By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Of all of Atari’s vast catalogue of classic games, the two I played the most were Tempest and Missile Command. With both games reimagined for current gen computers, consoles and mobiles, there’s more than a feeling of nostalgia going on. The latter is released to celebrate its 40th anniversary, and Tempest 4000 (available on Amazon) is available for the Playstation 4 for a little longer than a month. I’ve played the Steam version of the latter for the PC, but using a controller is just not the same as using a paddle.
Tempest 4K is beautiful and arrived on Steam first. The visual “distractions” are eye candy, and the modes to play classic or modern will sate many retro gaming enthusiasts. However, for those who played the original, a proper spinner is needed to better navigate the spaceship around the many vortices that it must pilot through, and each linear segment where the enemy may crawl up on.
I always thought Tempest was about an ill-fated starship navigating a wormhole affected by a nearby black hole (to explain the jumps to new vortices of terror). Flippers, Tankers, Spikes, Fuseballs and Pulsars keep on chasing after. you, and some wants to pull you in and trapping you on the other side. But where they exist is an in-between realm much like Chris Nolan’s Interstellar.
Missile Command has a tale; You’re the regional commander of three anti-missile batteries and have to defend the six cities you’re assigned to protect. However, an alien threat from outer space doesn’t want to make landfall for their invasion. They just want to bombard the planet until everything is gone. The reimagined game for a tablet changes things up, and it’s brilliant!
You’re touching the screen to order where missiles will explode, so the rain of terror will end. As the pace gets faster and faster, the game is ultimately about whether you can save one city or all six. The original game was more about timing those explosions and going nuts with a limited supply of counter measures. With this tablet game, you are limited to three at a time, so timing where your bombs explode is important.
For those who love the 3D experience, the AR mode allows players to try the game from a stand-up position. You have to pay a nominal fee to unlock it and this also removes the adware which comes with the game. Curiously, none of the ads popped up for me. I imagine those people at it for 30 minutes or longer will find them.
I’m loving how the missile batteries will regenerate new bottle rockets over time. Instead of limited ammo, you have a lot. As experience points are gained, they can be spent to increase the speed of how fast they can launch, how wide the radius of the explosion is and possibly increase shield strength. It’s almost like the programmers borrowed a bit from Space Invaders, where those blocks offer a bit of protection until they are nibbled away.
I expect this game will eventually see a port to other platforms. It can’t stay on mobile forever and I found it plays very well on a large tablet instead of a traditionally sized smartphone. I can get used to the change in dynamics–a trackball (mouse) was used in the arcade version to position a cursor to show where a bomb should explode. Tapping the rift is one of the two primary ways of how mobile gaming works, and we just have to get used to it.