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Video Game / Tempest

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— Game Start dialogue in TxK and Tempest 4000

You're at the top of a long tube. Lots of colorful things are crawling up the tube at you, and shooting things at you. When you shoot them all, you go whizzing down the tube... to yet another tube.

The game came into creation when programmer Dave Theurer came up with the idea after having a nightmare about monsters crawling out of a hole. It's a Shoot 'Em Up, and fun enough that it doesn't need any excuse. "Besides, we're Atari, and this is The Golden Age of Video Games; we know you're going to keep feeding quarters into anything with our logo on it, story or no. Go nuts, guys!" This video game was released in 1981.

Not to be confused with William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

For the Urban Legend version, see Polybius.

Tempest provides examples of:

  • The Artifact: The illustrations on the side of the original cabinet show actual monsters rather than the abstract squiggles that serve as the enemies/targets in the actual game. This was because they were designed and printed at a time when the plan was for them to look like that. By the time the developers threw in the towel on making credible-looking monsters with the game's vector graphics, it was too late to change them.
  • Asteroids Monster: The Tankers will split into two Flippers when shot at. Later on in the Yellow levels they can split into Fuseballs and Pulsars.
  • Blackout Basement: In levels 65 to 80, the playfield is all black. Lanes still light up if you're in them, or if a Pulsar zaps them.
  • Color-Coded Characters: As you start out, your player is yellow, the playfield's blue, the spikes are green and the enemies are red & purple. Everything changes colors after the cycle of 16 playfields resets, however.
  • Continuing is Painful: Normally, new games can only be started as high as Level 9 (Level 15 in certain revisions). If you complete a level that's designated as a starting point, you can then start a new game from there. If you can survive into the later levels, these "starting points" become more and more infrequent- the yellow and cyan levels require beating three or four levels to checkpoint, the black/invisible levels have only two checkpoints- one at the very beginning and one at the end, and the green levels only have a single checkpoint at the first level.
  • Endless Game: There are 16 different field designs, and once you beat the last level, you're sent back to the first but with a difficulty increase and the color palette altered, coloring the fields in the next loops red, yellow, cyan, black, and green in that order. Once you clear the final green level (Level 96), the next two levels (97 and 98) are repeats of levels 81 and 82 respectively, and then you're stuck in a random sequence of green levels, while the level counter is capped at 99.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: Early versions of the game reportedly had seizure-inducing visual effects, which may have inspired the Polybius urban legend.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Depends on the setting. Subverted that if you succeed in a Skill Step level (start at Level 9, for instance) with enough for more than one extra life, the game only gives one extra life.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: All sorts of enemies approach you from the distant vortex at the horizon.
  • Excuse Plot: Tempest provides no reasoning behind why you're a claw-shaped ship shooting at space things in various tubes.
  • Hard Mode Perks: Starting on higher waves gives you a point bonus, which is usually a much higher value than if you reach the level naturally.
  • Kaizo Trap: When you complete a stage, your ship descends into the pit; if you hit a spike thread made by a Spike enemy, you'll lose a life. The first few levels with spikes at least give you a brief "Avoid Spikes" warning. Also, you can keep shooting and moving as you descend, but you can still hit a spike too tall to clear in time (including hitting the middle of one if you screw up your movement).
  • Non-Indicative Difficulty: You can select your starting level, with higher levels yielding a starting bonus. As a result, until you are sufficiently skilled enough at the game, playing on a harder difficulty level will leave you with a higher score than on a lower one.
  • Smart Bomb: The Super Zapper (renamed the Super Tapper in TxK). You get one free use each level, and it will eliminate every enemy on the field automatically. Try to use it a second time and it will result in a weaker blast that only kills one enemy, usually the one closest to the top or the strongest enemy currently present at the time of use.

