You have won a clean pair of underpants
Before the days of pixels and polygons there existed a simpler graphics medium. Old arcade and home game systems used what is known as “vector” graphics. If you’ve ever played the original Star Wars arcade game or owned a Vectrex home console system, you may already be familiar with these wireframe looking games. Some graphic styles are timeless and for Jeff Minter vector is one of them. Minter is well-known for his brand of psychedelic, wireframe shooters. You could say he has dined out on them for years now, but when he is responsible for titles like the legendary Tempest 2000, who cares? Minter’s studio, Llamasoft’s latest effort, TxK, faithfully reproduces the visual style of his past games whilst dragging them kicking and screaming into the modern era.
Each level in TxK puts you in control of a claw-like creature, atop a small to medium-sized playing surface. throughout each level swarms of enemies will try to work their way to the top of the playing surface. Your job is to obliterate them, gain as many points as possible and to listen to the game’s rocking soundtrack. When all enemies have been defeated you will be transported through a portal to the next level. Navigating the portal with precision will accumulate extra points, try to keep your ship in the middle of the portal for maximum gain.
Like all good games, TxK paces itself. The beginning stages hold your hand a little to ease you into the action, however, once the basics have been mastered you will become comfortable enough to face the hordes on your own. Luckily, you can collect various power ups to keep yourself alive.
As you destroy enemy ships you will notice small bonus markers work their way up the playing field. Collecting them can be the difference between life and death, so make sure you clear a path, allowing you to reach them. Collecting bonuses provides the claw with various abilities. Standard fare such ss unlimited bullets and more powerful weapons are available, however, should you manage to collect enough bonuses you will be granted the ability to jump. Never underestimate how powerful a jump can be. In more hectic levels, when enemies have made it to the top of the level, jumping and shooting may be your only hope of survival.
Collecting even more points provides the claw with a faithful AI droid. The droid will do your bidding and destroy as many enemies as it can. More importantly, if you have been grabbed by an enemy, and it can reach you in time, the droid can rescue you!
Should you find yourself without an AI droid, or the ability to jump, your last resort should be your Supertapper. A tap of the screen, or the square button will send a blast down the playing field, destroying enemy ships and giving you some room to breathe. You may only use the Supertapper once per round, so use it wisely!
In addition to your power-ups you may also receive warp triangles. If you manage to collect four of them you will be taken to a bonus round where you can collect even more points.The bonus round puts you in first person control of your ship and tasks you with flying through rings. Should you miss a ring, the bonus round will finish. Don’t worry though, lives cannot be lost in a bonus round.
TxK provides challenge in a two-pronged attack. As you progress enemies become more complex, plentiful, and vicious. In conjunction with this, the level geometry becomes just a little bit more complex with every level, simple spheres and squares give way to more freeform, difficult to traverse shapes. To keep on top of things, it is imperative to become familiar with how the level’s shape affects your movement.
The game features three different modes of play. Whenever you start the game from level one, you will be playing a Pure game. However, if you want to dive in from a higher level, you will be playing a Classic game. TxK stores data such as the highest number of lives you had at each level, and invokes that in Classic mode. Survival mode, as you may have guessed, throws you into the game with no bonus rounds or extra lives.
Now, you may be thinking, “Just how good can a wireframe game look”. In case the screenshots above haven’t portrayed it well enough – TxK looks gorgeous. Something about the simplistic level and enemy design is very charming. Of course, TxK isn’t completely old-school; a splash of modernity is provided by modern particle effects, dissolves and explosions.
The game’s attractive visuals are complimented nicely by a large electronic soundtrack from various artists. Minter actually sourced some of these from users on his forum, so be sure to turn the volume up, and check the electronic manual for the full tracklist.
Modestly priced at only £5.49 ($9.99), TxK will provide many hours of score-chasing. For fans of Tempest 2000, and tube shooters in general, it is a must-buy title. Not only is it some of Minter’s – and Llamasoft’s – best work to date, it is one of the best games on Playstation Vita. Period.