Review

TxK

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TxK, the latest digital explosion from the mind of Jeff Minter, pays homage to old Tempest arcade games and follows on from Minter’s previous ‘tube shooters,’ Space Giraffe, Tempest 2000 and Tempest 3000.

What You Need to Know

In TxK, you control a ship that shoots lasers down a tube while enemy ships come up the tube towards you. You can only move left and right along the surface, or ‘edge’ of the tube, so TxK is a 1D shooter like Space Invaders at its gameplay heart, even though it is built using psychedelic 3D vector graphics.

As you move you shoot down lanes of the tube, hitting enemies in that lane, but if they manage to get to the top of the tube they can destroy your ship by touching it. At your disposal is one smart bomb per stage and a number of power-ups such as a jump, an AI droid to help you, gun upgrades and points. Once you’ve cleared the stage of enemies, your power-ups are reset, you move on to the next stage through a brief warp sequence, and start all over again on a differently shaped ‘tube.’

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What’s New?

The graphics enabled by the high resolution screen of the Vita are truly psychedelic and the gameplay is silky smooth.

TxK doesn’t only feature conical or cylindrical levels, either, but instead has all sorts, from planes to S-shapes and even dynamically changing tubes. Each level has a different shape, different enemies and a different name.

What’s the Same?

The base gameplay of moving left and right and shooting down a tunnel is similar to games created in the early 80s – which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.

You’ll Enjoy TxK If You Liked…

… Jeff Minter’s previous games like Space Giraffe (Xbox 360) or Tempest 2000 (Atari Jaguar), because they also have Minter’s style and similar gameplay concepts.

… 1D shooter arcade games such as Space Invaders or Tempest, because their controls are as simple, although TxK is more similar to Space Invaders Extreme (also by Minter) because of the levels and modern vector graphics.

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What I Liked

- 3.) Great vibrant, smooth graphics and animations. The vector style with black background works incredibly well on the Vita’s AMOLED screen.

- 2.) Fun, upbeat music to accompany the visuals, making the game almost feel like one big music visualisation plugin.

- 1.) An irreverent style with lots of little quips and fun puns while you play (how many levels can you name after bovine themes?).

Favourite Moment

The moment where a level ends, signified by the complete disintegration of the tube you are shooting down into. The effect of the polygons breaking up into a million pieces is quite impressive.

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What I Didn’t Like

- 3.) Visuals that sometimes get in the way of knowing what’s going on. Sometimes I would die without even knowing what killed me.

- 2.) An emphasis on the first thirty seconds of each level, before you get any power-ups – after you can jump and get an AI droid the level becomes much easier, but those initial seconds can be unreasonably difficult because of the lack of control you have during them.

- 1.) The left/right movement controls at times feel inverted. There are levels that have figures of eight or other convoluted shapes in which it’s impossible to say which way your ship will go when you press in a direction. With enough play this slowly rights itself but I still die because my ship goes left when I think it should go right. Your ship also has significant momentum, so it can be difficult to get it into the column you want it in.

Least Favourite Moment

One stage I had to re-do twenty times until the first few power-ups were actually useful and I could survive. Most stages are not a problem but randomly one will be surprisingly tough, and this combined with the problem of dying without knowing why because of the visual overpopulation can make TxK frustrating at times.


TxK – Gameplay Trailer


What’s Extra?

TxK has several additional modes and bonuses to invest time in:

- Normal mode: Choose a level you have reached before and start it with as many ships as you had and the score you had. This effectively allows you to play from your best position, a great addition considering there are 100 levels to beat.
- Pure mode: start at level 1 and play through until you die.
- Survival mode: no extra lives, no bonus stages just play until you die.
- Bonuses: collect four Warp Triangle power-ups to warp to a bonus stage.
- Online leaderboards are included, but don’t even bother – there are savants out there.

The Bottom Line

Manic, Minter-made mastery might move many men. Myself? Maybe.


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