game with more creatively styled graphics? You decide. Out of the box, Armagetron is more appealing.

Biggest drawback? No network support, yet. You can play up to four players locally, sharing a keyboard, but uhmmm... yeah, that's not ideal. Armagetron offers 16-player networked games, which is in fact ideal. With no story and limited AI, these games depend on their multiplayer to make them fun once the mechanics have been figured out - without the added dimension of intra-human competition, there's just no real reason to play very much. The FAQ on the website says that network play is planned - for 2004. Obviously, they didn't make that deadline, but glTron was still being updated as of October of '07, so there's still hope.

Those are pretty much the only differences. glTron isn't a bad game - it's a solid implementation of the lightcycle game from Tron. But it's not as good as the other lightcycle game available from Ubuntu's default sources, so I don't see any reason to mess with it. If they get around to implementing network play, you may want to revisit this one and see if the alternate artpacks make it more aesthetically appealing, but until then, I'd pass on it.

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