This is the easiest review I will ever have to write. Remember TxK on PlayStation Vita? Tempest 4000 is that, but with prettier graphics in 4K. I should probably write a little more than that for those of you who missed TxK, so here’s the skinny.
Tempest 4000 is an official sequel to Tempest 2000, both of which were created by legendary coder Jeff Minter. The game is pure arcade action and finds you piloting the Claw, a simple vector ship that hugs the nearest side of tubes and surfaces that stretch out in to a black void. The play areas are divided into lanes, with enemies spawning in the distance and heading up the lanes before attempting to capture you when the reach your end, or shoot you with firey laser death.
You start each level with your basic laser and killing enemies releases power ups that include more bullets, different lasers, and the two most useful power ups, a jump and an AI bot. The jump means you can spring off the edge of the level and avoid enemies who have reached your end, whilst the AI bot happily zips about killing the enemies for you, allowing you to concentrate on a smaller section of the play area and stay relatively safe. If you do get grabbed by one of the enemies it will drag you down the screen, but you do have one smart bomb per level which can be fired off to save you from your demise.
When you do eventually run out lives you can start on any previous level, of which there are one hundred, but will begin with the same amount of lives as when you previously completed it. This means that if you do run in to a harder level you can step back a few levels and work your way back up, hopefully retaining more lives to see you through.
After the first few levels you are going to need laser sharp reflexes and a keen eye to keep track of the enemies, but if you can manage that Tempest 4000 is a great challenge. New enemies are gradually introduced and the level designs get more complicated as you progress, looping round each other or bending and folding as you play. It’s a single minded game, but has that essential “one more go” factor, even though your progress has a lot to do with luck; if you don’t get the Jump or AI power-up within the first thirty seconds of a level you are in a lot of trouble. It is simple, pure, arcade fun.
There are three different game modes Classic, Pure, and Survival, the latter giving you a load of lives but no restarts, and online leaderboards. Between levels you get to guide a spark through a series of hexagons that zoom out of the screen at you, which uses the tilt controls on the DualShock 4 on PlayStation 4. Flying through the centre of these gets you big points.
The added power of the PS4 has allowed Minter to add zooming backgrounds, higher polygon enemies, and go mad with effects, but unfortunately these detract rather than add to the gameplay. In frantic battles the screen is a mess of enemies shattering into huge showers of petals, turning the play area into a blurry mess and making it extremely difficult to work out where the Claw is. I must also mention the price. $29.99 is rather steep for a game which is, bar the odd graphical tweak, practically identical to a four year old $9.99 PlayStation Vita game.
I have spent countless hours playing TxK on Vita and it’s one of my favourite games, so I’m disappointed that Tempest 4000 doesn’t really add anything new, especially considering the higher price. It’s still a great game and hopefully a patch will tone down the overzealous use of effects. This is worth a look if you are bored of cut scenes, collectables, and other frippery that clog up video games and want some serious old school arcade action.
Version Tested: PS4 – also available on Xbox One and PC