Tempest 4000 Review – 200 Megabytes of Minter Magic

Tempest 4000 Review

There are a handful of games so pure in their core play mechanics that make them impervious to technical evolutions and revolutions. Tetris is one such game. Tempest is another. Originally developed for the arcades by Atari in 1981, it was developed and designed by Dave Theurer. Jeff Minter came along and transported the game from the arcade to home consoles, again for Atari on the Jaguar console, in 1994. Since then Minter and Tempest have become synonymous with one another. Six years later, Minter released an updated version of the game, called Tempest 3000. The next iteration of the game went portable for Sony Vita in 2013 called TxK. TxK was described as the spiritual descendant of Tempest 2000. When I owned a Vita, TxK was one of the staple games for me to play.

Now, in 2018, we have Tempest – wait for it! – 4000. Not only does the name fall in line with the franchise’s family tree but it also stands for the game running in 4K and 60 FPS. For a game that employs rudimentary visuals in the form of vector graphics, the sharply etched neon colored lines receive little benefit from the resolution bump. But for a game that is all about twitch reflexes, the frame rate boost is just what every die-hard shooter fan jumps in for.

Tempest is a quirky game that invokes a mood of psychedelia or Dave Bowman’s stargate sequence at the climax of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bright pulsing lights and shapes, all set to a pulsing EDM soundtrack, envelope and send you into a trance. Playing Tempest with headphones enhances the siren call of the game.

Old School Gaming at its Finest

Any gamer may not have played one of the iterations of Tempest but they know about the game. Tempest is old school gaming. No instructions and leaves it up to the player to find their own way on how to play the game. Play. Die. Repeat. And etch a little further into the game’s 100 levels on each cycle. You make your lobster claw-like vessel spider scurry along the outer edge of geometric tubes that vary in shape. Enemies and projectiles travel down the length of the tubes doing their best to end you. The gameplay seems simple on the surface but you quickly learn that the bends in the shapes reverse your controls. This adds a layer of complexity to an already frantically paced game. As a final resort, you have access to a one time use smart bomb per level for those situations when you are overrun by enemies.

Finishing a stage takes you to a bonus level which for Tempest 4000 uses the dual shock gyroscope to try and navigate the stargate styled levels. This is a departure from other versions of the game. Some players will like it. Others won’t. It’s in these levels that the game’s quirkiness really stands out. Odd, undecipherable congratulations messages are combined with odd sound effects such as female moaning or animal sounds.

Tempest 4000 Review

So far, it all sounds good and it is, but one can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that nothing was done to enhance the game. The Dave Bowman stargate analogy cries out for a VR mode. Rez recently got one. So did Tetris. A VR Tempest experience is a logical progression for the game that wouldn’t fundamentally change the core nature of the game but it sure would enhance its trippiness.

***A PS4 code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Classic Tempest
  • Tight, responsive controls
  • Tough but fair

The Bad

  • Game can be too tough
  • Missed VR opportunity