I’ll be honest, arcade shoot em’ up games are not something I played a lot of in my life and because of this I was not sure how I was going to like this game. The genre has been around for quite some time and for very good reason. They are simple and easy to grasp for a beginner, yet require true skill to master the features and rise to the top of the leaderboards. About 20 years ago in 1994, Llamasoft released Tempest 2000 on the Atari Jaguar. It was an in space arcade shooter that challenged players to take down enemies as they approached closer on screen. Today, the same designers of the original have re-created the game and added loads of new features and levels. TxK is a arcade space shooter where you are tasked with dispatching enemy ships as they approach on screen before they can build up on top. Each of the 100 levels have unique floating platforms that change the way you must move through the battlefield. The different stages are unique shapes that have paths on them. Enemy ships, missile fire and power ups all move toward the front of the screen in a way similar to guitar hero. As the enemies get more difficult you have to stay very focused and make sure that you are always moving and staying alert.
The different stages is not the only thing that helps keep the gameplay fresh. Every so often a power up for your primary weapon comes by and you need to pick them up if you are to stand a chance at progression. 1 Up’s are even more rare and always seem to show at just the right times. Not only do power up’s upgrade your weapons but they also add new advantages to your arsenal. You can unlock a AI droid which will shoot at enemy ships, and even come to your rescue when you have failed to subdue the enemy. You also gain the ability to Jump above the edge of the platform which allows you to dispatch foes without coming in contact with them. This comes in really handy because once a ship reaches the top of the platform, you become susceptible to being trapped and killed. While jumping won’t allow you to score any points in air, it ultimately is worthwhile considering the alternative is death. After each stage has been completed you have to control your ship as it warps through space. If you can manage to perfectly steer it in the center of a vortex you earn bonus points which adds to your final score. During Gameplay you also can collect warp triangles. These are a collectible and once 4 have been gathered, you are teleported to a bonus round where you have a chance to boost your score without the penalty of losing a life if you die. During each level you are given one bomb which, when detonated, blows up everything on screen and grants double points per kill. Not only is this nice for boosting score, but also comes in as a life saver when you have been captured and are seconds away from death, as the bomb will destroy your captors.
TxK is broken down into three game types: Pure, Classic and Survival. Pure is where you start at the first stage with only three lives and play until you die. Classic enables you to start from the last level you had completed with your previous all time best score and lives from the level. Survival mode puts you in at the first level with no spare lives and no bonus rounds. You simply get to play until you die. Of course, each game mode has its own separate leaderboard for both online and offline. Aesthetically speaking, TxK is a gorgeous game. The bright neon colors blast of the screen with every explosion and tiny particles fly through space. The game really has a strong focus on visual feedback and it works very nicely. As you continue to boost your score and gather power ups, the screen will display an encouraging and usually funny words to let you know that you are doing great. The audio cues are also helpful and help immerse you into the experience. The audio is very sharp in TxK and is even more rewarding when you are playing in the dark with headphones on. The way the particles and effects work gives the viewer the feeling that the screen is much larger than it is. Although hard to explain, it is really easy to get drawn into its looks and the upbeat music also lends greatly to the mood of the game.
Llamasoft has created a very smooth control scheme that helps the gameplay feel natural and not cumbersome. Movement of the ship is done by the D pad or the left stick. Holding the X button enables firing, and tapping the screen or hitting Circle will detonate the bomb. Jumping can be achieved with R and holding L allows you to stay in one lane while moving the left stick lets you lean into other lanes to still shoot. All of this can be done while tilting the Vita which changes the in game camera angle. While this adds nothing to the gamplay, it is nice to see it included. The only issue I ever had was accidentally detonating the bomb too early because my joystick thumb would touch the front screen. A minor gripe but I could see it causing some issues at higher levels.
TxK does not have multiplayer and it does not need it. The main drive for this game is chasing your own high score. This game has a very high replay ability and you can even take the challenge to the online leaderboard to satisfy your lust for supremacy. At its core, TxK is a beautiful and simple arcade shooter that does what it does very well, and it never tries to be something that it is not. It just works and is a blast to play. I found myself sitting down for a 30 minute session and also picking it up for just moments at a time, and regardless the situation, it was very accessible. Makes it easy for people who only have a few minutes to kill and want to inch their score up a little higher. For a $10/£6.10 price tag and even cheaper currently with a PS plus discount, TxK is a fun, accessible arcade shooter that people of any age can enjoy and if you have a Vita, you may just want to pick it up.