Tempest 4000 has an interesting, somewhat daunting history following it around. Tempest first released on the Atari back in the 1980s and went on to enjoy critical acclaim. Like anything in this world that hits big, follow ups were released in due course. Tempest 2000 was released in 1994 and greatly built on the success of the original game by adding in new intricacies and elements, again, proving to be a hit. Then, from here, TxK, a spiritual successor to Tempest 2000 was set loose, and it’s at this point in which things get heated.
TxK released on the PlayStation Vita back in 2014 and due to similarities between TxK and Tempest 2000, the game never made it to other platforms. Developer Jeff Minter had received legal threats and issued cease and desist orders, ultimately blocking the game’s ability to be ported. Now, after a handful of delays and with water running (I’m sure, thickly) under the proverbial bridge, Jeff Minter is back with Tempest 4000 and would you believe it, it’s being published by Atari. So what, for those of you out of the loop, is Tempest 4000?
In a nutshell Tempest 4000 is by and large, the return of Tempest 2000. Though one has to wonder which of these two put such a high price tag on such a basic game. I mean really? $29.99 for a Tempest game that only offers a few modes and never truly evolves past its expectations? That’s greed at its absolute finest. The game isn’t worth half that, let alone full retail whack. Players take on the role of a Claw-ship and must maneuver around a selection of wireframe stages at the same time as blasting anything that isn’t tied down.
Having played previous iterations of Tempest, I cant say that I’ve at all been impressed during my play-through. Don’t get me wrong, this will certainly appeal to die-hard fans of the formula, but for me, I left utterly underwhelmed. Despite more color, more refinement and more improvements, very little has changed. The gameplay’s loop consists of moving through the aforementioned tunnel-like stages, with enemies moving closer towards you from the back-end of the tunnel, if you like. Each stage within gradually climbing in difficulty.
This is relayed through each stage’s complexity as far as the layout is concerned; sometimes it will merely be a straight run, whereas other times you’ll need to contend with right-angles, or even one that resembles a giant “W”, forcing you to bob and weave through. Enemy variations are plentiful and can destroy you with their soul-sucking precision and unique movement patterns if you so much as blink and lose track. This is where your upgrades come into play, and without these, you would be a fish out of water.
Upgrades range from increased fire-rate, more powerful ammo, the ability to jump, massive bombs, and more. There’s also laser-beams that will not only wreck shop, but will reward you with a x2 score multiplier for everything that you kill. Safe to say, Tempest 4000’s 100 levels will present quite a challenge, but not quite as challenging as trying to forgive yourself for forking out the amount of money the game demands. Seriously, I cant get over its cost. Not even its colorful and psychedelic visuals helps to alleviate, nor soothe that price shock.
Playing the game’s pure mode will afford you a total of three lives and you’ll be tasked with getting as far as you possibly can before you lose them. When you do, it’s game over and back to the start. I must say that I enjoyed the transition between levels, as you get a little bonus mini-game where you need to stay in the center of some floating hexagons to earn more score, which will then contribute to your overall score. Survival mode, on the other hand, shares a similar concept to the pure mode, but houses a much friendlier mechanic.
Players start survival mode with a total of ten lives and are tasked with moving through as many stages as possible before they lose all of them. Though, one differing addition to pure mode is that once you die in survival, you’re able to restart at the last level that you completed, so you don’t need to start off from scratch, which makes it more forgiving. Tempest 4000 also supports leaderboards for those of you that truly enjoy those high and mighty bragging rights, as well as some pretty tough achievements for you to chase after.
Touching up on the visuals more intimately, I have to commend the game to some degree on this front. The game is far from revolutionary but there are some great color usages flowing throughout. Though with that being said, it doesn’t go to huge lengths to excite nor innovate, and when all is said and done, it just feels like playing a 90s arcade game – make of that what you will. So, what else is there to talk about? Well, that’s about it I’m afraid to say. Yes, that’s right, for the sum total of its steep cost, you’re not getting much in return.
I fully expect that this game will find its home among the niche group of gamers that thoroughly enjoy that old-school vibe, but in 2018, Tempest 4000 feels like a relic more than it does a new experience. It may well offer a progressive challenge across some colorful stages, alongside neat power-ups and enemy variations, but the bottom line here is that the core foundation relies too heavily on replay value rather than evolving its functionality. Though, I dare say its soundtrack holds up quite well, setting the theme and mood nicely.
Tempest 4000’s price-tag is wildly unforgivable when you factor in the meager content that you’re getting in return. This is greed at its absolute finest and despite the series’ fame for being colorful and fast-paced, which indeed the game is, there’s just not enough content within to justify its cost. Easy to get into and nostalgic Tempest 4000 may be, but it ultimately becomes bland and uninteresting quite quickly.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.