If only more was done to help Yar move into 2011. My DZ review
Yar’s Revenge is another attempt by Atari to probe into a large known library of old IPs and bring them back from the dead. The original Yars’ Revenge (remember the differently placed apostrophe) was released on the Atari 2600 in 1982. It merged the popular side scrolling 2D ship shooter with, for the time, innovative game mechanics and ended up being one the system’s best-selling games.
Scroll on 30 years and you have Yar’s Revenge. It’s something of a reboot, but at the same time it doesn’t have anything to do with the original, apart from insects. To be honest there’s not much you have when you look back at the Atari classic, so instead Killspace Entertainment looked elsewhere for inspiration, including Sin and Punishment and Panzer Dragoon.
Following a young insect girl named Yar, it tells the story of how Yar is captured and enslaved to work for a race of aliens called the Qotile. Equipped with wasp-like armour and four arms, Yar is forcefully tasked through mind-control to take down insects that oppose the Qotile. It’s not long till she is set free and finds out that her “masters” were the ones that wiped out her race, setting up a revenge story for the rest of the game.
The market isn’t full of on-rails shooters, so Yar’s Revenge should have been a great fit for the people who enjoy those games. To be successful they need precise controls and to be jam-packed with hectic action. Sadly this game doesn’t manage to have any of this. Firstly the controls for the game aren’t mapped that well to the 360 controller. Players move Yar with the left stick, right stick is aiming, and if you press LB and the left stick together you do an evasive manoeuvre, which is extremely import to use if you want to survive as this is a very challenging game.
Shooting works as a rock, paper and scissors type affair, with a machinegun, laser and a Panzer Dragoon homing lock-on at your disposal. Each of the three type of weaponry you have available to you will work best on a certain type of insect. The three weapons are mapped to RT, RB and LT button. If you manage to hit enemies within a certain space of time you’ll increase a combo metre, which in turns means you’ll gain a multiplier for your score. You have to shoot down enemies fast though because if you don’t do it within a certain time limit the combo will reset itself back down to one.
When the screen fills you’ll be using all your arsenal, along with trying to dodge out of enemy fire. You need to use both your index and middle finger on both hands to make sure you’re ready to use these weapons when the correct enemy appears. It feels very unorthodox and you’ll find yourself dying plenty of times over before you’ll finally get to grips with it.
Yar’s Revenge is bloody darn difficult, even on the normal setting this game takes no prisoners. To aid Yar in her battle with the Qotile there are four power-ups that can be picked up during a stage. All these are mapped to a different face button and are very helpful in keeping you alive. You have power-ups that shoot down enemy bullets, home onto enemies to kill, or buff your normal weapons to deal more damage. Lastly there is a shield that allows you to heal yourself for a while, but at the expense of not been able to shoot while healing. You are invincible though so you don’t have to worry about dodging while your health is increasing.
Co-op is available to help relieve some of the difficulty, but this is only an offline feature. The only online connectivity are leaderboards for the story and the challenges that are unlocked after you beat the levels. There isn’t much content in the game – there are only six stages. At 10-15 minutes each they are long for an on-rails shooter but aren’t particularly exciting to play through. It’s a huge problem for the game and in this genre a game needs to have plenty of over the top action to keep the player engrossed and wanting to try get to the next level. All Yar’s Revenge does to players is drill them into a coma through lacklustre gameplay and the same constant flow of enemies throughout the whole six levels.
At least one thing that the game does right is the anime inspired art design. It’s extremely vibrant and full of rich, bright colours that are almost cel-shaded looking. Levels, while not having the best texture work, are still attractive and range from forests to industrial settings in the sky. Cut scenes on the other hand are less exciting, but do get the job done with a comic book style slide show. No voice work is featured, instead during these comic book scenes text is displayed on the bottom. During the game Yar and enemy bosses voice out some sound effects that are translated to text at the bottom of the screen. This is quite annoying since there are so many enemies on screen that you don’t get chance to read the text. It could have done with some voice overs.
Unless you are a die-hard on-rails shooter fan it’s quite hard to recommend Yar’s Revenge over some of the much more loved classics on Xbox Live, like the brilliant REZ. Yar’s Revenge is the exact opposite of Mizugichi’s masterpiece as it lacks the memorable moments and set pieces. This re-imagining of a classic isn’t what it could have been.