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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tempest 4000 (Steam) Game Review

Atari has released the latest incarnation of their hit historic video game Tempest by developer Jeff Minter. First out in 1981, the latest version is called Tempest 4000, and is a quick reminder to the bygone days of vector-based visuals where you attack ships coming at you down alleys/tunnels from the edge of some straight or curved shapes.
Growing up, my first home video game console was Pong. I connected the game console to the back of a black & white television through a screw-in switch for the rabbit ear antenna. One direction was show the TV signal, other was show the gaming console. As I got older, I took a liking to pinball machines and various arcade games, spending lots of quarters on everything from Space Invaders, to Missile Command, Centipede, and my favorite, Tempest. The feel of Tempest 4000 takes one back to the original, though you don't have to have played the original to enjoy the latest.
The concept of the game is quite simple. You're a "claw" that moves around the outer rim of some shape, like the outside of a circle, figure eight, or V. The enemy ships come out of the center of the screen towards to the edge of the shape, firing at you or having a stem and leaves grow in an alley where you need to avoid the ships/shapes/figures or die. If the enemy ship reaches the edge, it "walks" back and forth along the edge, trying to "find" your ship as if it touches your ship, you lose a life. Lose enough lives and your game is over.

The game has a very similar feel to the original, though your PC or gaming console controller typically doesn't have a spinner/rotary knob to move your ship back and forth with like the original. Instead, you have to move the claw around with the arrow keys, and fire with the A key. One issue I ran into here is, at least with the Steam-based version of the game, the instructions talk about a LB (left button) and RB (right button) for certain actions. I haven't figured out what keys those are. The mouse does nothing with the game, so it isn't the mouse buttons. This basically means there is no way to exit out of the game without bringing up the Task Manager, as ESC doesn't quit, and LB isn't a standard keyboard key, so LB can't quit either.
I thoroughly enjoy playing the game, though the game does have its deficiencies. Besides the LB/Task Manager issues just mentioned, the game is more old school where it puts the screen in a fixed resolution, unable to be changed. And, if you happen to have a monitor with a faster refresh rate than 60 Hz, you can pretty much forget about playing unless you slow down the refresh rate. The arcade version of the game had a two-player mode. I haven't figured out how to enable that either.

One of my favorite parts of the arcade version of the game was the ability to start progressively deeper into the game based upon how far along the game you were for the prior games. Thankfully, this feature remains.

At a cost of $19.99 for the game for the Windows/Steam version (and $29.99 for Xbox and PlayStation 4), I'd be hesitant to buy just yet. Yes, it is a good game, especially for the nostalgia factor. However, I'd wait for a few of the existing bugs to be ironed out and patched, before jumping onto the bandwagon.

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions stated are my own and may differ from yours. See my disclosure policy for more information.


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