Tempest in the Eye of the Storm

It’s been some time since we discussed any video games from Ye Olde Golden Age of video gaming, and in looking back on what we’ve actually reviewed on this site, it is practically criminal that we’ve never discussed Tempest. Sure, we’ve referenced Tempest in passing while discussing vector graphics as they are used in the video game that is aptly named Vecter, but nothing more. So yeah, get out your filthy quarters and let’s play some Tempest.

Tempest came out during a storm (get it?) in arcade game production that was unleashed after the initial release of Space Invaders back in 1978. Many classic arcade games were released during this time including Pac Man of course along with Asteroids, Berserk, Phoenix and of course Tempest. Tempest broke new ground early on by being designed with minimalism and speed in mind. The minimalist vector graphics had the advantage of displaying the various enemies in vivid color, which was juxtaposed against the overall weirdness and alien nature of the game. In fact, right out of the gate Tempest feels like something out of the future, even today. And that’s saying something when most 80’s games required you to suspend some amount of belief for you to accept the playability over the lack of realism. But what exactly are you in Tempest? A ship? A robot? And where are these enemies coming from? Well, one only need to go straight to the game’s creator for answers.

Dave Theurer, Tempest’s designer, explains that to come up with Tempest’s unique look, he took Space Invaders “…and wrapped the surface into a circle.” So it comes down to perspective and how you look at it. With this knowledge in mind, you can look at any Tempest level and imagine that you are looking down a hole and that the enemies are slowly (then quickly) but persistently crawling out. Your job? Destroy them all before they get you, of course. And they usually will because Tempest is fast paced with controls that are hard (for me anyway) to master. This Tube Shooter was played with a rotary knob, not a joystick, and you had to turn and shoot with precision as your vessel bends and warps around each level’s design, which was always different and always had odd angles with which to warp your mind. And speaking of Tube Shooters, can you name another one? If you guessed Gyruss, you win a prize.

Enough from me. Check out some Tempest mastery here:

Want to learn more about Atari’s Tempest? Listen to Dave Theurer himself discuss its development:

Year: 1981
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Designer: Dave Theurer
Platform: Arcade
Genre: Tube Shooter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.