Tempest Arcade Screen

Tempest arcade classic from Atari

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Atari had huge success in 1979 with the vector graphics based Asteroids, followed by 2 further classics in 1980, with Battlezone and the fantastic Tempest. Tempest was host to a number of “firsts” for an arcade game, including the first game to feature to feature a kind of “continue”, based on the player’s performance in the previous game. It was also one of the first games to feature full colour Vector graphics (rather than using coloured overlays), and to great effect. My favourite cabinet was the cocktail version, which had a two player “flip” screen, and a glass top you could balance your shandy on.

Tempest ScreenshotThe design of the game is fairly unique, being a 3D “out of the screen” shooter, where the player rotates around the rim of a 3d tunnel, and aliens emerge from the centre. The shape of the tunnel changes between levels, sometimes not even a tunnel at all, but more of a stepped 3d panel. The player shoots down into the tunnel as the aliens emerge, firing back up the tunnel. The player can also use a smart bomb once every level to destroy everything on the screen. Reach the end of the level, and the player warps down into the tunnel, avoiding debris on the way left by some of the more nasty aliens.

The aliens vary, from basic shapes that just come out and try and crash into you, to electrified beings that can zap you if you linger in the wrong part of the tube. There are basic 16 levels, increasing in difficulty, which then loop in variations including invisible levels, with a total of 99 levels.

As per the standard Atari approach, the game was ported to several consoles, including a rubbish 2600 port, and I remember playing a version on the BBC Micro. No console can really recreate the Vector graphics feel, and it was a crime that Atari never ported any of its games to the Vectrex console which really could have done it justice.

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