PlayStation Vita

I've had a passion for shoot 'em ups (or shumps as they are sometimes called) ever since I first discovered Space Invaders in my local arcade, back in 1979. If I discovered a new shmup I would blow all my pocket money on trying to topple the #1 player off the high score. However it wasn't until I discovered Dave Theurer's 1981 hit Tempest that my passion became an obsession.

At home my obsession was fed even more so by the many brilliant individuals that seemed to have the same obsessive nature towards shmups as I had, but with a talent for coding that gave them the skills to release addictive arcade clones and original shmups on almost every home computer and console out there.

For me, the most influential and talented of these individuals was legendary hippy and sheep/camel/llama lover - Jeff 'Yak the Hairy' Minter. I have loved his games (even the ones that divided most people) through out this prolific career. Looking back, I can safely say that I have bought almost all my hardware on the back of the release of a new Jeff Minter game.

Imagine how excited I was to hear news of a new updated tube-shooter game from the very man himself. I hadn't considered buying a Vita and must admit I had gone off portable gaming at this point. But after seeing some early footage Jeff put up on his website I was hooked. I bought my PS Vita and waited for TxK's release (that was a very long five weeks.) Once it was released I bought it. My first surprise was the price. I had been expecting to pay at least a tenner for it, perhaps more. I certainly think I've got more than £5 worth of entertainment out of this game and I am only up to level 32 with one trophy.

Jeff Minter specialises in psychedelic crazy shooting action. He can't code a game without putting in fuzzy creatures and mutant beasts. But most of all he writes code with superhumanly tight controls and a healthy does of offbeat humour that always makes his games seem fresh and never clichéd. TxK is the finest example of this he has ever done.

I hope you can see, from what I have written so far, that this game is very definitely value for money and ticks all the “best shmup on Vita” boxes, but I can hear all you sceptics out there who need a detailed description of what is great about this game and why I think it is an essential purchase for any Vita owner. So here goes...

You are a claw who sit on the edge of a weirdly shaped web-like tube. Enemies enter the arena via the opposite edge of the tube and proceed to travel up the web towards you. You can position yourself at any part of the near edge of the web and in doing so you must blast all upcoming baddies before they reach you. Like all modern shmups, TxK has power-ups. One offers you a more powerful particle weapon. One gives you maximum bullets. Another allows you to jump away from the edge of the web, giving you just that little extra time to blast enemies getting close or already on your edge of the web. One of the most powerful power-ups gives you an AI droid helper who will join you in blasting enemies away. In a tight spot the AI droid can even save you at the last minute when enemies are right on top of you.

As with TxK's spiritual prequel Tempest 2000, you have one other weapon in your arsenal, the SuperTapper. This smart bomb can be detonated by a tap of the front touch screen and destroys all the enemies currently on screen. Be careful though as you only have one of these on each level and so it must be used with care, you don't want to waste it too early. However when it is used you are also awarded with a x2 multiplier, so it is always beneficial to use it on every level at some point.

Between each level is a palate cleansing level. That is, a level that is still a challenge, but takes a much more relaxed mood to the main levels. Using the Vita's motion sensor and the analogue stick you must keep the flying particle in the centre of the neon hexagons to gain the most score.

Finally there is the bonus level which is accessible by collecting 4 warp triangle power-ups scattered throughout the levels. Once you have four warp triangles, and finish that level, you are sent flying over an psychedelic undulating landscape where you must fly through rings that gradually increase your speed and hence making the next ring harder to reach. If you can fly through every ring you are given a hefty bonus score at the end.

Those who know Jeff's work and felt that some of his later offerings were just a little too psychedelic will be glad to see that Jeff has toned things down a little in TxK. Don't get me wrong, this is still a very psychedelic game, but all the psychedelic loveliness is there for a reason and never feels over the top and certainly never gets in the way of the enjoyment of the game.

Probably the loveliest addition to this shmup is the 'Classic Mode' that saves your best lives/score at every level you have beaten. This means you can start your game at the last level you were on, with the lives and score you had. No more having to start again from the beginning and believe me with 100 levels to get through you're going to need all the help you can get. You can still play the game in 'Pure Mode' starting at the beginning with 3 lives and no score, but the choice is yours.

Finally for the really hardcore players there is 'Survival Mode.' This mode starts on level 1 and gives you only 3 lives (no bonus lives.) Trying to survive all 100 levels on just three lives will certainly sort the men from the boys (or women from the girls.)

Jeff once coined the phrase 'Digital Narcotic' and this is a term that fits so well with TxK. I challenge anyone to have just one go.