Yar’s Revenge is a remake of an old Atari 2600 shoot-em-up title, updated and refreshed for Xbox live after 30 years in stasis. The trend for remakes and reboots has been around in the film industry for quite a few years now and is definitely infiltrating the games market more and more. Sometimes it can be a labour of love to restore the shine to a dusty old legend, and on other occasions it’s merely a cheap excuse to ride a licence to extra exposure – into which category will Yar’s Revenge fall?
I’m slightly too young to remember the original, but at the time of release, it was apparently a groundbreaker – the idea of diagonal movement was, in 1981, still something of a novelty. Hearing that it just makes me feel privileged not to have suffered- like when your Nan reminisces about carrying sacks of coal 3 miles just for an evening’s warmth. However as the best-selling game ever on the Atari, there are bound to be quite a few gamers out there eager to see how it has leapt into the 21st century.
This new incarnation of Yar’s Revenge is an on-rails shooter that sees you cast as a humanoid insect in rocket-powered battle armour, using twin stick controls to move around the screen and aim at the waves of enemies. This results in gameplay similar to the old Starfox or Rebel Assault games, even down to the annoying comrades popping up in the corner wittering unhelpful advice.
Graphically some nice touches are present, white light filtering down into the caverns of the early stages, and later on with red Martian glow illuminating space stations, but there’s nothing spectacular or innovative that set it apart in terms of design. The cut scenes have excellent Manga-style illustrations but the plot is sadly uninteresting, as is the written dialogue – presumably why they didn’t even bother to get any voice actors in.
The soundtrack is probably the weakest element of the game, a never-ending loop of slightly moronic trance music that doesn’t help the feeling of monotony that sets in about halfway through the third stage, when you realize the hordes of warped flies, locusts and crabs have merely morphed from organic to mechanical and the basic gameplay won’t vary, however many power-ups you consume.
Enemies don’t even really die disappointingly, merely collapsing into green goo or clouds of smoke – more rumbling from the controller may have left a more meaty, satisfying crunch to their demise, but this lack of substance sums up the game as a whole.
There’s a worrying lack of customization options, and although you can play two-player on one console, not supporting online play is a bit of a retro step too far, as this game is clearly not enough to satisfy on it’s own, it’s difficulty level being pitched too low aside from the challenge mode, which is for hardcore shooters only.
With the trance music blasting out and the ever-present beardy NPC comrade talking in your ear about stuff you don’t care about, it’s a bit like being stuck in a rubbish nightclub full of angry wasps – OK so this game will only sting you for 800 MSP, but it’ll leave you wishing you’d gone somewhere else.