Back when video games were played using a wood-paneled console on a wood-paneled TV (which you bought by driving to the store in your wood-paneled car), Yars’ Revenge was one of the most popular games available on the Atari 2600. While Yars’ Revenge was eventually overshadowed by other titles in the ensuing 30 years of gaming, Atari has decided to resurrect their once great game as a PC/XBLA game now titled Yar’s Revenge.
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Developer: Killspace Entertainment
Genre: Bug-Eyed Rail Shooter
Release Date: April 13, 2011 (Xbox 360), April 28, 2011 (PC)
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
The original Yars’ Revenge featured an interstellar war between the Yars and another bug-eyed race, the Qotile. The new Yar’s Revenge reuses these names with the titular Yar becoming a four-armed humanoid mosquito in power armor, while the Qotile have mutated into a spider-like species with their own power armor. However, the single-screen, side-scrolling shooting that Yars’ Revenge was known for is gone for good. In its place is a behind-the-back rail shooter that will remind gamers an awful lot of Star Fox, Panzer Dragoon and last year’s Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.
While the developers at Killspace Entertainment may not think so, what they’ve done with the new Yar’s Revenge is create the poor man’s Sin & Punishment. Comparing the two may seem unfair (as one’s a download-only title and the other’s a full-priced Wii game), but between the anime-inspired graphics and the Left Stick for movement/Right Stick for aiming control scheme, they’re practically the same game.
Whereas Sin & Punishment produced some of the most amazing environments that I’ve ever seen on the Wii, Yar’s Revenge’s six-level romp is practically devoid of life. Oh, there are plenty of enemies to fight, but you’ll be battling the same six enemy types throughout the entire game. And the levels in Yar’s Revenge are split between two different (and equallyy bland) locales: the forested home of the Yars and the industrial factories of the Qotile. That’s it. Either the background is green with trees and shrubs or it’s gunmetal grey due to all the pipes and tunnels.
Yar further fails to measure up with a slightly more complex control scheme. While Sin & Punishment 2’s twin-stick scheme had a hefty learning curve, the curve in Yar’s Revenge is like trying to climb a brick wall. I much prefer the control scheme found in Star Fox where movement and aiming is tied to a single stick. That’s definitely not what you’ll find in Yar’s Revenge.
In addition to moving with the Left Stick and aiming with the Right, Yar’s Revenge introduces a dodge button to the Left Bumper, a Rail Gun on the Right Bumper and missiles on the Left Trigger. The game’s super weapon, the Zorlon Cannon, requires further finger dexterity by pressing down on both sticks. Keeping all of the weapons straight is challenge enough, but due to the depowered nature of Yar’s regular gun, you’ll sometimes have to mash all four shoulder buttons at once while flying away from incoming fire to survive. My stretched fingers are still sore.
That said, fans of rail shooters will still find a moderately enjoyable game in Yar’s Revenge. The sub-genre is so hard to find in this generation of games that we’ll take anything we can get… even if it is a big step down from Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.
And the game’s story is amazingly well told. A huge improvement over the comic book that came with the Atari 2600 Yars’ Revenge, the new game’s insectoid heroine is a seriously tragic figure. Kidnapped at birth by the Qotile, Yar was beaten and drugged until she fought for the Qotile against her own people. And in breaking her, the bugs began to refer to Yar as “This-one,” not even using her name. After the years of abuse, Yar comes to believe that “This-one” is her name. And even after breaking free of Qotile control, she still calls herself “This-one.” That’s powerful stuff coming from a game that’s about alien bugs shooting each other.
If you’ve got 800 Microsoft Points burning a hole in your wallet and you love rail shooters, there are worse ways to spend that money than Yar’s Revenge. To be sure, not a ringing endorsement. But like its namesake Atari 2600 game, the new Yar’s Revenge isn’t exactly one for the history books. If you can’t play Sin & Punishment (or the upcoming Star Fox 64 3D), and you need your rail shooter fix, Yar’s Revenge is out there, waiting for you.
But seriously, play Sin & Punishment: Star Successor for a much better rail shooter experience.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Yar’s Revenge was provided by Atari for the purposes of this review.