Video games have come a long way since the dank depths of the local arcade. Not only do we no longer have to deposit money for each play, but the games themselves are played at home in the ‘comfort’ of a saggy beanbag. Back in the day, games like Donkey Kong and Space Invaders were the peak of gaming goodness. Pac Man even became a bonafide fad to rival our contemporaries. Am I saying Pac Man was the original Minion? Yes.
One of these games that doesn’t get the kudos it deserves in discussions about 1980s arcade cabinets is Tempest. In my honest opinion, it kicks the crap out of stuff like Centipede or Dig Dug – fast-paced, balls-to-the-wall action using only vertex shapes! Classic. My arse? Tempest still kicks it. Truly, the simplest things are the best. Video games have more depth and character than they’ve ever had, but sometimes you want something that tests your mettle and calls your reflexes a bitch.
Tempest 4000 is exactly that. It’s a sequel to the original 1981 game, with a name and presentation borrowed from its unfortunately-released predecessors. Tempest 2000 was released for the Atari Jaguar, a thorough failure of a console that resembled a toilet, and Tempest 3000 was a premier title for the Nuon. What was the Nuon, you say? That’s a good question!
It really is a Tempest game, wearing that name on its sleeve
Electric Blue’s for dessert
Jeff Minter, lead designer and programmer of 2000 and 3000, returns to bring Tempest into the new age after his Tempest clone TxK ran into legal trouble in 2015. It looks like he and Atari have since kissed and made up, which lets us experience 4000 in all its electronica glory. And it really is glorious.
Vertex-inspired graphics flash across the screen. Seizure-inducing colours accompany vector text telling your enemies to “EAT ELECTRIC DEATH”. Coarse, primitive sounds replicate the sound of the arcade classic alongside the series’ trademark late-90s electronic ditties. It’s worth noting that the game features tracks from Tempest 2000’s soundtrack – one of my absolute favourites. The title screen even makes references to Atari’s console days, ranging from nods to a Jaguar commercial to the 2600’s CPU. In terms of presentation, 4000 pulls out all the stops that 64 bits couldn’t in 1994. It really is a Tempest game, wearing that name on its sleeve with pride.
The devil may be in the details, but in Tempest 4000’s case the angel is in the accents. I’m struggling to find a single bad thing to say about it. Your ‘ship’ controls have a skill ceiling that I still haven’t mastered. The presentation, as mentioned before, is spectacular. Even the user interface is quick and snappy; in the arcade spirit, it’ll only take you a few seconds to enter the game, and just as brief to exit it. I’m as in love with 4000 as I was with 2000 when I played it on an emulator nearly a decade ago.
Was the fun subliminal after all?
If I had to nitpick, there isn’t much in the way of content. Tempest 4000 offers a reasonably large variety of stages, but your options with them are limited. ‘Pure’ and ‘Survival’ mode both provide a neat and clean arcade experience, putting you through each level one at a time until it’s Game Over. The only difference is that ‘Pure’ relegates you to a certain number of lives in each level, while ‘Survival’ gives you a greater number of lives at the start but removes 1-ups. Fans of the genre will be happy with them, but newcomers may just find themselves sticking to playing individual levels. But, yes, these are but nitpicks.
I have nothing else that could even remotely be constructed as criticism. Tempest 4000 is the greatest version of an arcade classic and is absolutely worth your time. If you’re into old-school games, you owe it to yourself to pick it up. Even if you’re not, 4000 could surprise you. As your dad would say, ‘get some culture in ya’.
Reviewed on Windows | Review code supplied by publisher
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