TxK

TxK is quirky arcade showboating at his finest, and it's absolutely mint.

Games of 2014: TxK

Remaster blaster.

Throughout 2014, the number of remasters often felt like it was going to topple the number of new games. It was likely always going to be the way as the new consoles found their feet - as publishers realised the huge investment required in building these ever more opulent worlds, and as it dawned upon them it's probably best they went and applied a bit of spit and polish to a select few of the older ones in order to have something to put on the shelves.

TxK review

RecommendedTxK review

What's past is prologue.

TxK, a PlayStation Vita shooter that's as crisp as a phosphorous vector line in both style and design, is probably the most high-profile outing for Jeff Minter and Llamasoft since 2007's divisive Space Giraffe - but don't call it a comeback. It's a throwback, sure, a follow-on from Minter's own improvisations upon Dave Theurer's towering 1981 arcade game Tempest with the cult duo of the Atari Jaguar's Tempest 2000 and the Nuon's Tempest 3000. It's a continuation, too, of Llamasoft's fascination with retooling and rebuilding the monolithic classics of the early 80s, an obsession that peaked several times throughout the wonderful iOS games released under the umbrella of the Minotaur Project in recent years.

As retro-chic moves from the leftfield to become the norm thanks to the rise of indie, TxK is above all a reminder that, for Llamasoft and Minter, this isn't an aesthetic to be worn lightly before being tossed aside whenever it falls out of fashion again. Rather, TxK is proof that the smoky netherworld of arcade abstraction and quick-shot adrenaline is one in which Llamasoft outlasts and outclasses the many tourists that pass through from year to year. It's turf Minter has made his own.

And boy does he know the territory well. In every luminous line that makes up TxK's world you can feel the 20 years of study and craft that have preceded this; it's in the perfectly weighted inertia of your craft, as good an approximation of the original cabinet's vertical spinner as you'd ever hope to find on analogue sticks, or in the beautifully pitched pace with which the 100 levels of TxK unfold. There's wisdom in what's been edited out as well, and after the fuzzy constructs introduced by Space Giraffe it's interesting to see that TxK is defiant in its simplicity.

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