Lococycle is a guilty pleasure. It’s a friend you hang out with, in private. You’re not comfortable introducing it to your parents and it sure as hell isn’t winning any “games as art” arguments and the like. In all aspects, Lococycle is an incredibly stupid game.
In Lococycle you play as two-wheeler I.R.I.S., manufactured as a premium, intelligent weapon designed by a corporation called Big Arms. When she decides to flee her corporate overlords to attend a biker gathering — the Freedom Rally held in Scottsburg, Indiana — she accidentally catches hold of her mechanic Pablo’s pants and ends up dragging him behind her throughout the entire game. She’s oblivious to all this, of course, and despite her boasting of understanding thousands of languages, she can’t seem to understand his pleas shouted out in Spanish throughout the entire game. On her journey, she’s got to fend off the Big Arms peons by using her wheels to punch and kick through them. She’ll even sometimes take the fight into the air, thanks to an apparently never-ending momentum. Yes, none of this makes sense.
Are you still with me? Cool.
One of Big Arms’ corporate big wigs calls in S.P.I.K.E., a rival bike also manufactured as a weapon, to take her in. The first time you defeat S.P.I.K.E., he decides you have only one clear advantage: the human that is (still) attached to your back wheel. This is, of course, absurd. First off: why and how is Pablo still stuck there? And he’s not exactly an ace in the hole. He just got stuck there.
But when S.P.I.K.E. finds a bubbly, obese woman to tack onto himself and rides away with confidence that he’s now matched to battle I.R.I.S. again, I chuckled. It’s this exact kind of stupidity that will, if you let it, carry you through a lot of the game.
The entire experience is on-rails, meaning your forward movement is predetermined by the game. You simply zig and zag through traffic and a hurdle of enemies. There are three main aspects to Lococycle‘s combat: you can shoot down enemy vehicles, melee strike on-foot enemies like mechs and scientists encased in electrified balls, or hit the A button for a counterattack when the game prompts it. That last piece of the puzzle is surely the one to get the most tired the fastest. But that doesn’t mean the rest of the combat won’t also quickly feel monotonous. Because it certainly does.
The level designs don’t help, either. For the first half of the game, you’ll still have new enemies to meet and therefore new ways to put your growing combat skills to the test. When you’re unlocking combo bonuses (like elemental damage and stun moves thanks to Pablo) and extra bullets for your guns, it’s still fun to tackle enemies, especially if they’re also new.
And then Lococycle starts to drag more than poor Pablo. You’ll run into the same sequences over and over again. Set of cars, followed by sets of jet-packers, followed by a few mechs, followed by…and everything starts to blur together. It feels a lot like filler.
The latter half of the game — there are five chapters, three levels in each — starts throwing some tougher, boss-like enemies at you. Though technically a change of pace, it’s still a dull series of “shoot here, then here, then here” and then some of that “counter now, counter again, counter a third time.” And the same tactic is employed, a few times recycled. You’re simply responding to command prompts.
In normal combat scenarios I eventually just started mashing the X and Y buttons to alternate my swift attacks with my Pablo attacks, where I’d swing him around to hit multiple enemies at a time. And, of course, the occasional A button when a counterattack prompt showed up on screen. It became routine. There are tons of QTE moments, too, that, even if you miss them, don’t feel like too big a deal. The game is fairly easy except for when it’s being overbearing. Not much of a challenge as much as it is a test of your endurance.
This all sounds overly negative. Mostly because I’ve finished the game in its entirety. I think if I quit mid-way through, though I’d miss some of the more fun and whackier moments and live-action cutscenes near the end, I wouldn’t have come away with such a bad taste in my mouth.
That’s the problem with guilty pleasures. Enjoy them too much and you’ll feel sick, gluttonous. The guilt overcomes the pleasure. Lococycle is a game whose personality — that brand of humour — is so specific that it probably won’t appeal to a large number of people. It sometimes makes passing remarks about America and big businesses and government. There are wafts of commentary on racism and stereotypes. They’re more cursory than they are in bad taste though, again, it’s a very specific kind of humour. Some people might hate this game — and with the amount of repetition you’ll experience through the bulk of it, I wouldn’t blame you. But others might have fun punching things as a motorcycle. I mean, how ludicrous is that? And how much fun have people had simply beating things up in the past?
While playing Lococycle on the Xbox One, my boss Stephen Totilo walked over and asked me how it was. I answered in a way that I thought would be the most relevant for him. I explained that it’s full of stupid humour for the sake of being stupid, that it’s a lot of mindless combat. You’re stringing combos together and trying to get perfect scores — you know, no deaths and all hits. He saw through how I coated the answer though. “So basically it’s your kind of game.” Sure, it’s stupid and it’ll eventually feel tired. But he’s right. I like to beat things up and avoid getting beaten up.
So, yeah. The FMV is intentionally painfully awkward in that cheesy 80s movie kind of way. I.R.I.S. is a bad imitation of GLaDOS (and even steals some of her lines, but everything she says in game — and she talks pretty much nonstop throughout it — is a reference to something). But for those first few levels when I’m rolling my eyes for the 15th time at I.R.I.S. completely misinterpreting Pablo and dragging him on what is surely to be the worst week of his life, and smacking enemies around like they’re ping-pong balls, I have to admit…I kind of enjoyed that for a while there. And that’s what we call a guilty pleasure.