There's a storm a-coming, one of lawyers raining down upon your fun.

Source // Wikipedia

I'd forgotten what Tempest was until I saw the screenshot and remembered "oh yeah, Tempest, from that TxK story, the one with the lawyers and whatnot frowning upon it". It's not a game I'd come across anywhere before, so it's a good job there is a dedicated following of programmers still creating versions and ports for a whole variety of systems - some more official than others...

I can't immediately think of anything that looks like Tempest, save for a few puzzles in Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, which means my first impression of Tempest was a minigame homage to unlock a door, or some such thing. My first impression of the actual Tempest though was TxK.

Now, should I say such a thing, what with the legal troubles Jeff Minter has had with Atari over TxK? Perhaps, perhaps not. You can clearly see it is at least inspired by Tempest, and was created by the developer of Tempest 2000. Legal issues aside, TxK is at least made by a fan of the original game, and is far from a half-arsed remake or re-imagining. Unlike my attempt.

But let's track down Tempest in as original a form as we can.


Emulation is not what you think it is. The Atari 2600 port is to be avoided at all costs.

Fun Times

So that leaves me with a frowned-upon unofficial spiritual successor to Tempest, sitting right there on my beloved (read: 'oh yeah, I still have a') PlayStation Vita, or a God awful official port. There is no contest.

TxK and Tempest are all about prioritizing your targets so that you deal with them efficiently. As a tube-shooter (yeah, I hadn't heard the term either), your movement is limited, allowing you to focus entirely on what you need to be doing. You're able to see which threat will need dealing with first and how much of a mad dash it will be to get there.

It's rather maddening in TxK because movement is so smooth and, where levels allow, you loop around the tube. A number of times I overshot where I wanted to be, sometimes by quite a bit, having to resort to a spot of "just keep shooting until everything goes away".

You could use the same tactic in Tempest, which also had looped level designs and a variety of enemy types, requiring some thinking in order to best deal with them.

Added to TxK are a number of power-ups, including the ability to jump off the tube for a short while, allowing for a get-out-of-jail move for those in desperate need of it.

I don't talk about sound much, probably because we're going through the bleepy-bloopy period of gaming, though possibly because sound, especially music, isn't quite my thing (I air drum to guitar solos). What I can say is that TxK is worth a listen. Helpful, I know, but that's the best you'll get until I force myself into talking about sound design more often.

Final Word

Marvelous. Screenshot does the job. Pick up and play, both in terms of quick gameplay and easy to learn mechanics. I've still not quite got a clue how Tempest itself played though. For all I know, TxK took everything that didn't work, threw it out and ran in the other direction.

With games this old, with titles this classic, there are bound to be ports coming out of every console orifice, and they'll garner (veeeery generally speaking) two responses: They butcher the original or they stand side by side with it. TxK may even stand on the shoulders of Tempest.

Do the Atari legal department have a right to go after it? Should they? Can the issues be resolved between the two parties? I'd never have known about Tempest were it not for TxK and a book about 1001 video games. Would Atari rather I play a crappy mobile port and be put off from finding out more, or play TxK and want to find out more?

We can talk about it long and hard until the next legal case, whatever that may be. Shouldn't be too long to wait.

Fun Facts

It's not all doom and gloom for unofficial versions of Tempest - an arcade owner hacked the game, aiming to make it harder. This version, Tempest Tubes, would go on to be included in an arcade compilation for the PC.

Tempest, developed by Atari Inc., first published in 1981.
Versions played: Atari 2600, 1984, via emulation.
TxK, PS Vita, 2014.