I never thought someone would think to modernise Tempest. The classic arcade game from 1981 was certainly a wonderful game for its time, but it never became iconic like some other classic games (think Space Invaders, Asteroid and Pac-Man).
But here we are with TxK, which follows the pattern for modern remakes of classic games; turn the colour and energy up to 11 and make what is a simple set of mechanics sitting underneath the game into a hyperkinetic audio-visual experience that covers the simplicity with sheer style.
The problem is that while Tempest is good, it hasn’t become a timeless classic for a very good reason; it lacks personality and it veers a little too far on to the “twitch” side of arcade play.
Players take control of a formless wireframe claw, which is hardly the most inspiring “hero” and shoot down objects travelling into the screen. It creates a neat 3D effect without actually being 3D. Across a variety of levels players are asked to clear waves of enemies for points. There’s a couple of special abilities to them such as a screen-clearing bomb blast by tapping the Vita screen, but other than that, TxK remains very true to the classic arcade game and is all about the scoring of points.
Visually, and in terms of the soundtrack, the game is something special. As the speed of the game builds, performing well at a level rewards the player with explosions of colour, set to a pulsating music beat. It’s that same “Tron” vibe that is such a popular visual aesthetic at the moment. We’ve seen it before in modern remakes of the likes of both Space Invaders and Pac-Man, and on a visual level, it works here.
The problem, and this is a doozy, is that Tempest requires extreme twitch reflexes to play well. Most arcade games have an element of twitch play of course, but that’s contrasted to an extent by a capacity for skill. Space Invaders or Pac-Man, for instance, both feature a degree of strategy and planning about the process. Tempest (and by extension TxK) doesn’t have that element of strategy. Now for some, this twitch play will appeal greatly. But it’s going to be divisive. Where Space Invaders has a timeless quality even if you can only rack up a few thousand points, Tempest and TxK is going to be simply frustrating if you can’t click with it.
I’m not a great twitch game player. As such I found this to be a visually interesting, dynamic game, but not an especially engaging one.
– Matt S.
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