At their heart, the PLAY Expo events are a celebration of everything retro. With pinball machines, arcade cabinets and a wide selection of retro gaming consoles and PCs all available for free play, attendees can relive the past 40 years of gaming. While retro may well be the main focus, modern gaming isn't left out completely. At the latest event in Manchester, a small selection of indie developers showed off their upcoming titles. It was rather fitting to find that one of those titles was Llamasoft's upcoming franchise reboot Tempest 4000
In 1981, Atari introduced Tempest
into arcades. Like a lot of the titles of that era, the only aim was to survive for as long as possible. Players would be placed at the front of a multi-section playing field that could contort into a multitude of shapes. Enemies would approach from the back of the field; using a rapid-fire Blaster ship that could rotate around the playing field, players would need to kill the enemies before they were killed themselves. The title was ported to Xbox 360
in 2007 to mixed reviews.
Since its initial release, the game has received two official sequels. Tempest 2000
came out in 1994 for the Atari Jaguar, while Tempest 3000
arrived for the Nuon enhanced DVD players in 2000. Both were created by Jeff Minter, whose Llamasoft studio aims to blend modern technology with the experience that was offered by these classic arcade titles. Alongside the aforementioned titles came others inspired by Tempest
, such as Space Giraffe
. Now, at the tender age of 36, the franchise is all grown up and is ready to take on the most modern console platforms with Minter's help.Tempest 4000
contains all of the familiar hallmarks of the franchise. The multi-section playing field is back and it's brighter, more vibrant and flashier, something that shouldn't come as a surprise with the promise of 4K resolution. Defeated enemies explode into showers of sparks, numbers constantly pop up all over the playing field and there are even screen-warping effects when certain types of enemies are defeated. All of this sounds like a distraction rather than an asset, but it really isn't; instead, it adds to the frenetic arcade feel offered by the title's relentless gameplay.
Players still control a claw-like Blaster ship that must be constantly on the move if you're to survive the onslaught of enemies that appear each round. They'll fire a variety of projectiles at you, switch lanes and try to grab you from the edge of the screen and pull you away to your death. Others will try to impede your progress; destroyed flowers will plant roots that must be destroyed before they reach the edge of the screen and block your ship's movement. Once all of those enemies are defeated, players warp to the next level. In between each of the main levels is a cooldown period where players warp through space while trying to stay centred inside what looks like a black hole. Staying centred rewards more bonus points during the flight.
Yes, the Superzapper is back although it is now known as a smart bomb. Activating the bomb will clear all of the enemies on the playing field at the time but it can only be used once per level. Power-ups will also come to your assistance and their effects depend on how many you've stored before they're activated. Collecting three powerups offers the valuable jump ability where the ship can jump away from the track to escape a desperate situation. While enemies can be killed at this time, players don't get as many points for doing so. If you fail to use your jump and collect five powerups instead, a genuinely useful AI-controlled helper will appear to help you take out the enemies.
If you ever played Tempest 2000
, or any of Minter's previous output for that matter, you will recognise many of the features that the franchise has adopted since its conception. Indeed, there is very little here that is actually new but then many fans of the franchise will be more than happy with that feeling of familiarity. Tempest
is back and it's every bit as frantic as it was before. If you were disappointed with the XBLA port ten years ago, this version might just be what you need to send those memories spiralling back into oblivion.