Atari's 1981 arcade classic shooter is back in all its vector-filled glory. Tempest 4000 offers some innovations to the decades-old formula but how does it hold up to previous games in the series?
Jeff Minter and his software house Llamasoft created Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar back in 1994 and he's at it again with Tempest 4000. Tempest 2000 introduced many innovative concepts to the classic Tempest formula and these have thankfully carried over to this latest release. For the unfamiliar, the basic gameplay involves moving left and right across a set path that's along the outer rim of a 3D playfield while shooting down the playfield to clear out any encroaching enemies. A couple of fresh mechanics include the ability to unleash one Superzapper blast per level that wipes out all onscreen foes and the fact that you can jump once you collect the appropriate power-up. Speaking of which, you'll come across many power-ups that can increase your firepower and even send you to a couple of unique bonus rounds. Overall, the classic gameplay holds up very well and these added mechanics are definitely welcome.
Tempest 4000 features mind-blowing visuals that aren't quite amazing yet it's disorienting enough to make the arcade action as trippy as it is hectic. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the graphics distort and occasionally give off enough feedback to make everything look like it's melting although the chaos can also get in the way of the gameplay. If you're not focusing 100%, it's very easy to lose track of what's going on. When it comes to audio, the music is awesome and bursting with a cheesy '90s electronica vibe. In fact, those who have played Tempest 2000 will likely recognize some tunes. It's great stuff that'll keep your eyes and ears glued to the gameplay.
Aside from its classic core gameplay with a couple of fun complexities, Tempest 4000 features some enjoyable additions. First of all, you can start from level 1 and play through in either pure or survival mode; the latter of which grants you many more lives. If you'd rather choose an unlocked level, you can start at any one of them in classic mode and perhaps unlock a few more while you're at it. Between levels, you fly through rings and this text appears onscreen: "Steer through centre for max bonus. Use tilt to steer." The thing is; after playing for hours, I still don't quite understand this little mini-game. I tried moving the stick and tilting the controller. Sometimes, I get a ton of extra points and other times, I can't seem to get any. What exactly am I aiming for? Whether you understand how to play it or not, it is cool to have the opportunity to earn more points while playing a mini-game that helps break up the gameplay.
Revisit the origins of Tempest
If you'd like to play the original 1981 Tempest arcade game as well as 49 other classic games, be sure to download Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 1. It also features the never released Atari 2600 version of Tempest. Talk about rare!
Even with all of these additions and complexities, Tempest 4000 remains a mostly familiar experience. If you're as big of a fan of Atari as I am, the core gameplay will feel like it's missing any significant enhancements. Don't get me wrong; it's a lot of fun but it just doesn't seem like enough of a step up from Tempest 2000 or Tempest X3. Along the same lines, I wish more modes were included such as a multiplayer component. I am happy that there are online leaderboards because climbing the rankings is fun but I still wish I could play some sort of cooperative multiplayer mode. Even including past games in the series would have been awesome.
Fans of Tempest are sure to enjoy this latest installment in the long-running series. I definitely did. That being said, it doesn't quite feel like the next evolution of the classic formula. Here's hoping Tempest 5000 offers a more innovative take on the franchise.
- + Classic Tempest gameplay holds up well
- + Mind-blowing visuals and fantastic music that's ripped from earlier games in the series
- + Includes some enjoyable additions
- - Core gameplay remains mostly unchanged
- - Could use more modes such as a multiplayer component
- - Visuals can get far too chaotic