The Atari Recharged series is hitting me right in the nostalgia. They've given us Breakout, Centipede, Tempest, and even the super difficult (and eventually given-up-on) Gravitar. These games have all been revamped and remixed with the help of Adamvision Studios and Sneakybox, These also wouldn't be possible without the fantastic sounds of Megan McDuffie. This time though, they are bringing in one of my favorite games of the Atari 2600. Yars Revenge was just super cool to me, and in my Atari 50th dedication stream, I played it twice. Now it's back, and the new version is called Yars: Recharged. And they added one of my favorite game elements. BULLET HELL!
Here's a little history lesson. Yars' Revenge was the best selling original Atari 2600 game. You were a little wasp looking character, Yar, that could shoot unlimited far-reaching bullets. You would use these bullets to chip away at the boss' forcefield on the far right side of the screen. Once you come in contact with the boss, you can load up what appears to be a photon cannon. Once it's loaded up on the left side, you fire it to the right side, in hopes to smack the boss with the one shot kill. This was a little more complicated than you would believe, but when it happens, the screen lights up with explosive sounds only the 2600 could muster. Also on the same screen, there was a tiny homing missile constantly chasing you, and you couldn't shoot while in a certain, scrambled part of the screen. I played this for hours as a child, and probably more as an adult, because I knew more about the mechanics.
Yars: Recharged comes in hot, and starts you off with a tutorial, because of said hotness. This game is a twin stick shooter. The objective is similar to its predecessor's, but this time the forcefield has been replaced by multi level shields. You can still shoot infinitely to chip away at these shields, but this time, anything you shoot produces orbs. You collect these orbs to build up the Zorlon cannon (it has a name). Once the Zorlon cannon is ready on the far left side of the screen, you can place Yar into it. The force field shields you from any incoming fire, with the exception of the "Swirl". Use the cannon to destroy the Qotile core, and leave through the right side of the screen. Congratulations, you've beat the tutorial. But don't be fooled; the game wants you to believe it's that easy.
Yars: Recharged has two modes, Arcade and Missions. You can play either one of these with up to two players in couch co-op. The Arcade mode gives you some bonus options that are both upgrades, and downgrades that we will touch on later. Now you're in the game. And you see this monstrosity of a Qotile core, surrounded by shields and Minor Cores. The Qotile core sends out commands to the minor cores to shoot at you. Some cores home in on you and shoot three times, while others just shoot 8 ways at random. There are even rail gun cores, that just fire a full screen and sometimes unescapable laser.
Now, you can defeat the minor cores by shooting them directly, or "nibbling" them down. Chewing works just like shooting, in terms of pointing the analog stick the way you want to eat. You can run Yar directly into minor cores, and instead of it leading to your destruction, it's a quicker way to decimate them. Nibbling also works on shields, but does NOT do any damage on the Qotile cores. Take caution when doing this because there is no pattern on when the Qotile core will send out its commands to some of the cores, and your 3 hit points will chip away in no time.
As you destroy the minor cores, they will give you corresponding power ups. If you destroy a minor core that shoots three times, you will get a timed 3-way gun. A rail gun shooter will give you a one shot super laser, and so on and so forth. Remember the goal and use these power-ups to your advantage. These weapons destroy shields way faster than your primary weapon. Note that the only special weapon that works on the Qotile core are the explosive shots, but it doesn't do as much damage as you want. You can collect orbs from any shield, minor core, or Qotile core to build up the Zorlon cannon. The cannon has two shots, attached to a timer. You are better off firing both of these shots back to back, or you will lose one. Only enter the cannon if you absolutely know what you're going to use it for. The minor cores can be taken out in one shot if they're bunched together. Each Qotile Core takes two shots to destroy. Your absolute best bet is to take out the minor cores first, as things will get a little more complicated if you don't. Some of the cores shoot on their own, so take heed to that too.
There are plenty of other hazards to deal with throughout the game as well. Sometimes the rail gun cores continuously fire and follow you all the way around the screen unless you can get past them. Sometimes there's a rapid fire core that doesn't stop. Sometimes bullets just come from the upper, lower, and far right side of the screen, and at random, only indicated by a light flash. And then, there's the dreaded "swirl". The Qotile core, whenever it wants, starts revving up an nearly unstoppable swirl. It locks on to your current position, and then fires. If you are in the same position when it fires, it is an instant game over. Later in the game, these swirls get faster, and/or come from multiple Qotile cores on the screen. Combine all this with the bullets coming from the minor cores, and three separate off screen sections, and voila - bullet hell. The force field of the cannon protects you from all incoming fire EXCEPT the swirl, and the only thing that can stop it, is a shot from the same cannon. Also, if you destroy a Qotile core right after if fires, it doesn't stop. It still comes for you, and it's still a one hitter quitter. Avoid them at all costs.
