The Ill Communication


Developer: Llamasoft
Publisher: Llamasoft
U.S. Release: February 11, 2014

Box Quote: N/A

Atari’s last venture in the console hardware was the Jaguar.  Released in November 1993, it was touted as being superior due to it being a 64-bit system.  Even though they were fudging the numbers a bit to make this claim, this gave them a reason to look down on the “inferior” 16 and 32-bit systems out at the time.  Tech specs aren’t everything.  For consoles, software is king.  And unfortunately for the Jaguar its games were lackluster.  But from this list two games have managed to rise above the rest and have been praised by gamers.  One is Alien vs. Predator and the other is Tempest 2000.

Tempest 2000 built itself on the classic 1981 Tempest by modernizing all aspects of the game such as gameplay, visuals, and sound.  It would use polygonal graphics and show case it with bonus stages that had you floating through rings or zooming around the inside of a vortex.  Audibly, it was crammed with eclectic sound effects that somehow worked well all together and included a fantastic techno soundtrack that changed to a new song every dozen or so levels.

Tempest 2000 - left and TxK - right

Released in 1994 and then ported to a few consoles and the PC a few years later, the game never saw any sequels nor was ported to modern consoles as time moved on.  Well, actually, there was Tempest 3000, but that came out for the Nuon, which was essentially a DVD player that had the extra ability to play games.  Since hardly anyone owned a Nuon and the game was never ported to other systems, no one really knew it existed – No gaming publications or websites wrote about the Nuon.  Jeff Minter (the developer of Tempest 2000 with his company named Llamasoft), around 13 years later in 2007, would gave us gamers something to celebrate by developing and releasing a game that was sort of a spiritual successor called Space Giraffe.  While it followed in the same vein as T2K, it didn’t really satisfy that crave for a sequel.  But to get a game from the same person with the same type of gameplay and music, it was still appreciated from some of the gaming community with lukewarm reviews.

The wait would come to an end in early 2014 – almost 7 years after Space Giraffe and 20 years after Tempest 2000!  If patience is like interest, and compounded over the years, then it paid well for fans of T2K when Jeff Minter and Llamasoft released a game called TxK for the PS Vita.

What does the name mean?  Tempest X-thousand?  Who cares?!  All that’s important is this is the successor fans have been waiting for!  Like its predecessor, this game builds on its former.  But this time it amplifies it by magnitudes more.  The rules brought over from T2K are still the same: enemies are climbing up a tube and it’s your job to shoot them before they reach the top and grab you.  Back are the functions like the ability to jump and use a bomb which eliminates all enemies in the tube.

Particle effects are heavily present in this game.  In later levels when enemies are flooding the tube, the screen will be littered with particle explosions.  So much so that you sometimes may miss a power-up with all that’s showing up on the screen at once.  Visually the game has a high polished/sharp look to it.  Again, the bonus levels show this off as well.  Though visually impressive, it is strange that the first bonus stage where you float through rings, Jeff Minter describes it as “floating gently over fields of psychedelic fur.”  Bleh, but that’s Jeff.

As you’d expect, the music in TxK is incredibly good!  Jeff Minter explains a budget prevented him from paying someone to compose the soundtrack.  So instead, he asked a community of musicians to see if they were interested in donating tacks for the game.  Many accepted the task and all created one heck of a soundtrack.  Jeff asked the crew to compose their music “in the style of T2K.”  Needless to say they accomplished that request flawlessly.

Sound effects are as overwhelming just as much as the visuals are.  It’s a stew of sounds pulled from many different sources.  For one, as you’d expect from a Llamasoft game, a lot of sounds from animals like goats and sheep are heard.  I also learned some sound effects are pulled from a few classic games.  For example, when you jump, that’s the jump sound from Pitfall! while another sound effect was possibly taken from Zoo Keeper.

It’s a small detail to note, but the game modes and how they work are impressive.  The first mode is Pure, which is a game that starts at level 1.  The second mode, Classic, allows you to scroll through the levels you already played.  The neat thing about this mode is that it also saves the highest score and highest number of lives you had when you started with that level.  Think of each level as incremental saves points that note your best play.  Finally, Survival starts you at level 1, but you get no extra lives and no bonus stages.

Someone described Jeff Minter as being sort of like musician, Girl Talk, who specializes in sampling and mashups.  With Jeff, he lifts and samples stuff like sounds and concepts and mashes them together and creates cool spin-offs of classic games.  For example with TxK, he’s taking the gameplay concept of Tempest, adding the stuff from T2K, lifting sound effects from other games, inputting some new ideas, and then outputting his own spin on it.  Girl Talk is to music as Jeff Mintor is to video games.  That’s freakn’ cool.

As a side note, some of my favorite tracks are "Noise Pulse" from Junosix, "Machine Code" from Moonraider, "Limaworld" from Coupler, and "Fridgean" from JMC.

Posted on: November 18, 2014