Platform: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Developer: Killspace Entertainment
The original Yars' Revenge dates back to 1981, when it launched on the Atari 2600, becoming the best-selling title on the platform. Seeing as how it's seven years older than me - and I've never owned an Atari console in my life - my memory of Yar is foggy, to say the least. Looking up the original, I find narrative clues like "eat and destroy the shield" and "activate the Zorlon cannon". Oh, and the titular character was a fly.
As such, my expectations aren't terribly lofty for the Xbox Live Arcade remake from original publishers, Atari, and developers Killspace Entertainment. But I suppose Yar does deserve some respect. After all, it is older than me.
Whereas in the original Yars' Revenge, you took control of a galactic insect chipping away at a cannon's defenses, the remake re-imagines Yar as an anime chick donning a nifty mechanised-suit. Akin to Panzer Dragoon, Yars' Revenge is an on-the-rails shooter, funneling you down preordained paths with movement restricted to dodging the many insect foe thrown your way.
It's an old-school formula, but if done right, on-the-rails shooters can be very fun, indeed. Yars' Revenge throws a number of incentives your way, with multiple weapons and power-ups and a shield you can activate for partial invulnerability at the cost of not being able to fire your weapon. Yar herself is swift and nimble, zipping across the screen on her graceful, dragonfly-esque wings.
Your enemies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from clusters of fly-like buggers, gobbing green plasma at you, to hulking beetles firing at you with powerful cannons from the ground. You'll also face far more formidable foes in the latter stages, and developers Killspace aren't afraid of throwing dozens upon dozens of enemies on screen, forcing you to dodge a maelstrom of fiery plasma as you squeeze your shots in to whittle down their numbers, which is exactly how it should be.
A Rollercoaster Ride
As far as visuals go, Yars' Revenge is a decidedly mixed bag. The art is strong and imaginative, depicting truly alien landscapes of colossal floating spores and giant fungi, sky-bound metropolises amid choking orange clouds orbiting gas-giants. And while they're fantastic concepts - not to mention it's nice to see a developer splash some color on-screen - the actual engine pumping the visuals out is lacking, to say the least.
Textures are pretty low-resolution and flat. Particle-effects, while plentiful, look decidedly last-gen. In fact, the game screams Xbox rather than Xbox 360, and the recycled enemies and simple animations further undermine Yars' aesthetic. We've been wowed, frankly, by some seriously impressive visuals from marketplace titles in recent memory, and this one just isn't quite there yet. Quirky? Yes. Impressive? Not so much. The soundtrack, however, is catchy, forgettable tech-pop you might find yourself nodding your head to as you weave in and out waves of fire, holding down the right trigger. Like all such soundtracks, it's catchy right up until the moment you find yourself still humming it four weeks down the line and it sends you running naked into the streets, clutching your temples and howling in madness. No? Just me then.
Such shortcomings wouldn't matter if Yars Revenge made up for it with fantastic moment-to-moment action. However, you start to realize this might not be the case early on. Yar is nimble, but handling her is overly sensitive, finicky and lacks precision. Whereas the likes of Panzer Dragoon or Lylat Wars up the difficulty by throwing waves of enemies your way, they ensure the evasion controls are pitch-perfect so skill can trump all. Killspace make up for it with the shield you can activate momentarily, and a plethora of power-ups like a more powerful rapid-fire cannon and grenade-style projectile, but defeating even the largest of insectile enemies is mighty underwhelming.
This One Is Confused...
Instead of the stilted, puppet-esque cutscenes you see in a lot of low-budget titles, Yars' Revenge opts for the far more stylish - and I'm guessing cheaper? - approach of animated stills, with the camera panning and sliding away from gorgeous art panels. It's not particularly spectacular, but the odd bit of animation - like Yar's suit - add a bit of dynamism to scenes.
The story, however, is utterly forgettable and reads like poorly done fan-fiction. Yar is an agent of destruction for the Qotile, a shadowy race of nefarious beings who like to wear robes to show off their elongated fingers. They've brainwashed Yar to off innocents - which is a plot-point quick becoming a trend in videogames, see Bulletstorm, see boring - but when she discovers this betrayal she sets off to deliver stylish, neon-soaked revenge.
You're not here for the story, though. You're here for the action. But when it's as underwhelming as this, the combined assault of lacklustre visuals, creaky mechanics and a forgettable story conspire to result in something that's not particularly bad, but isn't going to live long in the memory of on-the-rails fans.
- Stylish cutscenes
- A vividly imagined world
- Smooth controls...
- ...but perhaps a little too slippery
- Poor graphics
- A yawn-worthy plot
The Short Version: Yars' Revenge isn't going to win any awards, but neither will it earn much disdain. Obviously saddled with a small budget, developers Killspace do their best to recreate the thrills of on-the-rails classics like Panzer Dragoon. But in-between the poor story and repetitive gameplay, Yars' Revenge overstays its welcome, unable to leap the most important of hurdles; being fun.