TxK, if you've never heard of it, is the latest iteration of an ancient videogame called Tempest. Created in 1981 by a man called Dave Theurer, the general gist of proceedings remains largely the same today as it was more than 30 years ago; you control a spaceship that rides the top of a "tube" and must destroy all of the attacking aliens before they climb the walls of the tube where they can reach (and therefore kill) you.
It's like a typical side-scrolling shooter, in a lot of ways, but the playfield's been warped around a bit and your perspective is looking into the level (instead of alongside of it.)
If you're thinking old-school, you're on the right track; TxK is very faithful to the core of the original experience, and is right inline with Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 - a version of the game created for the Atari Jaguar in 1994.
The fact that it's extremely similar to Tempest 2000 isn't a fluke; Jeff Minter's at the helm of this game, and fans of Tempest 2000 will feel right at home. Jeff's earned himself legendary status over the years, creating classics like Attack of the Mutant Camels, Gridrunner, and Defender 2000 (amongst many others), and fans of simple games that are executed with flair (and loads of humour) should definitely pay close attention - even if they’re not familiar with his body of work.
The intro, such as it is, and the first level of the game.
The controls are a pretty basic affair, but they will initially confuse; pressing “left” (either on the Vita’s left thumbstick or on the D-pad) will move you ship to the left - from its perspective (and vice-versa.) While this makes perfect sense when you’re reading it, the fact that you’re ship can be upside down (on top of a “tube”) - meaning that “left” is actually right - really messes with your head.
Even when you’re going up and down (by pressing left or right, remember), your brain needs to do backflips to stay in control. It doesn’t take that long to adjust (about half an hour of hard-out play should do it) but you’ll be amazed how weird it is initially.
Otherwise, the structure of the game is simple enough to let you grasp the core mechanics very quickly, yet so well designed that even hours later you’ll be discovering nuances in the way you can leverage those gameplay systems to get a little further, score a little higher, or just do something truly crazy-awesome without the confines of the systems Jeff’s designed.
Visually, TxK is a treat; sure, it’s not exactly pushing the Vita in terms of detailed textures and so on, but it’s crazy-bright, very fast-moving, and it all cranks along at 60 frames a second - all while delivering killer retro-inspired electronica straight to your brain (wearing headphones is highly recommended.)
If you like the sound of a retro-inspired shooter, want a massive nostalgia hit, or just want to have a lot of fun with your Vita, TxK is a no-brainer purchase. With its powerups, flashy visuals, and perky music, you’ll be whipped back to a time before narrative and other complex motivations were required of games and fun was enough. Buy it (it’s only $13.25); TxK alone is reason enough to own a Vita.