Game Title: TxK
Genre: Action (Tube Shooter)
Platform: PS Vita (Digital Download)
ESRB Rating (if any): E
So, I was listening to a Fortis Core podcast on bad games, and the participants were talkin' smack about the PS Vita. That doesn't sit right with me. That system has not done as well as Sony originally wanted (at least, outside of Japan) but, it does have its strong points. One of them is the primary reason why I decided to buy a used Vita in 2014: a PSN download game from Llamasoft founder Jeff Minter called 'TxK'.
TxK is a tube shooter, a spiritual successor/unofficial sequel in Atari's legendary Tempest franchise. And like Tempest 2000 was for the Atari Jaguar, this game is also worth buying the hardware for all by itself. 'Killer app' just isn't a good enough term to describe its awesomeness. Seem like a bold claim? Well, it is a rather bold claim. And still very correct in its assertions. The gameplay is the perfect portable arcade-style shooter experience. I haven't encountered a game this addictive in years. It's right up there with its predecessor Tempest 2000, the great/ubiquitous Atari arcade classics, Tetris, Bejeweled and even Doom. Yes, I just made that comparison. I will also be comparing this game to its predecessors in the Tempest franchise throughout this review.
You're a claw-shaped ship of some kind. You are hanging on the rim of a web floating in space. There are strange monsters coming down the web towards you, intent on your capture and/or destruction. You have to shoot them before they can get to you. That's all.
This game was made in the classic Arcade tradition. There's no real need for a story. However, the original Tempest game was inspired by a recurring nightmare that its creator had about a hole in his backyard. The hole had monsters crawling out and he had to somehow stop them. You can think of it that way too if you want. Most people assume that the original game took place in space, probably because the original arcade game had a black background.
Assuming you've played it, have you ever wondered what Tempest 2000 would look like if it were made for a modern console? Play this game and you will know. The graphics are colorful, smooth, use some cel-shading... and will probably cause a few epileptic seizures. I have not been this impressed with the graphics in a game for a portable system since... well, since ever. They're awesome in their relative simplicity. It looks as good as a AAA title for a modern console like Wii U, XBOX One or PS4. Not even the 3D effects on the 3DS, which I genuinely love and enjoy, have impressed me this much.
Thanks to the cel-shading and PS Vita's screen, the graphics of this game will continue to look good for many years to come. Tempest 2000 and its PS1 port/slight remake Tempest X3 also still look pretty good but, they show their age a little. They were, after all, made more than 20 years ago. However, Tempest X3 is easily the best looking PS1 game that I've ever seen so, there's that... :P
Also, Jeff Minter has gone on record stating that he made this game for the PS Vita specifically because he liked the OLED screen used by the original model. Since that's the model that I have, I can see why he liked it so much. It is quite clear and vibrant. The newer model with the LCD screen may not display the game's graphics quite as well but, they should still be very impressive on that model too.
The game has a soothing and appropriate techno soundtrack. I like it fine. However, it's not as high-energy as the soundtrack from Tempest 2000 on the Jaguar. That soundtrack was so good, Atari actually released it on a CD. I have it in my massive collection of music on physical media. It's also probably the ONLY Techno CD that I'll ever own. That's saying a lot considering that most of that collection is Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Not bad for a soundtrack that was made on an aging Commodore Amiga.
The sound effects are similar to other Tempest games, albeit a little subdued. However, it has a cow mooing in surprise whenever the player's claw ship is captured by an enemy. That surprised me the first time I heard it since the other games had either a primitive sound effect or a guy saying 'Whoa!'
This is a game that requires the hyper-active twitch reflexes of an 8 year-old on Super Crack... and the controls do respond in kind. If you screw up and die in this game, it's your own fault. The controls are just that flawless.
It's a shooter in the classic Arcade tradition. Like Pinball machines, it will never be 100% the same each time you play the game. It is so engrossing that you will lose track of a lot of time while playing this game. I've lost whole hours of time once I start playing this game. There's so much missing time that it's like I got abducted by aliens or something... Sometimes, the only reason I stop is because the system's battery is going to die.
The real goal of this game, for me at least, is to beat your high score. Like the arcade classics of yore, that gives you infinite replay-ability. Besides, actually winning the game may require skills that may not be possible for mortal men to acquire. You'd probably have to invent and start actually using the Super Crack in order to get that far. That is not an exaggeration.
Beating the game is possible. The end comes after 100 levels. However, getting there is not likely to happen anytime soon. It's also not really essential to enjoy the experience. I've only reached level 31 and I've been playing Tempest games for at least 20 years. I've actually beaten all 100 levels of Tempest 2000, and then beat the 'Beastly mode' that follows after that too. And yet TxK is only letting me reach level 31. No matter how hard I try, level 31 is as far as I can get. That is how challenging and addictive this game can get.
This is Tempest REBORN. The current owners of the Atari name are world-class Dumbasses for wanting to keep Jeff Minter and Llamasoft from porting this game over to other systems like PC and PS4. It could make them all a lot of money if they were willing to be reasonable. It's not like Jeff Minter was totally unwilling to negotiate with Atari's current owners. They also weren't doing anything with the property, either. Someone had to make a new Tempest game for the first time in years. Atari's current owners treat the company's intellectual properties as a way to make quick cash. They don't actually produce any new games anymore, just rehash the same old stuff. How many times do they think that they can sell me a Flashback console, huh?
Get this game from PSN on your PS Vita, if you still can. You will thank me after you recover from the seizures/joygasms that this game will cause. This game is so kick-ass, I think it should be a physical release. PS Vita game cards, optical discs for PC & consoles... Hell, let's go ahead and port it to Macintosh too. And right away, not 2 or 3 years later like most Mac ports of new PC games. It should also be an arcade cabinet. It would cause the same kind of coin shortages that happened with Pac-Man and Space Invaders. It might also be just the thing the arcades need to revive their ailing businesses.
This game is the sports car of modern arcade shooters.
It is the perfection that the Borg collective has sought for the Collective's entire existence.
The Timelords of Gallifrey could use this game to replace the Eye of Harmony as the power source for their T.A.R.D.I.S. machines.
The Force is with this title.
Get it NOW!!!