Yar’s Revenge Review

by on April 20, 2011

Game: Yar’s Revenge

Developer: Killspace Entertainment

Publisher: Atari

Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade

Atari are, without question, an iconic presence in the games industry. Old stagers that have been knocking around, like an elderly relative that refuses to die, since the early 70’s, and of course that means that they have a shit-ton of intellectual property with their name attached to it, something that made it inevitable that in today’s climate of remakes, reboots and re-imaginings, some of the old Atari games would end up getting a spanking new overhaul for the discerning present-day gamer. Just take the Atari 2600, for starters. The wood-finished relic from 1977 may seem almost prohibitively outdated to modern folk, who could reasonably expect to be able to emulate its games using their mobile phone, or even the timer display on their microwave, but there is no hiding the fact that some of the chunky old cartridges housed some bangingly playable games.

Fast forward to 2011 and developer Killspace Entertainment are looking to have a crack at remaking an Atari classic for Xbox LIVE Arcade. So which one did they choose? Centipede? Adventure? Asteroids? No. The title ripest for their attention turned out to be Yar’s Revenge, a curious one-screen shooter, initially released in 1982, which went on to be the biggest selling 2600 title of them all. The 2D original pitted you as a small insectoid avatar, the titular Yar, who has to break through a barrier in order to shoot the “Zorlon Cannon” into the hated Qotile enemy hiding on the other side of the screen. With all of the very basic action taking place on one screen, Killspace had a hell of a job on their hands getting any mileage out of the original game for their remake, which is why the Los Angeles based bods have decided to pretty much ignore that and re-imagine Yar’s Revenge as a 3D anime-inspired on-rails shooter!

Your 800 Microsoft Points will buy you six stages of into-the-screen 3D shooting action. The small, white, moth-like being you took control of in the original has been replaced with a sexy winged girl, who to the best of our knowledge has escaped from Qotile enslavement and is now turning the tables by dishing out her brand of strangely attractive laser and missile death.

Yar is controlled using the left analogue stick, whilst the right stick is used to aim the crosshair, and she has four ways to attack her foe. The right trigger and bumper activate her two primary weapons, the laser and rail gun respectively. The left trigger allows you to lock onto your enemies and fire a limited supply of missiles, which can be replenished by collecting them over the course of the levels. As with most shooters that pit one lowly individual against a myriad of enemies, the winged temptress can also use a smart bomb attack (in this case named the Zorlon Cannon in homage to the original game) which takes out all of the enemies on screen. There are of course power-ups too, and certain Qotile scum, once wasted, will drop one of four different upgrades including homing missiles and a handy shield.

The enemies come thick and fast, and at times you will be grateful for the Zorlon Cannon, however the game lacks variety and it soon becomes apparent that throughout the game you are shooting the same three kinds of enemy over and over again with zero variation. To spice things up there is a score multiplier system, however this is inherently broken; the multiplier is increased by blasting enemies in succession, as is de rigeur with such things, yet numerous times you rack up a tasty string of kills only for Yar to encounter a quiet area with no Qotile, which means your score multiplier is reset back to bugger all.

The title is hamstrung by its short length and lack of meaningful extras. The developers seem to have made more effort in producing the somewhat anodyne anime stills that bookend the action than creating a worthwhile purchase that will hold your interest for a sustained period of time. Initially it may seem difficult to get to grips with the substantial number of enemies that pack the screen, but even a semi experienced player could whizz through the six stages in a couple of hours. An offline co-op makes things a tad more fun with someone else along for the ride, but it would have been nice to have included the ability to play with a friend online.

There are some plus points however. Graphically, Yar’s Revenge looks very pretty. The cel-shaded Yar and her enemies look great and are packed with detail, and some of the backgrounds look fantastic too. The game is challenging while it lasts, and it can be fun, particularly when Yar is tooled up to the hilt with the decent arsenal of power ups on offer.

VERDICT: This is very much a below-average game. A rail shooter of this type needs to be pretty damn special to get our vote, and quite frankly there are far better ones available to recommend. As a nod to Atari’s glories past, this does nothing. The original game inspired comic books and a back story based solely around the one-screen 2600 wonder, but here we have a series of boring, indecipherable cutscenes that add absolutely nothing to the game to the point that a newcomer with no prior knowledge would just assume that this is a brand new standalone game, rather than an update of a mega-selling 1980’s classic. It is almost as though the Yar’s Revenge moniker was just shoe-horned into some anime-inspired game that the developer already had knocking about, and a pretty limited one at that.

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