TxK Review

March 4, 2014

Back in the early 80’s, Atari first brought coin-op classic Tempest to the arcades. TxK is the latest of a few rehashes on the classic shooter performed by Llamasoft founder, Jeff Minter, who this time around brings it for an outing on Sony’s PlayStation Vita. Tinkering with winning a formula doesn’t always go to plan, but has TxK bucked the trend?

Game: TxK
Developer: Llamasoft
Publisher: Llamasoft
Reviewed on: PlayStation Vita

Tempest was simple; you’re an odd shaped thingy, attached to another odd shaped thingy, desperately shooting at oncoming thingies. More specifically, the shape you’re attached to the edge of is a grid, and your ship (I guess we’ll call it that) sits in the foreground whilst the enemies climb said grid from the background to the foreground – your job is to shoot them before they get there.

Essentially, TxK takes the bulk of that and builds on it with enhanced presentation to good effect. Whilst some features aren’t completely new (Tempest 2000 added a heap of new additions), the ones added in this latest Tempest inspired shooter help flesh out the experience further, whilst hammering home the intoxicating avalanche of colour and sound that perhaps wouldn’t have quite the same effect had the gameplay not been so relentless in its quest to hold your attention at all times.

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Catching power ups along the grid help boost your firepower and bolster your main target, your score. Other mechanics such as smart bombs for screen clearing and jumping which allows temporary disengagement from the grid all act as welcome life-savers when things are getting a little hairy. You might even induce an AI friend to help clear lanes for you which becomes important as you’ll need all the help you can get as the grid shapes change frequently, and even begin moving during later levels.

The screen gets a little busy at times. Arguably more experienced players will learn to read the game better, but especially later in the game it becomes a frenetic jumble of pretty colours and flying pixels that make actually playing TxK more of a visual differentiation challenge rather than the hand/eye shooter it starts out to be. Frustration rarely becomes a problem, however. Mainly because once you’re dead, you understand why, you learn, you come back more knowledgeable. There’s a lot to take in though, and it doesn’t always aid the gameplay, even less so if you’re someone simply looking for a quick pick-up-and-play shooter to kill some time with.

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At it’s core TxK remains an old classic title that’s received a few new licks of paint – and that might be its biggest downfall. Chasing leaderboard scores will be the only real challenege, as well as it being the perfect fix to burn ten minutes on the bus or in between work hours if you can stomach the hectic nature of later levels. What it does have is an electronic inspired soundtrack that fits particularly well with this type of gameplay, creating an almost hypnotic experience as you’re sucked in with concentration. The sound design overall would sit happily on any mid-80’s early 90’s gaming system – and I mean that fondly.

VERDICT

It’s easy to assume that amongst the hazy mist of nostalgia and euphoric pixel blasting that games like this have a certain degree of inevitability attached to their popularity. It’s not a given, though. Thankfully TxK doesn’t completely rest on laurels that might hamper it. Here is a game that plays superbly and dips into that rich retrospective pool that seems to sit so well on Sony’s handheld. However, it should be said that there is a tried and tested formula hard at work here. Anyone who’s dabbled in anything like it previous to TxK might not find a whole bunch of reasons to revisit, and that coupled with some overly-busy visuals at times means it’s not for everyone, despite its entrancing nature.

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