Tempest 2000

Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 5

 |||   TEMPEST 2000 - Take 2
 |||   Review By: Dave Glowacki
/ | \  Internet: dglow@depauw.edu

They've done it. With the upcoming release of Tempest 2000, Atari will
finally deliver the goods Jaguar owners have been waiting for. Sure,
Cybermorph beat Starfox hands-down and Raiden is an almost identical
arcade port, but each of these games has its own share of flaws.
Moreover, none of the currently available Jaguar carts really show
what the big cat can do. I suppose you could say what Jag owners have
been waiting for is a game that is addictive, undoubtedly 64-bits, and
- more or less - *perfect*.

Well Jag owners, the wait is over. As one of the ten lucky people to
win an early copy of Tempest 2000, I've had the good fortune of
enjoying the game for the past week - let me tell you, I'm convinced.
While it may not be absolutely "perfect," Tempest 2000 (T2K) comes
astonishingly close. I haven't played such a fast, furious, engaging
game in a very long time - in or out of the arcade. T2K is the game
that makes me very glad I own a Jaguar.

In the next few paragraphs I will try to outline the gameplay and
features of T2K and give you an overall view of what this incredible
game is all about. I'm assuming that most readers are familiar with
the general idea and layout of Tempest. If you're not, get to an
arcade - Tempest is a game you really have to play to understand.

//// Four Ways to Play

Tempest 2000 lets you select from four different games. They are:

[] TEMPEST TRADITIONAL: This is a very fine port of the 1981 arcade
classic. If you're over 16 and have never dropped quarters in a
Tempest machine, I'm sorry - your childhood has been seriously
deprived. Traditional is identical to the arcade version, with a few
exceptions: a multi-colored, moving starfield behind the webs, the
incredible techno-rave soundtrack, and the "follow-cam" (described
hereafter). The later of the two can be turned off, but the starfield
is permanent. Most importantly however, the -game-play- is very much
like the arcade version - and that, of course, is what matters.

[] TEMPEST PLUS: A souped-up version of Traditional. Plus adds
snazzier explosions and some filled polygons to Traditional's
all-vector look. The web, music, starfield and levels are all the
same, though. The most notable addition to Tempest Plus is the ability
to play solo, cooperatively with another player (both players'
blasters are on the same web), or with the assistance of an A.I.
Droid. The droid is a little spinning cube that hovers and circles
over the web, constantly firing at the bad guys. This is a great
option for first-time Tempest players, as it allows them to get used
to the game controls without having to worry about every last baddie
coming up the web.

[] TEMPEST DUAL: This is the two-player, head-to-head version. Two
webs sit side-by-side, stationary on the screen. The basic idea is
that player one (left side) is looking down the opposite end of player
2 (right side). Each player has a mirror in front of their blaster
that will send the opponent's fire flying back at them. This mirror is
always active - except, of course, when -you're- firing.

Add to this the problems posed by a purple flipper generator located
in mid-web. (FYI, flippers are the four-legged "crawlers" - the
standard enemy in Tempest) The flipper generator... generates
flippers! It makes two kinds of flippers - red ones that move toward
player one's end, and blue flippers that move toward player two's.
The generator cannot be destroyed, but it can be "pushed" away from
you (and closer to your opponent), by shooting it. (Hint: If your
opponent seems committed to firing at you, try to stay in the
corridors that contain the flippers that are chasing you, so your
opponent's shots will take out the flippers.)

On top of all this, certain levels have what appears to be an A.I.
droid-like cube in mid-web which moves back and forth down the web.
This cube's not anybody's friend though, since when it reaches one end
of the web or the other, that player's blaster gets fried. I can't say
much more than that since I just got my second controller yesterday
and haven't had a lot of time to play Dual.

[] TEMPEST 2000: -The- game to be playing. T2K is the ultimate
rendition of Tempest - it does not disappoint. The first thing you'll
notice are the shaded webs - beautiful, vibrant, color-cycling
gradients that scream "Go home!" to 8-bit color. Next you'll find the
power-ups; what's this - things coming down the web that I -want- to
catch? Yes indeed, power-ups will grant you particle lasers (a
necessity), bonus points, jump enabling (the ability to momentarily
jump off and away from the web), a handy A.I. droid (good for one
level only), and the all important bonus warp token. (Warp token,
what's that?)

Hold on, because before you see any warping at all you'll be
encountering new forms of baddies. That's right, in addition to your
standard fare of flippers, spikers, fuseballs, and tankers, Tempest
2000 is also endowed with mutant flippers (silver-colored, faster and
much more dangerous), mirrors (like what you use in Tempest Dual,
except not on your side), demon heads (just what they sound like -
shaded polygon faces that come after you), and UFOs (you have to jump
to nail these guys as they circle around the web). The extended menu
of enemies means more variety - and more difficulty, too.

Now we come to the warp stages. There are supposedly three different
types of warp stages, of which I've come across only the first two.
You can only get to a warp stage in Tempest 2000, and only by first
collecting three warp tokens (see above). Warp stages can help you
along as you play, giving you bonus points, free lives and jumps to
new levels.

