Review: TxK (PSV)

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Title: TxK
Format: PlayStation Network Download (107 MB)
Release Date: February 11, 2014 (US) February 12, 2014 (EU)
Publisher: Llamasoft
Developer: Llamasoft
Original MSRP: $9.99 ($7.99 w/PS+ at launch)
ESRB Rating: E
TxK is exclusive to PlayStation Vita.

I’m going to warn you now, one of my top 5 games of all time is Tempest 2000 (T2K) on the Atari Jaguar. Jeff Minter took a favorite 80’s arcade game of mine and made it something so amazing that I was instantly hooked. Now, a bunch of years after his last take on the “Tunnel Shooter” genre, the mad genius has improved what I never thought had any flaws, and on the Vita’s screen it’s never looked better. Since this isn’t a licensed Atari title, the ‘Tempest’ monicker has obviously disappeared, but the game is pure awesome from beginning to end.

Gameplay:
The basic premise is that your ship rides the edge of different vector-based tunnels or play fields, with enemies sliding toward you from the other end. You can see them first as little dots in the distance, and they randomly appear on the tracks to move down and take you out. You move left and right (even though your ship may be going up and down at times) with the analog stick or d-pad to get on the same track as an enemy. You fire with the Cross button, and you grab power-ups that appear from fallen enemies, indicated by small cylinders with crosses inside. The power-ups are random, but at the same time seem to fit 2 different orders of appearance. Power-ups include the ability to jump off of the grid using the right trigger, which is essential for when you fall-behind and the enemies are now on the edge with you, a blaster upgrade, the rare 1UP, and an AI Droid, which blasts-away at enemies independently from your actions.

Want to see an example of the gameplay, play the video right here:

This is pure arcade action at its finest, and is perfect for a portable device. There’s no storyline to experience, there are no cutscenes, just blow stuff up before you get destroyed! Levels start pretty slowly at the beginning, but quickly ramp-up as you progress. There are 100 levels to get through, with different enemies assigned to blocks of levels. Each enemy type has a specific behavior that you’ll need to learn to be effective in your strategies. The best tip I can give you is to make sure you grab every power-up, because they’re all essential in assuring that you make it through the waves of enemies.

One last weapon available to you is the Superzapper, which is replenished at the beginning of every level. They don’t stack though, so use it sparingly since you’ll only ever have one to use in a level. The Superzapper is just that, it zaps everything on the play field for a few seconds, giving you not only a second or two to catch your breath, but also a clean slate so you can start anew. To use the Superzapper, simply tap the screen anywhere. Funny enough, that’s the only problem I have with the game. Because the analog stick is so close to the screen, I tend to accidentally tap it, which can be a problem on the later levels. Oh wait, that’s just my excuse for failing….

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Llamasoft has done some cool stuff to accommodate either playing in short spurts or in longer sessions. One addition that I have grown to love is the “Restart Best” mode. I’ll let Mr. Minter explain this though:

“At the start of every level your lives and score are checked. If you have more lives than you ever had before at that stage in the game, OR if you have the same number of lives but a better score than you ever had before at that stage, then your lives and score are noted and upon starting subsequent games you can choose to begin at that level with the number of lives that were noted. Upon completion of the level you will be awarded the score that was noted as a Start Bonus. Scores made with Restart Best go to the Classic Mode high score table.”

Survival Mode starts you on level 0 with three lives, with no additional lives available (and no bonus levels either.) Pure Mode is the default, starting at Level 0 as you make your way through to set your highest score. This is where you definitely want to start, but after you start setting some great scores, switching to Restart Best really allows you to maximize your time instead of going through the lower levels again every time you play.

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Also back from T2K are the bonus stages, all reimagined in this new engine. The gameplay in the bonus rounds is very similar to what it was on the Jaguar, but the new visuals are really pleasing to the eyes. Even more, every scene between levels is interactive, requiring you to either use the analog stick or motion controls to keep a small spark in the middle of the screen, earning you huge bonus points if you can keep it steady. I love this use of the gyroscope, and if done right, this can positively and substantially effect your score.

Visuals:
This game just pops off the Vita’s OLED screen. The grid lines glow and are completely smooth, and the wonderful particles and colors all just fill your eyes in perfect clarity. The frame rate is like butter, and even with so much happening on the screen as you progress, you’ll never complain about what you’re seeing. TxK is incredibly frantic and will require every ounce of concentration that you possess, but it’s all worth it when you see it in action.

Audio:
One of the most striking aspects of Tempest 2000 was the amazing and seemingly impossible soundtrack. It was something that no one expected from the Jaguar, and was an absolutely perfect accompaniment to the awesome gameplay. TxK again brings a perfect soundtrack to the table, and when using headphones it immerses you in the visceral action from the moment you begin. One change that I really appreciate is the toned-down shooting sounds, which could get a bit overbearing in extended sessions on the Jag, The audio pumps out of every crevice of the Vita, and it never gets old.

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Online/Multiplayer:
There is no multiplayer in TxK, but there are online leaderboards, which is obviously a totally new thing for this game (series?). You need to be online when your game finishes to be able to upload to them though, so that high score I got on the plane will never show unfortunately.

Conclusion:
Yes, I’m a fanboy, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that this is truly an awesome game. The gameplay is perfection, and how this fits onto the Vita as a portable title makes it a must-have for everyone… unless you only like sports or RPG’s? TxK fills a void in the pure arcade action category, and for an old man like me, it takes me back to my childhood in such a wonderful way. Buy this game!

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built-in screen capture feature. The video was captured by PS Nation using a modified PS Vita.

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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