Thursday 19 March 2015

TxK Review (Playstation Vita)


Jeff Minter has been creating unique games for years now but his most loved creation was for the commercial failure that was the Atari Jaguar. Tempest 2000 proved so popular that even now people hunt out the Jaguar just to play it. It’s easily one of the best games ever made and Minter revisited the formula later via Space Giraffe in 2007. Now we have the third version of the game for the Playstation Vita and it’s been more than worth the wait.

The game is presented in a smooth vector style with your ship moving around the top of a shape and monsters landing and approaching from the bottom. The aim is to stop them reaching the top by blasting them away. When they reach the top of the shape they begin to move along it and try and grab you. Quick players can duck underneath the enemies as they rotate or blast them off quickly.

As the game progresses the amount of enemy types increase far more than in other Tempest games. You may start with the monsters that simply head up and roll across the top of the screen but there are soon enemies that shoot back at you or electrify parts of the vector shape. By level thirty you’ll need super reflexes and skills to survive and things get delightfully chaotic.

To help you along the way are a host of power ups which can dramatically change your style of play. Along with more powerful lasers the most useful are the jump and Ai Drone. The jump allows you to leap away from the rim of the level and over creatures moving along the top. You can shoot when you jump but anything you hit will not increase your score. This means players are faced with the risk/reward scenario of shooting things from a safe distance or upping their score. The Ai Drone acts as an assistant and will roll along the rim blasting away at enemies. It can even save you if one of the monsters reaches you and begins to drag you away.

Another twist to the normal shooter genre is the use of the smart bomb. In contrast to most shooters, using the smart bomb actually doubles the points you receive from destroyed enemies. This allows players to frantically dodge enemies until they fill the screen and then blast them for maximum points. It’s a satisfying action and watching the electro bomb work its way down the shape blasting everything is a great sight.

As well as the increased creature types the levels also do some new things. Some continually rotate around while others bend and split meaning that different routes around the shapes open or close as the level progresses. These levels take the simple Tempest formula and create something more intense. This is where the game really shines and they act to raise an already excellent game to whole new levels.

There are three different modes available in the game but they more or less boil down to the same thing. The Pure mode has you start from level one and go as far as you can before dying. The Classic mode lets you start from any level you have reached with your score and lives intact. This means if you lose two or three lives on a certain stage you can return to them and try and get through with more lives or a higher score. The final mode is Survival. This is like classic but no extra lives are given throughout the game. All the modes have online scoreboards but it can be difficult to see where you rank against your friends due to some strange decisions with how information is displayed.

TxK represents a game perfect for the Playstation Vita. All the neon and music work perfectly with the fast gameplay to create a game perfect for the Vita’s screen and perfect to be played on the go. It’s typical of Minter to take a system and perfectly craft a game around its strengths. This is a game that gets its hooks into you early and just won’t let you go. It’s a full on adrenaline ride filled with clever touches and the odd moment of quirky humour and exactly the sort of thing we want for the Vita.

Overall 9/10

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