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Akka Arrh

Akka Arrh

Written by Joseph Moorer on 3/1/2023 for PS5   XBSX  
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Atari has probably been responsible for the most quarter-munching games in the history of video games, numerically speaking. All of them start you off with a simple task. Wipe the screen of any oncoming enemy. Centipede? Destroy the incoming centipede barreling down at you. Asteroids? Destroy the asteroids. Missile command? Protect your cities by getting rid of the oncoming missiles. After the first 3-4 stages of these games, it just gets significantly harder. The difficulty level just sky rockets. You are not getting to that 5th or 6th level. And if you do on your first try, it's luck, not skill. Your previous skill in Millipede gives you no advantage in Black Widow. You're great at Pong? Doesn't matter, cause here's Breakout. Some would argue that these are all different types of games, and though that may have some truth to it, the fact still remains. I feel like the rogue-like genre (Action adventure, unlock and learn as you go, but start over from the beginning every single time) definitely has Atari roots.

Akka Arrh was created in 1982 by Dave Ralston and Mike Hally. It was a prototype game that was never released in arcades. It did, however, recently appear on the Arcade 1up Atari cabinets, and the Atari 50 compilation. It was deemed a more complex Missile Command. You start as a turret in the middle of the screen. You have to protect this turret from incoming enemies from all around the same screen. Your bullets have a blast radius, so even if they don't hit spot on, they will defeat any enemy where the bullets land. If the enemies make it to the middle, the game warns you to hit a second button to zoom in. Then you have to shoot the oncoming attackers down as they chip away at your shield. If an attack gets through, you lose a life. The cool thing about this game is that you can start at a later, more difficult round for a higher bonus. Remember, this is 1982, so if the premise seems complicated, I don't think it was, but the people who tested it did, and they deemed it too difficult to release. 

Enter legendary developer and internet darling Jeff Minter. The mythical Llamasoft head has been making games since 1982 spanning from the Atari ST, all the way to the PS4. Most of his games are Llama-involved, which is his favorite animal. He has developed games like Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar, and the latest Tempest 4000 for modern systems. It's just fitting that a psychedelic shooting adventure would be resurrected and recreated by the Llama god himself. I also just found out that he was in Netflix's Bandersnatch, which is a choose-your-own-adventure episode of Black Mirror. If you haven't seen it, watch it. It's really really well done. And Jeff is in it. 

Akka Arrh 2023 is his latest foray, and if you are familiar with his games, you'll know what I mean when I say it is bonkers. The game starts you off with a level simply called "Intro". It welcomes you into the game with open arms. It tells you that you can rotate your turret 360 degrees (named Akka Arrh). You can not move from the middle of the screen, but you can move the cursor. The cursor is for two things, the direction you are shooting, and for picking up powerups. If you tap the fire button, you will release a bomb. That bomb will set off a shock wave, and will destroy almost anything that hits the shock wave. The more enemies that are destroyed by the shock wave, the bigger the chain gets. The bigger the chain gets, the more points you get from each enemy. Bonus: some of the enemies also cause a shockwave, and have the same properties. Simple, yes? No! 

The enemies come from all over the screen. There are no visual indicators, and these shockwaves don't destroy everything. Good news is, anything that is destroyed by your bombs nets you bullets. Bullets come out in a wave form and have a wide range. They will cut down every enemy on the screen, and your quantity is shown by your cursor. This is where the strategy of the game begins. If you run out of bullets, you can drop a bomb and rebuild your bullets. However, if you drop a bomb, your combo chain starts over. You would think that this is a bad thing, but it is not. Each level is shaped differently, so some shockwaves will only be in certain parts. Some levels even spin the field of play. In a couple of levels, the shock wave lasts through the entire level, which means one well placed bomb will kill everything coming in. High score is just a sub goal for you and that online leader board. (The online leaderboard where I sit in at second place, mind you.) Get as many bullets as you can. Of course, because Atari, there is a catch. 

Some enemies don't like the bullets, and they will show you by exploding into more incoming bullets to destroy your turret. This means that some enemies are only good for bombs only, and some enemies are only good for bullets. How do you know the difference? You don't. Trial and error. This game will allow you to win, but only by repetition. There's also a way that the enemies can breach the turret, and go below to get your shield pods. When this happens, there is a screen indicator with a siren that tells you there are enemies downstairs. With a click of a button, you are teleported to a sub level, where you have unlimited shots to stop the enemy from taking your shield pods. Also, going into the sub space stops all incoming bullets, but not enemies. Keep this in mind. You start with 13 pods, I believe. One is depleted if you are hit, or if the enemy breaches the sub space and takes them from you. If you lose them all, it's game over. But not all hope is lost. 

The game gives you the option to start from the level you just lost. However, it starts you with the shield pods you had coming in. So if you got all the way to level 32, but with 3 pods, you will restart level 32 with 3 pods. You can cycle through levels in multiples of 4, or individually. You cannot select a level you haven't been to, obviously. The best way to do this is start a few levels back, and rebuild your pods. Starting all over is an option. Also, any level you beat with 100 bullets remaining nets you one shield pod. 

If your chain gets high, or you destroy a lot of things, you get a power up. Sometimes the power up is your shot and cursor produce bullets. Sometimes, it's a homing lightning attack. Sometime it's 50,000 points. You can even get a shield that stops all incoming fire. There's so much going on the screen at the same time, that you totally lose track. The game audibly tells you there's a power up on the screen, but you have to send your cursor out to get it. It's a lot, because you are shooting at everything, or hoping that a shockwave is stopping all the other things. 

The game is all about that high score, and there are bonuses for everything. You get a bonus for taking no damage. You get a bonus for dropping one bomb to destroy everything. You get a bonus for not taking damage. The highest chain score nets you 5,000 points per enemy, so you may finish a level in the ten millions, or the hundred thousands, depending on how well you drop those bombs. There are about 50 levels, and I've started from scratch twice. There's also a hard mode, which I refused to touch, because there are too many things going on already. Lastly, you can turn off the psychedelic effects, and even use a two button method, where the bomb is one button, and the bullets are another. On the PS5, you can move the cursor from the middle touch pad. Don't do this. 

With that said, there is only an online score board, and there's a single player game. The game seems like it's on rails, but it's not. Things happen so randomly. Messages fly across the screen in true Jeff Minter fashion. "I bet your mother is proud of you" was my latest. The game gives you a summary at the end of each level, telling you how much you progressed, or if you did anything at all. It's a game of organized noise, but it works somehow. The audio is pretty fantastic, as each bullet, enemy, bomb, and shield pod has it's own sound effect. The music, if you want to call it that, is pretty soothing considering all the chaos that is consistently on screen.  The press release calls it a "rhythmically flowing arcade shooter." I don't know if that's accurate, and I don't know who this is for, but I enjoyed it for the time I played it. 

Akka Arrh is a resurrected version of a game that never existed. And if you don't know the lore, it's ok. It's colorful chaotic nature will keep you at bay for a few hours. You can get those high scores, and win, but it won't be easy. If you want that Atari pain, this is a little less hurtful than usual, but mastering it will still take a while.

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Joseph is the resident streamer for Gaming Nexus. He grew up playing video games as early as the Atari 2600. He knows a little about a lot of video games, and loves a challenge. He thinks that fanboys are dumb, and enjoys nothing more than to see rumors get completely shut down. He just wants to play games, and you can watch him continue his journey at Games N Moorer on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook gaming! 

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