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The Game


Part of what makes Tempest such a beautiful game is that it is really quite simple. You sit at the top of a surface, things come up from the bottom, and you shoot them. As you progress through the levels, there are more and more things, until finally there are too many of them, and you die.

For the first level, the surface is a circle.

Then, for the second level, the surface is a square, and so on through the first sixteen levels. In the last shape, the figure eight, the left half is inside-out.

(In high school, that series of shapes was one of my favorite doodles.)

After that, the shapes repeat, but with different colors. There are six colors. And, yes, on the black levels you can't see the surface.

So, that accounts for levels 1–96. I've never seen levels 97 through 99 myself, but I hear that they're also green, with random shapes (chosen from the above), and that level 99 repeats indefinitely.

That's all there is to know about the surfaces, now let's look at the various things that live on them.

The first one is you—you are a kind of claw that changes shape to roll smoothly from one panel to the next. You can fire regular shots, and once per level you can use your super zapper to kill everything currently on the surface (but not things that are still waiting at the bottom). Actually, you can use it twice, but the second time it only kills one enemy.

The second thing is a flipper. Flippers flip from panel to panel as they move up the surface (hence the name), and they also shoot at you. If they reach the top, they flip around and try to catch you.

The third is a tanker. Tankers approach along a single panel, and shoot at you. If they reach the top, or if you shoot them, they hatch into one or two enemies of other kinds.

The fourth thing is a spiker. Spikers approach along a single panel, but when they get almost to the top, they turn around and go back to the bottom, at which point they jump to another panel. As they move, however, they leave a line, or spike, on the panel. When you finish one level, you accelerate down the surface and fly through space to the next level. But, if you run into a spike on the way, you die (and have to try again). Spikes also absorb, and are worn down by, your shots.

The fifth thing is a fuseball. Fuseballs are interesting because they move along grid lines rather than panels. In fact, they alternate—first they move up or down along a grid line to some arbitrary point, sometimes the top, then they move straight across one of the panels to the next grid line. If you run into one when it's at the top, you die. They can only be shot when they're moving across a panel.

By the way, spikers shoot at you, but fuseballs don't.

The last thing is a pulsar. Pulsars move alternately up and down the surface, flipping from panel to panel like flippers. They may shoot at you, but mostly what they do is pulse. That is, they periodically make this cool pulsing sound, all in sync, and if you're on the same panel as one when that happens, you die. You can tell when a panel has a pulsar on it because the grid line at the top disappears.

Spikers, fuseballs, and pulsars all change shape as they move. Spikers spin around like pinwheels, fuseballs flicker like sparks, and pulsars oscillate in height and jaggedness in time with their pulsing.

So there you have it … the rest is just details.



  See Also

  Details (Tempest)

@ June (2003)