Monday, April 11, 2011

Tempest (Arcade)

My love of Tempest grew from three factors.  First, I liked playing the game and was terrible at it.  I think the game simply moved to fast for my young brain.  Couple that with the fact that  my older brother rocked at it meant this was a game I kept pumping quarters into only to be frustrated time and time again.

The second factor was the game's sound.  Something about hearing those awesome sounds pumped through speakers that were better than what my parents were using at home at the time.

The third factor was the cultural references I kept seeing the game in.  Having the game show up in a Rush video was enough to cement the game's incredible worth in my brain forever.  Also, having it be the game the evil kid was playing in the Twilight Zone movie elevated the games status even further.

These, days, the only way to play the game, other than finding one of five arcades left in the world (that number may be a fabrication), is downloading MAME and finding a Tempest rom somewhere.  The good news is, you do not need a screaming computer to run this particular game unlike some of the other arcade roms.

Tempest is an arcade game by Atari Inc., originally designed and programmed by David Theurer. Released in October, 1981, it was fairly popular and had several ports and sequels. The game is also notable for being the first video game with a selectable level of difficulty (determined by the initial starting level). The game is a tube shooter, a type of shoot 'em up where the environment is fixed and viewed from a three-dimensional perspective.

The object of Tempest is to survive as long as possible and score as many points as possible by clearing the screen of enemies that have landed on the playing field. The game takes place in a closed tube or open field which is viewed from one end and is divided into a dozen or more segments. The player controls a claw-shaped spaceship that crawls along the near edge of the playfield, moving from segment to segment. This ship can rapid-fire shots down the tube, destroying any enemies within the same segment, and is also equipped with a Superzapper, which destroys all enemies currently on the playfield once per level. (A second use of the Superzapper in a level destroys one random enemy.)

Enemies swirl around at the far end of the playfield, then enter the playfield and move toward the player. When all enemies in a level are destroyed or reach the near end of the playfield, the player "warps" to the next level by traveling down the playfield. The player must avoid or shoot down any spikes left behind while warping. The player loses a ship when an enemy comes into contact with their ship, shoots it or otherwise destroys it, or if the ship hits a spike while warping. If an adequate point threshold is reached, the player can earn a new ship. The game is over when the enemies destroy all of the player's ships.

The game consists of sixteen screens with unique geometric shapes, some of which are closed tubes that allow the player to loop around, while others are open fields that have distinct left and right endpoints. When all sixteen screens have been played, the sequence repeats with a different color scheme and a higher difficulty level, including the invisible (black) levels (65-80). Each sequence of levels adds additional enemies that are faster and more deadly to the player's ship. The numbered levels stop incrementing after level 99 and a random one of the 16 variations will appear after successful completion of subsequent levels. Early versions of the game could only count a score up to 999,999 after that it reset to zero.

(Blue Levels 1-16) No Pulsars On Any Level (Red Levels 17-32) Pulsars From Level 17 forward (Yellow Levels 33-48) Fuseballs and Spikers On All Levels (Grey Levels 49-64) (Invisible Levels 65-80) (Green Levels 81-) Final Color.  


  1. This game looks really fun! I'm kind of sad i missed it :(

    Keep up the great work, that was very well written and i enjoyed the video :)

  2. Dude, every time someone mentions this game, my dad freaks out... He used to play the GBA version in public

  3. Great post man! Keep up this excellent blogging!

  4. Does anybody remember a ripoff of this game that you plugged into your headphone jack that shot at you based on the music you were playing?

  5. Looks and sounds AMAZING, throwback man, love the soundboard!

  6. never heard of this, thanks for sharing!

  7. Never played it but it looks cool

  8. I like how it's just colored lines, oh how times have changed. Never played this one