There’s something wrong with the world when publishers take one of the best selling retro titles and create something so unutterably dull that it makes me really, really, really not want to play it. I like my retro games, but in fairness, there’s little about the original Yar’s Revenge that ever really grabbed me. To be honest, it was a little before my time, and I’ve only ever played it in a “Look how crap old games were” kind of way. Still, it was undeniably popular, and as a game, introduced something quite unique to the industry, namely something approximating narrative.
Of course, in keeping with the nature of games at the time, that narrative was completely nuts, but it seemed to engross a fair few people. Indeed, the original game even came packaged with a comic book explaining the back story. Something about flies being taken into outer space by humanity and getting transformed by some kind of nuclear/gamma/tacheon explosion. Pure nonsense. At least it had a bit of character though. This iteration of Yar’s Revenge is a clear case of Atari abusing an old licence by wheeling out a terrible remake in the hope that all those 40-year-olds that loved the original will buy it, regardless of the 800 point price tag.
The trend of turning respectable retro titles into complete toilet is something that is far, far too prevalent in the industry. Final Fight (Streetwise), Bomberman (Act Zero), Golden Axe (Beast Rider) and Altered Beast (PS2 remake) immediately spring to mind, but there are others. Of course, there are a few that have retained some dignity, namely Pac Man, Space Invaders and Prince Of Persia. The big difference between the decent remakes and the real dross is that the former take the basic elements of the game and build on them, while the latter throw everything, good or bad, out of the window, and start again. Without a solid gameplay launching point, what you get is a contemporary game that could easily had nothing to do with the original, bar a few stylistic and titular points.
So, rather than the kind of random shooting/puzzling action of the original, you get an on-rails, two stick Panzer Dragoon effort with no style and very little substance, spread over far, far too many levels. The story is complete nonsense, but not in a crazy enough way, and it’s delivered with such a whimper that you hardly bother to read any of the dialogue, for fear of falling asleep.
In terms of the gameplay itself, what makes it so horrifically boring is that it has absolutely no class whatsoever. Similar titles like Panzer Dragoon and Rez are loaded down with style, and as such have a strong following. The colour scheme, enemy types and level design are all so dull that the action that, in this type of game, can get pretty hairy, never raises itself above pedestrian. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy game, but the slow depletion of life, both yours and the collective enemy’s, makes this more of a battle of attrition rather than the the Rambo-with-wings effort it should have been. Perhaps that should be Rambos-with-wings, as there is a multiplayer offline addition, but this adds little to the experience.
The boss battles do ramp things up a notch, but not enough to warrant playing through the levels themselves. There are a number of power-ups that can be collected over the course of the level, but while common sense suggests you should keep them for the boss wherever possible, they have such little effect that they become somewhat redundant. Maintaining concentration, learning boss patterns and losing ten minutes of your life are all that’s required to defeat the majority of them.
But they’re relative gems compared to the rest of the game. At first I thought Atari was trying to be clever, and appeal to the twitch-shooter brigade that play things like R-Type and Ikaruga to show themselves (and usually others) how good they are at, “gaming. No, not that modern nonsense. Proper games. That require skill.” Sadly, it’s not that. While there’s the basis of a great twitch-shooter here, it’s not been anywhere near realised well enough. Collision detection is awful, it’s not quick enough, and the barrel roll manoeuvre makes taking hits almost completely arbitrary.
I usually try to complete any game that I review. I think it generally gives you, the precious reader, a far fairer sense of how you might feel when playing a game. However, in this case, I couldn’t, and that probably speaks volumes about the game. The best thing I can equate it to is butter substitute. You might like a fat-free, sodium-controlled, processed dairy product that has other people’s toast crumbs in it, instead of butter. That’s up to you. My real problem is that this particular brand of flavourless nonsense has been spread over way too much toast. And burned toast at that.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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