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TxK Review

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Released: 2014

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Publisher: Llamasoft

Developer: Llamasoft

Submitted by: Retro Gamer

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One play of TxK and you’re instantly transported to the arcades of yore, something that pleases us greatly. Yes it can be argued that it’s yet another retooling of Dave Theurer’s classic shooter Tempest, but when you consider the success Minter has had with his own versions of the classic arcade game you can hardly blame him for returning to it. It’s like Tempest is a digital itch, one that the bearded auteur can’t help scratching every few generations of hardware. It’s possible though that Minter’s methodical fine-tuning of Theurer’s iconic game can be finally put to rest, because it’s hard to imagine how the developer is ever going to top this magnificent little shooter.

Minter hasn’t always had the best success over the last decade, with his games seemingly at odds with the markets they were aimed at. The polarising (yet oh so brilliant) Space Giraffe seemed largely misunderstood by gamers when it first turned up on Xbox Live Arcade, while delightful iOS efforts like GoatUp 2, Caverns Of Minos and Super Ox Wars were lost in an overly-saturated market. Minter and Vita feel like a match made in heaven though. Sony’s handheld is slowing gaining the interest it deserves thanks to the release of the PS4, a selection of high profile indie games and the fact that people are slowly beginning to realise that the system /does/ have great games on it. It’s Minter’s chance to shine and he’s taken the bull by the horns and delivered a wonderfully hypnotic game filled with incredible eye-searing visuals and a trance-fuelled soundtrack.

supertapper

Let off the SuperTapper and you’ll destroy all on-screen enemies,
scoring double points for each one.

TxK feels extremely similar to Tempest 2000 and Space Giraffe, in so much that you move along the edges of weird geometric tunnels shooting enemies as they continually crawl towards you. You’ll score points the further away they are, so you’ll want to move as quickly as possible. Luckily your craft is amazingly fluid, able to skirt around the tunnel’s edges at a lightning fast pace. This is handy, as power-ups typically appear at the most awkward moments, meaning you’re constantly weaving your way around the psychedelic levels trying to find the quickest and safest route.

Power-ups routinely appear, offering everything from extra lives to Warp Triangles and a useful AI drone that follows you around, occasionally saving you from enemies that get too close. As with Tempest 2000 and Space Giraffe, TxK features a jump power-up, enabling you to leap off the tunnel’s surface for a few brief seconds, hopefully giving you the required time to take down those incoming enemies. Complete a level and you’ll have a small mini-game where you tilt the Vita to keep a soul-spark in the centre of a warp tunnel for maximum points. Other power-ups reward you with a Warp Triangle. Collect four and you’ll be transported to a bonus stage where you either hit incoming rings or follow a constantly moving pathway.

Bonus stage

There are two bonus stages in the game. This one requires you
to constantly fly through rings.

Eventually a rogue enemy will catch you out and your craft will be either sucked down the tube or blown into pieces by a stray bullet. You can save being dragged into the digital abyss by touching the Vita’s screen and discharging the SuperTapper, a powerful smart bomb that clears all on-screen enemies. As with past Tempest outings the bomb does get re-powered at the beginning of each new level, but as the geometric tunnels become ever more elaborate, you’ll find yourself using them far too soon.

It’s never to the game’s detriment though, as TxK is an incredibly balanced blaster, easily eclipsing both Space Giraffe and Tempest 2000 in this respect. Minter has greatly toned down his typical trademarks, making everything far easier on the eyes and a lot more accessible to newcomers. There’s still plenty of silly stuff to be found and it’s unmistakably a Minter game, but the wackiness takes a backseat to the excellent gameplay and never overwhelms you. You’ll occasional get hit by the odd hard-to-see bullet, but the audio cues used do make them much easier to avoid. Sonically it’s superb too, with the blistering soundtrack perfectly complementing TxK’s stunning visuals.

Warp

You have three Warp Triangles here. Pick up another and
it’s off to the psychedelic bonus stage.

There’s plenty to sink your teeth into from a gameplay point of view as well, with three separate modes to enjoy. Pure Mode begins whenever you start a new game, while Classic Mode lets you immediately play from your furthest reached level. A nice touch here is that the game will automatically keep note of your best ever lives and score, making progress much easier. Last but no means least is the brutal Survival Mode that expects you to finish all 100 levels with just three lives.

It’s taken him over 30 years, but Minter has finally created not only his greatest game, but arguably one of the best examples of the genre – an amazing fusion of sound, sight and gameplay.

In A Nut Shell
This is twitch gaming at its finest. Well-paced gameplay, a deliciously silky difficulty curve and astonishing aesthetics all combine to create Minter’s finest hour. This is the tunnel shooter that all others will be judged by.

Score: 96%