Tempest 4000 Review

Tempest, for those of you who don't know, is a classic game from Atari's heyday in the arcades of the 1980s. You control a small ship called a claw that you can move around the top edge of 3D wireframe geometric shapes. Enemies begin at the other end of these shapes and work their way up the sides in an effort to reach the top. Should they make contact with your claw or, in the case of certain enemies, hit it with a bullet, you'll lose your life. To stop the enemies you're armed with a blaster that can fire projectiles in rapid-fire bursts and a super blaster, a one use per level super bomb that wipes out every enemy on the screen. Survive the level and you'll shoot through the wireframe and on to the next one. Tempest 4000 adds some embellishments to this gameplay, but for the most part stays true to the core concept. More on that in a bit.

Tempest 4000 screenshot 4

The most important thing to know about the original Tempest arcade cabinets is that they came with a paddle controller. Moving the claw along the edge of circles, squares, and some crazy curves is quite intuitive using a paddle and you never have to give the controls a second thought. The Xbox One controller doesn't have a paddle, so it starts at a disadvantage as a platform for playing Tempest. The left stick could still be made to work as a reasonable facsimile if rotated 360 degrees around its edge of movement. Unfortunately, Tempest 4000 does not support this, instead forcing you to restrict your commands to two dimensional right and left movements. The problem is that as you rotate the claw around the top of the shapes, the right and left controls are essentially reversed with respect to movement on the screen. It's difficult to make quick changes in direction when you have to move the stick in a different direction based on where you are on the screen. The once intuitive controls of the original arcade game have been turned into an unwelcome challenge with a frustrating learning curve associated with it.

Games such as PAC-MAN Championship Edition and Space Invaders Extreme have done great job of taking the core gameplay of arcade classic games and evolving them into something new and exciting, and I was hoping to find the same thing with Tempest 4000. Unfortunately, the game looks like something that tried to mimic those other games without any idea of what actually made them fun. The levels from the original game are here, only now they are superimposed on a background of pulsating splashes of color and accompanied by a techno track on a loop. The only real gameplay change is the addition of power-up crystals that come traveling up the wireframes along with the enemies. Collect enough of these and you'll earn a random limited-use special ability such as a beam weapon, a second claw, or the ability to pull back from the wireframe to clear enemies that have reached the end and are moving along the top. These power-ups can certainly help out in a jam, but they are added to the game without a corresponding change to the game's enemies or hazards, so they feel more like cheats to make the original game easier to play than anything else.

Tempest 4000 screenshot 5

There are three game modes which vary in the number of lives you're allotted and where in the level sequence you can start from after losing those lives, although that's not at all obvious when you first play the game since it's saddled with a convoluted menu system. Leaderboards are supported so that you can compare your Tempest skills to those of friends and strangers.

Overall I was disappointed in Tempest 4000. I enjoy playing Tempest games, but this one managed to make the core game less enjoyable rather than improving on it or providing a truly fresh take on the gameplay. Arcade game fans will be best off saving their quarters for the next version of Tempest that comes along.

Final Rating: 65% - Save your quarters.


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