Jeff Minter is a legend! There, I said it. One of his greatest works of art is without doubt his huge involvement in taking the classic and much loved Atari classic Tempest and somehow improving it beyond measure. Tempest 2000 is easily one of the best Jaguar games ever made (is that difficult? Just kidding Ade! – Ed).
Tempest 2000 is a tube shooter that was released exclusively (at least initially) on the Jaguar in 1994. Ask any Jag fan to name their top five games on the system (yes, believe it or not, there were more than five games released) and you will be hard pushed to find anyone not gushing about this little beauty.
Tempest 2000 gives you four modes to try out; Traditional, Plus, 2000 and Duel. Each mode provides a slightly different playing experience that helps bring some extra spice to the game. The Traditional mode is perfect for anyone looking to gain a real feel of the original 80’s game. The Plus mode gives you the original title but with boosted graphics. The Duel mode allows you to battle head-to-head with your mates, albeit with quite an erratic and squashed view. However, my favourite mode has got to be 2000. This mode plays the game in the sharpest graphics, allows you to tackle a wider range of bad guys, try out additional and memorable power-ups and sample an amazing selection of levels.
The first thing that grabs your attention is the amazing techno music. The mesmerising and iconic soundtrack would not feel out of place in one of London’s swankiest nightclubs. The soundtrack was so popular that Atari actually released the soundtrack on CD. With the amazing music pumping through your veins it is now time to take on the Tempest!
You control a yellow spaceship with a simple goal – destroy all the enemies that are heading towards you. The controls are so simple and responsive that anyone can pick up and play. You can either move left or right on the web of each level and fire at the onrushing opponents. Once all enemies have been destroyed you move on to the next level or web to be exact. The earlier web designs are quite simple, such as 3D cylinders, tubes and rectangles, which are easy enough to manoeuvre around and allows quick progress through the earlier levels. But with every passing web (99 to be exact) you will soon find yourself battling through more intricate webs. Some of the level designs are quite frankly amazing, ranging from 3D spirals, semi-circles, stars and so much more. These tougher designs will make it harder to move around the web and get to the enemy ships in time. Throughout the game there are also some nice bonus levels where your ship is set free from a traditional web and your aim is to fly through green hoops (which reminded me of the earlier StarFox games). If you complete these bonus levels you automatically warp/skip a further five levels ahead.
The graphics are gorgeous and really should have been the benchmark for future Jaguar games. The 3D graphics are simple enough to be refined and memorable, without trying too hard and becoming blurry and blocky like many other Jag titles. Each web has been drawn very carefully and the onrushing ships are simple yet do their job very well. I also really like the bright colours onscreen which works so well with the techno music, a match made in heaven!
Another huge plus point of the game is the large array of power-ups at your disposal. These include the particle laser which gives you much more enhanced firepower, the jump power-up which allows you to jump away from the web and avoid enemies circling on the rim and the A.I. droid which is a friendly ship circling the web aiding you in your intergalactic battle. The most useful power-up though has to be “Outta Here!”. This useful power-up destroys all enemies on the web and warps you straight to the next stage.
The only real negative I can throw at the game is the sometimes hard controls, especially while tackling the latter webs. This could have been solved with the sale of a rotary controller as used in the original Tempest arcade machine. However if you are really desperate to play the game with the correct controller some geniuses have made bespoke controllers which occasionally pop up for sale online.
The game obviously becomes more difficult as you progress through the levels. The careful use of power-ups becomes more and more important as you tick off each web. Overall though I enjoyed the challenge of the game and I feel the difficulty curve is steep but fair. If you manage to complete all 99 levels you have successfully unlocked the “Beastly Mode”, which allows you to replay the game but with faster and tougher enemies.
Tempest 2000 was rightfully the second bestselling game on the Jaguar, only behind Alien vs Predator and was awarded Best Jaguar Game by Electronic Gaming Monthly. The game also boasts one of the best soundtracks to make it a truly remarkable and memorable title. Is it worth buying an Atari Jaguar just to play Tempest 2000? Probably not, but it is certainly one of the best games on the system and it is well worth trying out if you ever get a chance.