In Prop Cycle you control a young man piloting a flying bicycle, the Prop Cycle, across three levels. In each level you fly through a course popping balloons with different points on them. The goal is to score enough points before a time limit, doing so beats the level and allows the player to keep going, losing costs the player more quarters to try again. If the player pops all the balloons in a level the remaining time is converted into points and added to the total score. There are also balloons that add seconds to the time limit. In advanced mode if the player finishes all three levels they have exactly one shot at beating the final level and the game.
The story ingame is that the three levels are qualifying rounds to test the young man. If he wins he will be allowed to fly to Solitar, the name of three floating islands in the sky.
The game is unique for it's control scheme. The arcade cabinet contains a model of the Prop Cycle, with a seat, pedals, and handles. The player can tilt the cycle side-to-side, push and pull the handles to aim the Prop Cycle up and down, and pedaling gives the Prop Cycle lift.
Suffice it to say Prop Cycle is one of the most physically taxing examples of Exergaming ever. Not only does the player ride a bike, the player has to ride a bike quickly to keep the Prop Cycle afloat, and steer it on a horizontal and vertical axis under a strict time limit.
Prop Cycle contains examples of the following tropes:
- Always Night: The second half of the second level Wind Woods is always night on the far side of the cave you fly through.
- Catapult to Glory: The player is shot to Solitar with a giant slingshot.
- Excuse Plot: Elaborated upon mostly in Attract Mode. (Video can be found here.) Someone fiddled with some Lost Technology and turned the small town of Solitar into a trio of Floating Islands. The player character is tasked with riding the titular Prop Cycle up there and figuring out a way to get them down safely before the inhabitants run out of loo roll and incur ruinous cellphone roaming charges... or something like that, anyway.
- Final Death: Maybe not death, but the player gets only one chance to beat Solitar, and if they fail they have to start the entire game over again.
- Floating Continent: Solitar is made up of three floating continents. Flying around the levels shows that the islands are made up of carved out parts of the land.
- No Name Given: None of the characters shown have names except for Zizi, the old man.
- Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The Prop Cycle. It's a bicycle with wings and tailplane that flies somehow.
- Wham Episode: The final level, Solitar. The rest of the game looks like it takes place in some sort of fantasy Steam Punk land, but once you fly to Solitar you see that the world appears to be bombed out, and whatever is keeping Solitar afloat clearly has a nuclear symbol on it.