The sequels (Tempest 2000, Tempest 3000, Space Giraffe, TxK and Tempest 4000) provide examples of:

  • Action Bomb: TxK has two enemies shaped like rainbow polygonal shapes that detonate when shot.
  • Advanced Tech 2000: Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar, a 1994 sequel to the original 1981 arcade game.
  • Animal Motifs: A recurring theme in the sequels as with many of Jeff's projects is the mention of ungulates such as bulls, cows, llamas, ox, and sheep.
  • Cyberpunk Is Techno: and not just any techno, it's specifically old school techno as initially pioneered by The Belleville Three; you can listen to the iconic soundtrack. This was also sold as a stand-alone audio CD. Jeff Minter originally wanted to use the same soundtrack for Space Giraffe too, but he did not because, in his words, "attempting to acquire the rights from Atari was hell". This might also be why he keeps denying that Space Giraffe is Tempest.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: In TxK, the in-between level sequences where you can gain a few bonus points by lining up the particle with the center of the screen, you're using reversed flying controls (where up makes you go up and down makes you go down). However in the "Fly through Rings" bonus stages, you use normal flying controls (where hitting up makes you go down, and vice versa).
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Every time you fly through a ring in Tempest 2000, a woman's voice cries out "Yes!", which, when flying through numerous rings in quick succession, sounds orgasmic.
  • Elite Mook: Mutant Flippers in Tempest 2000 and TxK, and Mutant Flowers in TxK.
  • Have a Nice Death: When you die in Tempest 2000, you can read on your screen what caused your death (e.g. "Caught you!" "Shot you!" and so on). This was changed since Tempest 3000, where you just get different sound effects depending on how you died.
  • Interface Screw: Thanks to the camera in most of these sequels, you usually cannot see enemies or enemy projectiles that are in the same lane or directly adjacent to you. In TxK you can turn the camera left and right by tilting your device, but nothing happens if you tilt it up/down, which would be the more useful view angles to look around in.
  • Marathon Level: Usually, the final level of a world in TxK (the eighth of each world) will be longer than usual. The levels of World 13 (levels 97-100) contain perhaps the longest number of enemies the player will face at once by far.
  • More Dakka: In the twelfth world of TxK, the Gunship enemy is introduced that stays below the web where your shots can't reach and will unleash Bullet Hell in the columns that it's in.
  • Musical Nod: TxK's ending screen uses the "Flossie's Frolic" music from Space Giraffe.
  • Pass Through the Rings: Tempest 2000 warp gives points for flying through rings. Passing through all the rings advances the player five levels, missing a ring simply places you at the next web. The movement area is also limited thus the player can't travel too far off.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: The first two levels (65 and 66) of the ninth world in TxK are named "Olleh" and "Xob", as they are remixed versions of the first two levels ("Hello" and "Box") now mobile instead of static.
  • invoked That One Level: In a Google Tech Talk video, Jeff Minter had a discussion about his games created at Llamasoft. He discussed Space Giraffe, where he designated level 64 "Flumm Ox" as that one level. "If you get to level 64, I guarantee the first time you get there you would just go 'What the smeg is going on there' and you'll die." He then plays through the level.
    In particular, Level 64 is a 4-pointed star, with the tips being tight together. Enemies are generally slow, and everything has a psychedelic shading to look different. The level being with a large number of "danger!" announcements (those enemies that reach the top shoot two horizontal bullets), followed by spheres, flowers that extend past the limit. The combination of these makes the level difficult, at least according to the author.
    Choosing Space Giraffe NUXX on startup removes the color shift that plagues level 64, and renames the level to "Stargoat". The NUXX option tones down the background and psychedelic effects, but doesn't change the overall difficulty of the level.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: World 13 (Levels 97 to 100) in TxK; It's the shortest of the worlds in the game and the only one not to introduce a new enemy species, but it's a survival against four very difficult Zerg Rushes.
  • Warp Zone:
    • In Tempest 2000, if you succeed in any of the bonus rounds, you will gain a 20,000 point bonus and warp ahead five levels. The warp doesn't happen if you're nearing the end of the game.
    • TxK changes this to instead give 50,000 points, but without the warp.
  • A Winner Is You:
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: A Tempest 2000 review on YouTube mentioned that, had it been actually made in 2000, it would have been called "Tempest 2K". So in 2013, Jeff Minter made another Tempest sequel and called it TxK.