The first stage is portrayed in many of the T2K screenshots - rings of
triangles with a scrolling "river of fire" above them. The basic goal
is to direct yourself through all of the rings - much easier said than
done, as the controls are -extremely- sensitive here.

The second warp stage looks rather similar to the revolving tunnel of
color familiar to many Dr. Who fans. The goal here is to follow the
green path. Again, -much- easier said than done. You'll want to get
back to the game before too long.

//// Playing with a Perspective

All of the versions of Tempest allow you to choose how you see the
game. The default is view with a "follow cam." As your blaster moves
around the web, the "camera" follows - thus your orientation to the
web is constantly changing. Using the keypad, you can choose two other
perspectives: Zoom, a closer-in version of the follow-cam, and Arcade,
where the web remains stationary in the middle of the screen.

I'm glad Atari included these options for two reasons. First, it
allows one to play Tempest Traditional just as in a true-to-the-arcade
fashion; and second, because changing perspective can be a valuable
tool - especially on trickier levels.

//// A Soundtrack to Die For

No, I'm not kidding. If you've heard anything about Tempest 2000,
you've surely heard mention of the "outstanding soundtrack." Well,
outstanding may be putting it a bit mildly. Pausing the game and just
listening, you'd swear you were listening to a CD of house music. The
instruments sound fantastic, the samples are clean and -very- cool,
and beat is nothing but addictive. There have been rumors circulating
that Atari is releasing a CD of the music they couldn't include with
the game. When I heard this I was rather skeptical at first, but I am
no longer. If this "extra" music matches up to what's on the cart,
then there's no reason Atari couldn't or -shouldn't- release it.
[Editor: It's not a rumor. Current plans -are- set to release this
audio CD!]

Of course, the best part about the T2K's soundtrack is that it simply
makes the game ROCK. With the joypad and buttons flipping fast and
furiously in your hand, the music simply pumps you up. Add some
headphones and you're fully prepared to enter "the zone" and become
completely oblivious to the outside world.

//// Lots of Little Extras

In the end, it's all the nice little touches that make Tempest 2000 a
truly well-crafted game. Lots of attention to detail and TLC on the
programmers' parts really shows. A few examples:

[] THE PSYCHEDELIC ATARI LOGO: The background to every menu screen,
this wavy, melted, multi-colored fuji makes you wonder what was really
on your frosted flakes.

[] MELT-O-VISION (TM) GALORE: Yep, it's trademarked. Melt-O-Vision is
used as a tripped-out transition between screens and in such places as
the dreaded "Game Over" sign. Melt-O-Vision convinces you to go ahead
and have another bowl of those flakes after all.

[] VECTOR BALLS, VECTOR BALLS: Referred to on the box as "particle
displays", vector balls are what you get when you blow away baddies in
Tempest Plus and 2000. V-balls are also what make up the nifty
starfield in the background and the body of the second warp stage.
They may not sound like much, but they add a lot to the look of the

[] BAD-ASS SOUND FX: The music not enough for you? Think of your
superzapper as sounding like a small-scale nuclear device; the warp
sound between levels makes you want to buckle-up for lift-off.

[] DISTORTED TEXT EVERYWHERE: Every time you get a power-up, an extra
life, bizarre, translucent, stretching zooming/rotating/morphing text
appears on the screen. You'd think it would inhibit game play but for
some strange reason, it doesn't. Probably because it's moving so damn
fast. Gotta have one more bowl.

[] LOTS O' OPTIONS: Like other Jaguar games, you can re-orient the
fire button functions, and independently adjust the sound and music
volumes from pause mode. Additionally, T2K lets you choose fat webs
(vectors twice as wide) and allows you to select between interlaced
and non-interlaced display modes.

//// Wrap-Up

If you haven't figured it out by now, I -really- like this game. I've
heard a few comments about screenshots being "unimpressive," and I
would have to agree, because no static screenshot can even begin to
capture all the action in this game. The key word here is motion;
everything is constantly moving - your blaster, the web, the baddies -
all while vector balls are exploding around and whacked-out text is
zooming through you. Of course, during all of this, you've got the web
color-cycling and the starfield going nuts with all sorts of different
patterns in the background.

The fact is, it's really hard to describe. If you've ever seen one of
Future Crew's demos running on a fast system, then you might have a
pretty good idea of what I'm getting at.

Ah, gameplay. I know one of the big concerns among Tempest aficionados
(especially on the Jaguar-list) was having to use the control pad as
opposed to an arcade-like paddle. While I will admit that the joypad
takes some getting used to, let me assure you that the transition is a
short one. I don't know exactly how - call it great programming - but
after a while the standard controller feels every bit as quick and
precise as the coin-op. The basic control has you pressing left to
move clockwise, and right to move counterclockwise.

There you have it. I feel quite safe in saying that every Jag owner
who likes high-speed, high-action games will own a copy of Tempest
2000. This is a game that could *easily* stand on its own in an arcade
- especially since it sounds better than most coin-ops out there! This
is the kind of game I bought my Jag for; Atari has clearly given the
gaming world a product to admire. If the folks in Sunnyvale can keep
this up, the future looks very bright for the Jaguar indeed.

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