TxK

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher/de­vel­oper Lla­ma­soft For­mat Vita Re­lease Out now

Vita

Jeff Min­ter has made over 60 games in his 30 years as a de­vel­oper, and yet it seems he’s spent a ca­reer re­mak­ing Dave Theurer’s tube shooter Tem­pest. It’s a tem­plate to which Min­ter ap­pears un­able to re­sist re­turn­ing, re­fin­ing its me­chan­ics with each re­lease to vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess. Some would cite 2007’s po­lar­is­ing Space Gi­raffe as his crown­ing achieve­ment; many more would con­sider 1994’s Tem­pest 2000 the pin­na­cle of Min­ter’s back cat­a­logue. Both may soon re­con­sider.

In fact, his gaudy neon aes­thetic may well have found its per­fect part­ner here. The vi­brant colours Vita’s screen pro­duces make Lla­ma­soft’s iOS out­put look pos­i­tively drab. The pre­sen­ta­tion is su­perbly crisp, those sharp edges never more ap­par­ent than at the end of a stage when the level ex­plodes in a cor­us­cat­ing shower of tech­ni­colour tri­an­gles.

Broadly speak­ing, its sys­tems re­main the same. You tra­verse the outer edges of a se­ries of geo­met­ric shapes, shoot­ing en­e­mies and col­lect­ing power-ups. A par­ti­cle laser de­stroys en­e­mies more quickly, while a jump abil­ity al­lows you to leap up from the edge to es­cape any op­po­nents that reach you be­fore you can shoot them. Tap the screen to trig­ger a smart bomb, which can be used once per level. Tun­nels carry you be­tween stages, of­fer­ing more points the closer you stay to the cen­tre, while col­lect­ing four warp tri­an­gles un­locks a bonus stage.

While these calm­ing changes in tempo make for a wel­come breather, they can’t com­pare to the dizzy­ing, fever­ish ar­cade ac­tion of the main stages. En­e­mies come thicker, faster and stronger as you ad­vance, with later lev­els bend­ing, fold­ing and un­pack­ing them­selves in in­creas­ingly un­pre­dictable ways. You’ll leap and re­lease a hail of bul­lets to sweep a row of en­e­mies from the rim like bugs from a wind­screen, dodg­ing pro­jec­tiles by a whisker and grab­bing power-ups that launch an AI as­sis­tant along the edges in the nick of time. There’s lit­tle of the wil­ful ob­fus­ca­tion that made Space Gi­raffe so di­vi­sive, and though the ac­tion oc­ca­sion­ally gets so hec­tic that you’ll be killed by some­thing you didn’t quite spot, the vis­ual and au­dio cues of­fer enough feed­back be­tween them that you’ll know to blame yourself, rather than the game, for each death.

The re­sult is hypnotic. This is twitch gam­ing at its finest, with beau­ti­fully tuned thumb­stick con­trols and a puls­ing sound­track that only seems to fo­cus the mind. Dy­namic and wholly in­vig­o­rat­ing, TxK isn’t just one of the best games on Vita, it might be the best game Min­ter’s ever made.

The Su­per­tap­per bomb awards a 2x score mul­ti­plier for each hos­tile it kills. It’s a risk to al­low en­e­mies to en­croach, but leap­ing up from a crowded rim and tap­ping as you de­scend is end­lessly re­ward­ing even with­out the bonus

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