There are 30 levels in the Arcade mode, so it's not endless. The game wants you know that it can be beat. You will not beat this on your first try. This is an Atari game, after all. It's like they want revenge (bu-dump-tiss) This is where these bonuses may come in handy, The bonuses give you the ability to modify your gameplay for a better score. You have three to choose from, and for each one you choose, your final score increases by 2.5%. The first one is hyper, which makes you super fast; almost uncontrollably fast. The second one is called hunger, which lets you chew through cores and shields at an exponential rate, but at the sacrifice of your shooter. The third is called heavy cannon, which seems to improve the damage of the cannon by 1.5. You can stack these, and they are only for score. I recommend only using the hunger one, if any, because this IS an Atari game. I guess the caveat is to be able to share your high score online, as the game over screen greets you with any bonuses you may have received. The solace here is for every screen you get past, you get a full health recharge. So there's that.
The first three arcade levels seem to always be the same. Then, because Atari, the 4th level is NOT the same 4th level you played the previous time, so goodbye muscle memory. If you're looking for a more streamlined approach, this is where mission mode comes in. Those first 5 missions are like extended tutorials. They teach you how each power up and the cannon work. They teach you how shields are easily eliminated. With every mission you complete, you unlock another mission. On the completion screen, the game gives you bonus points in five categories instead of eight in the Arcade game over screen, because you can't use the mods here. Then things get a little crazy. By the 12th level, you are pulling your hair out, even though you've unlocked 13, 14, and 15. The mission mode is a great way to run through some of the achievements, a feature that all systems have. I would definitely recommend doing the missions first, as they give you more of an in depth look at the game as a whole. But for real, mission 12 here, is level 17 from Kombinera (or level 1 in Gravitar).
Graphically, this game is a mix between the new and improved graphics of Gravitar, and the neon remade graphics of the previous titles. All the colors of Yar, the charge orbs, the bullets, and the cannon shot are gold, to differentiate the colors of all the enemies, which are pink or purple, depending on what stage you are on. This also gives you a sense of what to avoid, as more and more things hit the screen. The swirl seems to be multiple colors as it comes toward you. The music, again by Megan McDuffie, doesn't overpower you here, because this game is played by SOUND. That's right. Every turret, laser, and even the cannon has its own unique sound attached to it. You can hear the swirl gathering energy. You can then hear it fire. You can hear bullets bouncing off the cannon's shield. You can hear the lasers cutting through your defenses. More so, you can hear a sound when you're chewing on shields or cores. And the boom when you destroy a Qotile core is satisfying, albeit not as satisfying as the 2600 classic. Perhaps Atari will patch a big screen filling explosion into their $10 game for little ol' me.
Yars: Recharged kept me busy. There are parts of it that may get overwhelming, as it is no walk in the park. The are projectiles and shields everywhere. Some shields can't be broken by any means, unless you destroy the core attached to them. The shields that can be destroyed by their attaching core light up when you shoot, or chew through them. Use this as a strategy if you get stuck. The powerups are stackable, though on a very limited time. If you pick up multiple rail gun powerups, it only seems to fire one shot. Also, don't get frustrated if it's just you can the Qotile core, and you miss both shots. Shooting the core results in more orbs, and the orbs come to you when in close proximity. You can also recharge the cannon by chewing on the Qotile core, so Atari does give you ways out. Don't get discouraged. You can also invert your X and y axis', if you deem it necessary, along with different color blind settings. The rest of the settings are pretty run of the mill. Overall, if it's a challenge you want, Atari pulls no punches here. I suppose it only gets crazier with 2 players.
Atari didn't owe us this one. The best selling original game is back, and it's just as fulfilling as the old one. There are some unfair nuances that you have to get past, but for $10, you owe it to your childhood to play this game, beat this game, and help Yar finally get the revenge they seek. Step up. This IS your grandparents' bullet hell game.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
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!View Profile