Yar's Revenge Review
No, you didn’t just walk out of a time machine into the year 1981. The Atari 2600 isn’t the new, hot console on the market, and Yar’s Revenge isn’t just a bugs and blocks 2D shooter anymore. Welcome to 2011, the year when the Xbox 360 is most people's toy of choice and Yar’s Revenge has been re-imagined in a meaningful but not quite perfect way.
Yar’s Revenge has been updated and recently released for XBLA. The developers have completely reworked it with updated 3D graphics, different gameplay and brand new audio. The classic game is now a rail shooter, unlike its 1981 counterpart.
The game focuses on the last remaining girl of an extremely strong warrior race of humanoids. You control the girl simply known as Yar, and follow her on her journey to get revenge on her rival race of buggy beings, the Qotile. In short, you control Yar and help her kick some bug butt on her way to complete and utter annihilation.
Yar’s Revenge is essentially an effort to give new life to the genre, and it plays like older gems such as Panzer Dragoon, Sin and Punishment and Rez. You control Yar in third-person, shooting at anything and everything that moves on the screen. Controlling Yar is a little difficult at first. Almost every button on the controller correlates to a different aspect of her sweet moves. The right thumbstick controls where she moves on screen. The left thumbstick directs shooting, and the front buttons activate the different power-ups that enemies drop. Lastly, the triggers and bumpers are used for Yar’s different methods of shooting.
As soon as you start the first stage, the game throws you into a magnificently rich and lush environment, where enemies attack from all angles. Your goal? To squash any bugs that might fly into your field of vision. You'll want to gain as many points as possible. The game not only gives you points for killing your enemies, but also implements a multiplier into its scoring. Based on the number of enemies and consistency of kills, the multiplier will increase, giving you more bang for all that work.
The level of difficulty is right on cue. Getting through the stages isn’t too hard, but the boss battles are not to be trifled with. They have thousands upon thousands of health points and crazy attack patterns, and their radar is strictly focused on you. Most players will take only a couple of hours to beat the game, which shows the simplicity of the levels but accounts for the difficulty of bosses you have to face.
This game is a great effort to revitalize a forgotten franchise. From a bug that shoots blocks to a three-dimensional adventure with a gorgeous environment, Yar’s Revenge may have made a name for itself.
However, the effort to reinvent the 2D shooter falls short on a couple of levels. First, upon playing, you will immediately notice the lack of enemy detail and variety. Every stage offers essentially the same enemies. While their colors do change as you progress, enemies are the same and continue to use the same attack pattern as they do in Stage 1. Just because you are rebooting a game of old doesn’t mean you shouldn't correct the flaws of older generations.
Second, at the title screen you'll notice an amazing techno beat that takes you back to the glory days of arcades, quarters, and the trash talk that comes after beating your best friend’s high score. Upon hearing the music, you prep yourself for an amazing soundtrack to continually pump you up through the stages. Instead, the game delivers a loud, ringing sound of disappointment from your speakers. The soundtrack’s best song is the title screen, and after that, you'll probably block out whatever lame track is playing. Actually, you might just end up turning on some DaRude or Daft Punk to get you through the longevity of the levels, and that brings us to the next point.
A staple in rail shooters is long levels, but in Yar's Revenge, they're almost awkwardly so. The lengthy levels would be complete if they had variety in enemies and environment. Unfortunately, you’ll feel awed at the beautiful background at first and then confused by the blandness once you reach the end stage. It’s like staying in the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa at the Palms and opening up the door to your room only to discover what looks exactly like your old college dorm room--small and extremely outdated.
Lastly, the controls may turn off some hardcore rail shooter fans (if they're even still out there). If you are looking for a simple rail shooter like the ones of the arcade of old, where you shoot with one button and move with the other, then Yar's Revenge isn’t the game for you. Almost every button is integrated, and it's extremely confusing if you are used to the simplicity of the older titles.
As Yar finally gets her revenge in this decade, the hope for the next big rail shooter dies with her foes. Sure, if you want a fun, semi-cheap title to keep your attention, give this one a look. Otherwise, Yar's Revenge is just another mediocre try at perfecting the rail shooter, a feat that some games achieved a generation ago.