Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tempest 2000 For Atari Jaguar

Legend has it that some time in the early 80s, an Atari game designer by the name of Dave Theurer dreamt he was being attacked by beings that crawled at him from the center of the Earth. Instead of seeking intense psychotherapy, he did what any great game designer would do: He turned his freaky nightmare into the fast-paced, addictive arcade classic, Tempest. Years later, Atari set out to recreate the magic of the original with the Jaguar game, Tempest 2000.

Tempest 2000 retains the original’s basic game design and aesthetics: You’re a yellow claw-shaped polygon that slides across the edge of a 3D polygonal playfield, shooting enemies as they move toward you. The Fuseballs, Spikers, and Flippers all make an appearance, along with a few new enemies and more playing field variations. The biggest change in game play comes in the form of power-ups that increase your firepower, add a computer-controlled ally, allow you to jump to avoid enemies, or give you access to a bonus stage. Unfortunately, you lose those power-ups at the end of each stage.

Tempest arcade machines used an analog spinner to give players fast and precise control over their yellow space claw. Good Tempest players could dart from side to side in an instant, picking off enemies with incredible speed and precision. Tempest 2000 does a credible job of bringing back some of that frenetic action, but it’s hampered by the Jaguar’s simple, digital D-pad, which just doesn’t provide the same level of accuracy and feeling of perfect control. Perhaps to overcome the control issues, Tempest 2000’s difficulty ramps up very slowly and 1-ups come frequently. A marathon session could easily last an hour or more, which would be better news if Tempest 2000 had more variety to it. The two-player co-op mode is really the best way to play the game, as it dramatically ratchets up the difficulty, making for a hell of a challenge.

Tempest 2000 retains the basic look of the original while adding a psychedelic color scheme and a few nifty graphical flourishes. However, those flourishes sometimes stack up and obscure the view, and, as is often the case with Jaguar games, too much eye-candy on screen slows the game to a crawl. The soundtrack is an enjoyable (if repetitive) up-tempo techno beat that sounds quite good coming from the Jaguar. It’s possibly Tempest 2000’s most memorable feature, and it was good enough to earn it’s own CD release.

Tempest 2000 aimed to be more than just a fresh coat of paint on an old game, and for the most part it succeeded. Though it has its flaws, it’s definitely a must-own for any Jaguar collection. Its influence can clearly be felt in later arcade-style shooters, like Geometry Wars and Tempest Evolved. It even outlived the Jaguar, earning a later release on Saturn, Playstation and MS-DOS.

Thanks for reading my review! Next week, we lighten forces with Lightening Force!

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