Tempest 4000 Review

Everyone has their go-to game when they enter an arcade. Personally, I am always looking for Asteroids and Tempest. While Donkey Kong, Centipede and other classics might be on the top of minds, the vector graphics of these two games cement an era of arcade history for me like no other. Tempest in particular was so unique because of its paddle controller, colored vector graphics and ability to restart at certain levels. The release of Tempest 4000 had me excited to relive the arcade experience for this generation and see what has been added to the game.

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Tempest is one of those games that is simple to understand, fun to play and has endless replayability. The core game is still there in Tempest 4000; you are a claw-like spaceship that is on various geometric planes for each level. The levels move forward as if you were in a tunnel and you must navigate around the field of play in order to shoot the barrage of spaceships and obstacles that are coming towards you. The idea of the game is to stay alive as long as you can and destroy as many spaceships as possible. It's a very abstract concept to describe and at first you may think it's pointless or has no value. However, as the levels change shape, you pick up more power-ups and start to get a feel of the controls, the game instantly becomes addictive. It makes you go for one more time to beat your score or try to get further than you did last time. Without the need of pumping quarters into a machine, you might literally have to force yourself to push the Home button to get out of the rhythm of continuous play.

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Tempest 4000 has three modes to choose from; Classic, Survival and Pure. There's not much difference in them other than the amount of lives you receive and the difficulty spikes that occur based on your ability to play through each level. One of the best things about the original game were the vector graphics, and while those cannot obviously be present on a TV screen now days, the neon colors and graphics really make Tempest 4000 spring to life. As you start to get multipliers, encroach on the end of the round and reach a “Pleasure” state, the whole level starts to splash the screen with colors and shapes. At first this trip-inducing state really threw me off but after a few rounds, it really was a highlight to get to these moments because I knew I was getting close to beating the round and moving on to the next level. If you have problems with flashing lights and colors, it probably is best to stay clear of Tempest 4000, however, because I could see the potential in the game to produce health issues.

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Another update is the sound. While the original used a synthetic two tone sound for fire, warping to the next zone and movement, Tempest 4000 has a dub beat style soundtrack which escalates as you get to the end of the level. It's only fitting for the new graphics and colors, but I wish the music had more variety because one soundtrack gets pretty stale. The addition of a robotic voice, however, is awesome. He will quietly announce different bonuses you receive, making you feel like you're in a space ship. One small gripe I had is the addition of motion control for PS4 while on pause or warping from zone to zone. It's meant to add bonus points between levels and a cool feature to play while paused, but it was hard to determine how I even was scoring. Also, when I pause the game, I'm usually putting my controller on the table or somewhere else and it moves the screen ever so slightly that it's nauseating. These are small issues that were probably added for their uniqueness but really, it was just a poor use of development time that could have been used to add additional levels or possibly a co-op feature that was missing. A highlight is the high scores option so you can see how good - or bad - you are with other players locally or around the globe.

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What Tempest 4000 really comes down to is a great version of a fine-tuned game to begin with. I would argue to try to pick it up on sale only because you might feel a little irked but heck, I probably spent more on the arcade machine in my life. There's only so much to add to an addicting gameplay loop of shooting, warping and surviving. Tempest 4000 does enough for fans of the original game to scratch that itch of a solid arcade classic. At certain points you enter a great ‘flow state’ the games like Tetris, Rez or Lumnies are often known for. These are the best moments of Tempest 4000; enjoying the colors, the music and most importantly the solid gameplay. The game is just as good as the original and best of all it never gets old.